Modernist Film Criticism By Galindo, Gloria
Criticism is one of the fundamental concepts in Modernism and is defined by “the intensification, almost exacerbation, of [a] self-critical tendency” that began with Kant, “the first to criticize the means itself of criticism” (Clement Greenberg). Modernism makes use of a multiplicity of approaches and techniques in order to reflect on the means of representation by focusing on its methods. That is, instead of trying to describe, thoughts, feelings, relationships, or the world in a realist way, the modernist artist and critic focuses on the way representation articulates experience, turning, at the same time, art into a reflection of itself. In this sense, modernist discourse operates as a statement, ‘by the specific practices of art criticism, by the art activities implicated in the critic/author’s formulations and by the institutions which disseminate and disperse the formulations as events’ (Marcus 2007).
Earlier film theory “was unformed and impressionistic,” and its major concern was, as Robert Stam points out, to define whether or not cinema was an art that was linked or opposed to the other arts. An early theorist, Riccioto Canudo, in his manifesto “The Birth of the Sixth Art” (1911), understood cinema as the conjunction of “the three spatial arts (architecture, sculpture, and painting), and the three temporal arts (poetry, music and dance), transforming them into a synthetic form called ‘Plastic Art in Motion” (Abel 1988: 58–66 quoted in Stam 2000: 28).