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Film Comment is an arts and culture magazine published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Eclectic in taste, Film Comment features critical reviews and in-depth analysis of mainstream, art-house and avant-garde filmmaking from around the world. Founded in 1962 and originally released as a quarterly, Film Comment began publishing on a bi-monthly basis with the Nov/Dec issue of 1972. In 2007, the magazine was awarded the Utne Independent Press Award for Best Arts Coverage.



Founded during the boon years of the international art-house circuit and the so-called New American Cinema (an umbrella term for the era’s independently produced documentaries and narrative features as well experimental and Underground works). Film Comment was closely tied to New York’s cinephile-friendly counter culture. By way of a mission statement, found publisher Joseph Blanco wrote in the inaugural issue: “With the increasing interest in the motion picture as an art form, and with the rise of the New American cinema, [Film Comment] takes its place as a publication for the independent film maker and those who share a sincere interest in the unlimited scope of the motion picture.”

Gordon Hitchens editorship, 1962-1970

  • Primarily historical and sociological orientation. Focus on cultural politics and industrial factors/means of production.
  • Recurrent topics: the American Civil Rights Movement; censorship; the United States Information Agency’s propaganda efforts; the Hollywood blacklist.
  • House writers included Edith Laurie, Herman Weinberg, and Clara Hoover. Hitchens often invited filmmakers to contribute, regularly publishing material by directors such as Gregory Markopoulos, Emile de Antonio and James Blue.
  • The magazine’s earliest publishers were Clara Hoover and Austin Lamont. By the third issue, the magazine had switched ownership to Lorien Productions, a corporation that Hoover “formed to cover investments in artistic enterprises” (35, Feb 1984).
  • Predisposition towards low-budget narrative features and cinéma vérité-style documentaries. Hitchens’ dual rejection of Hollywood and the avant-garde (despite being acquainted with Jonas Mekas and Gregory Markopoulos and involved in New York’s avant-garde scene):
    • On Hollywood: “We felt that the Hollywood film was adequately covered by other periodicals and by the TV medium and the daily newspaper… We didn’t want to abundantly repeat what had been said and done.”
    • On the New York Underground scene / avant-garde filmmaking: “We had a lot of doubts about the Mekas group, the Film Culture kind of reader, the aesthete. They lacked political balls and awareness. They had no social commitment and were elitist, concerned with self-expression while people were starving. We felt that was infantile, narcissistic, and self-infatuated.”
  • Though Andrew Sarris began contributing to the magazine beginning in 1964, Hitchens’ editorial perspective was almost pointedly not auteurist. The international art cinema titans that Film Comment most vigorously praised during the 1960s—Ingmar Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Roberto Rossellini—were all associated with a school of neorealist humanism that’s historically antecedent to the post-‘59 Big Bang in art-house fare driven by auteurism-inspired New Wave movements.

Richard Corliss, 1970-1982

  • Amidst disputes with publisher Alfred Lamont, Hitchens resigned in 1970.
  • He was replaced as editor by then twenty-seven year old critic Richard Corliss. At the time, Corliss had contributed free-lance reviews to a number of periodicals (the New York Times, Film Quarterly, and Variety) and had served as the house critic for The National Review from 1966-1970.
  • In sharp contrast to comparable film journals like Cahiers du cinéma and Sight & Sound—which were turning towards a more theoretically inflected and academic style of film criticism, corresponding to the contemporary vogue for Althusserian Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis—the writing in Film Comment remained relatively prosaic and broadly accessible. Corliss called his own style the “Time style” (after Time magazine): “extremely punchy, epigrammatic, us[ing] words as jokes as well as weapons. The idea was not to put the reader to sleep.”
  • Though Corliss had been a student of Andrew Sarris at New York Universitymarker, Corliss’ own views were not strictly auteurist. (His later work, particularly Talking Pictures [1974], would mount a persuasive critique of auteurism through critical emphasis on the creative contribution of screenwriters.) But Corliss deeply admired Sarris’ historical erudition and penetrating formalist insights, and he more generally shared the auteurists’ strongly aesthetic sensibilities as well as their love for classical Hollywood cinema.
  • Under Corliss’ guidance Film Comment began in earnest an archeological excavation of Hollywood’s past, wherein classical-era directors like Frank Capra, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Max Ophuls, Nicholas Ray and Orson Welles were regularly singled out for reassessment and praise.
  • Several landmark Film Studies essays were published in this period, including:
    • Andrew Sarris’ “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1970”;
    • Robin Wood’s “To Have (Written) and Have Not (Directed): Reflections on Authorship” (as well as Wood’s early auteurism-inflected essays on Ingmar Bergman, Jacques Tourneur, Kenji Mizoguchi and Nicholas Ray);
    • Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review of Pauline Kael’s Raising Kane;
    • Richard Corliss’ 116-page panorama of the American screenwriter;
    • Raymond Durgnat’s two-part, book-length study of director King Vidor
    • Two important glosses of Hollywood Film Noir: Paul Schrader’s “Notes on Film Noir” and Place & Peterson’s “Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir”;
  • In September-October 1972, the magazine began publishing bimonthly instead of quarterly in order to generate more revenue. Eventually, Lamont had to find someone else to publish the magazine as it sank into a deficit. As a selection committee member on the New York Film Festival, Corliss sparked interest at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (which organizes the festival) in assuming the rights and assets of a publication that could offer it “year-round exposure for its activities” (Feb 1984, 44).
  • Publishing responsibilities were assumed by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1972. With their editorial and publishing offices consolidated in New York, the magazine’s lead time for articles (i.e. the time between the deadline for submissions and the date of publication) dropped from roughly three months to one. Where the magazine had previously been heavy on its retrospective focus, this infrastructural change made it feasible for the magazine to address contemporary releases as well as appreciations of older work.
  • Though the magazine changed ownership, Corliss stated that the Film Society had very little direct impact on its editorial content. He claimed that “a writer can make absolutely any opinion that he wants about anything, including Film Society of Lincoln Center policies or the New York Film Festival.” The magazine, however, did begin annual coverage of the New York Film Festival as “an obvious bow to the Society’s interests” (Feb 1984, 46).
  • New Features from this period: “Journals” begins in Fall 1971, with Jonathan Rosenbaum writing on Paris and Jim Kitses on Los Angeles; the “Film Favorites,” “Independents,” and “Industry,” columns; “Annual Grosses Gloss” begins in 1975 Mar/Apr; “Guilty Pleasures” column begins (irregularly) in May/June 1978.
  • In 1978, the magazine began to publish feature articles on the Film Society’s Gala Tribute honorees.
  • The annual “Year in Review” feature (published in the January-February issue, and later called “Movie Revue”) began in 1981, with ten-best lists from editors and regular contributors.

Harlan Jacobson editorship, 1982-1990

  • The magazine continued to arrange every issue around a midsection that tackled multifaceted issues of film aesthetics, historiography, and various phenomena in film culture. It also maintained a strong commitment to exploring classical Hollywood, even as it broadened the international scope of its criticism with features on Iranian and “Far Eastern” cinema.
  • The magazine began to chronicle the technological changes that were shaping film spectatorship. It grappled with the “The Video Revolution” in the early ’80s in a midsection devoted to the subject (May/June 1982). J. Hoberman wrote: “If Television gave every American home its own personal rep house, the VCR has the potential to equip every viewer with the equivalent of a Movieola or Steebeck. The appreciation thus engendered for fragmented (or fetishized) bits of “Film” will likely have as profound an effect on the film culture of the Eighties as TV had on that of the Fifties and Sixties.” This phenomenon was further explored in David Chute’s article “Zapper Power” (April 1984).
  • Music videos emerged as a point of interest. Arlene Zeichner, in her piece “Rock’n Video,” predicted that “Video may replace records entirely.” The August 1983 midsection, also titled “Rock’n Video,” was an early collection of criticism on the art form that discussed “The MTV Aesthetic” that would become influential in the next decades, MTV’s precursors, and “Video Auteurs.”
  • In the February 1984 issue, Film Comment’s midsection chronicled its own history from its beginnings as Vision to the financial and editorial challenges that lay before it in the ’80s. “Whatever its level of profitability… Film Comment for the first time in its existence has finally been provided with a steady source of financing and a rock-solid publishing foundation. With Corliss as its editor, the society as its publisher, and a handful of quality writers as its key contributors, Film Comment now seems assured of continued survival and success.”
  • This decade saw the first uses of color in the magazine’s layout.
  • A new “Television” column began during this period.
  • The midsection in April 1986 commented on the emergence of gay and lesbian representation in contemporary cinema, closeted homosexuals in Hollywood, and gay cinema in the decade of AIDS.
  • In the mid-Eighties, Film Comment begins regular coverage of international film festivals, including Venice, Edinburgh, and Toronto.

Richard Jameson, 1990-2000

  • A series of think-pieces on the state of film criticism (March/April, May/June, and July/August 1990) included Richard Corliss' article lamenting the shallowness of TV film reviewing, the star system, and Siskel & Ebert's thumbs-up/thumbs-down approach ("Movie criticism of the elevated sort, as practiced over the past half-century by James Agee and Manny Farber, Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael, J. Hoberman and Dave an endangered species"); a back-and-forth between Roger Ebert and Corliss; and an article by Andrew Sarris on auteurism, in which he cautions his younger colleagues on being overly dispairing or flippantly humorous about the state of contemporary cinema.
  • The inclusion of a midsection on a specific topic in every issue was discontinued.
  • Beginning in May/June 1991, Film Comment began including commentary on video and laserdisc releases by inaugurating its "Life with Video" section.
  • In January/February 1993, Film Comment expanded its format by eight pages.
  • A new focus on assessing the careers of international auteurs (Chen Kaige, Ousmane Sembene, Krzystof Kieslowski, Lars von Trier, André Téchiné, Abbas Kiarostami). The magazine also publishes several lengthy assessments of major contemporary filmmakers, including a two-part essay on Steven Spielberg spread across two issues (May/June and July/August 1992, and a sixty-page collection of articles on Martin Scorsese (May/June 1998). Other special sections on individual directors include a Robert Bresson symposium (May/June 1999) and, under the Gavin Smith editorship, a two-issue assessment of Chris Marker (May/June and July/August 2003).
  • The annual “Year in Review” feature was extended to include a “Moments Out of Time” section compiled by Jameson and contributing editor Kathleen Murphy, consisting of a long list of memorable scenes and images from the previous year. This feature, which was discontinued during Gavin Smith’s editorship, has been reprised at MSN Movies.
  • Kathleen Murphy writes “Frames,” an irregular column on notable film-related websites.

Gavin Smith, 2000-Present

  • “Contrary to those who say it's all over, that the Golden Age of film and film criticism was the Seventies or the Sixties, or even the Forties, we think the here and now of movies is as exciting and challenging as ever. There's no sadder spectacle than the cynical nostalgia and bad faith provocations of critics who choose to project their malaise and loss of passion for cinema onto contemporary film. This is an era of too many dumb movies, cowardly distributors and mediocre critics.” Gavin Smith, Jul/Aug 2000.
  • Renewed emphasis on contemporary relevance.
  • Punchier visual design.
  • Standardization of editorial format, and the addition of several departments:
    • Annual Reader’s Poll (Jan/Feb 01);
    • Sound and Vision (Sep/Oct 01);
    • Encore (Originally, “Return Engagement” May/June 6);
  • Regular columns assigned to Alex Cox (“Flashback”, May/June ’06), Guy Maddin (“Guy Maddin’s Jolly Corner”), Paul Arthur (“Art of the Real”, May/June ‘06) and Olaf Muller (“Olaf’s World”);
  • Recurring topics: digital cinema; film festival politics; ascendant national cinema industries (China, South Korea, Romania).
  • One of the lengthiest and most controversial articles Film Comment has printed appeared in September/October 2006. “Canon Fodder,” by Paul Schrader, asserted the value of and laid the perameters for a film canon, and criticized what it deemed “Nonjudgmentals,” who had devised schemes by which art could be closely studied and analyzed without prejudice—the prejudice, that is, of having to determine if the art work is good or bad vis-à-vis another work of art…”
  • In 2004, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott described the magazine as, “a stronghold of feisty, intelligent opinion that pushes no particular party line. Its tone of plain-spoken braininess -- sophistication without snobbery, erudition with a minimum of jargon -- reflects the vitality and variety of international film culture today.”

Notable contributors


Et al


  • Founding editor Gordon Hitchens is the son of thriller novelists Bert and Dolores Hitchens, the latter author of the 1958 Fools' Gold, the novel famously adapted for the screen by Jean-Luc Godard as Band of Outsiders (1966).
  • The magazine’s original title, Vision, was dropped after two issues to avoid confusion with a Spanish language periodical of the same name.
  • British Film Critic David Thomson is not to be confused with British Film Critic David Thompson, though both have written regularly for Film Comment magazine.

External links

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