Raymond Durgnat


Raymond Durgnat

Raymond Durgnat (September 1, 1932 - May 19, 2002) was a distinctive and highly influential British film critic, who was born in London of Swiss parents. During his life he wrote for virtually every major English language film publication.

With the filmmaker Don Levy he was one of the first post-graduate students of film in Britain, studying under Thorold Dickinson (director of 'Gaslight' and 'The Next of Kin) at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1960. His views on the academicization of film study were always complicated.

In the 1950s, he had written for Sight and Sound, but he later fell out with this British Film Institute publication after the exit of Gavin Lambert, often accusing it of elitism, puritanism and upper-middle-class snobbery, notably in his 1963 essay "Standing Up For Jesus" [http://www.lightsleepercinemag.com/reviews/standingupforjesus.php] (which appeared in the short-lived magazine "Motion", with which he was strongly involved) and in his 1965 piece "Auteurs and Dream Factories". He did, however, return to write for another BFI publication, the Monthly Film Bulletin, in the years leading up to its demise in 1991.

In the mid-'60s he was a major player in the nascent London Film-Makers' Co-op (LFMC), then based at Better Books off Charing Cross Road, a hub of the emerging British 'underground'. As the counter-culture turned left and, simultaneously, sought state funding for its activities, Durgnat looked to the past in major works on film style ('Images of the Mind', 1968-9), Hitchcock, and Renoir.

In the late 1970s he taught film in California alongside Manny Farber, Jean-Pierre Gorin and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Returning to the UK at the close of the decade, he launched a series of withering assaults on the linguistics-based film theory that had come to dominate the young film academia over the previous decade.

Durgnat's socio-political approach - strongly supportive of the working classes and, almost as a direct result of this, American popular culture, and dismissive of Left-wing intellectuals who he accused of actually being petit-bourgeois conservatives in disguise, and dismissive of overt politicisation of film criticism, refusing to bring his own Left-wing views overtly into his writings on film - can best be described as "radical populist".

Durgnat's books include "Films and Feelings" (1967), "A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence" (1970) and "The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock" (1974). He also wrote books on Luis Buñuel, Jean Renoir, Georges Franju, and King Vidor. A book on Hitchcock's 1960 classic "Psycho" was published posthumously. He wrote for "Films and Filming", "Movie", "Time Out" and "Film Comment" among many other publications, and often lectured on cinema at various academic institutions, notably as visiting professor at the University of East London towards the end of his life.

Bibliography

*"Nouvelle Vague: The First Decade" A Motion Monograph, London, 1963, 102 pages
*"Greta Garbo" Studio Vista/Dutton Pictureback, New York, 1965, reprinted 1967, 1970, 160 pages
*"Eros in the Cinema" Calder and Boyars, London, 1966, 207 pages
*"Films and Feelings" The MIT Press, Cambridge; Faber and Faber, London 1967, 288 pages
*"Franju" University of California Press, Berkeley, 1968, 144 pages
*"Luis Bunuel" University of California Press, Berkeley, 1968, 152 pages
*"Children of Albion: Poetry of the "Underground" in Britain" (poem: “Scrap Iron”), Penguin, Baltimore, 1969, 384 pages
*"Samuel Fuller" (essay “China Gate”) Edinburgh Film Festival, Edinburgh, 1969, 128 pages
*"The Films of Robert Bresson" Praeger, New York, 1969, 144 pages
*"The Crazy Mirror: Hollywood Comedy and the American Image" Horizon Press, New York, 1970, 280 pages, ISBN 8180 0701 X
*"A Mirror for England: British Movies From Austerity to Affluence" Praeger, New York, 1971, 336 pages, ISBN 8180 0701 X
*"Sexual Alienation in the Cinema: The Dynamics of Sexual Freedom" Studio Vista, London, 1972, 320 pages, ISBN 0 289 70261 5
*"The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock" The MIT Press, Cambridge; Faber and Faber, London 1974, 419 pages, ISBN 0 262 04041 7 / ISBN 0 571 09966 1
*"Jean Renoir" The University of California Press, Berkeley, 1974, 429 pages, ISBN 0 520 02283 1
*"Durgnat on Film" Faber and Faber, London, 1976, 238 pages, ISBN 0 571 10656 0
*"Luis Bunuel" University of California Press, Berkeley, 1977, 176 pages, ISBN 0 520 03424 4
*"Powell, Pressburger and Others" BFI Publishing, London, 1978, 124 pages, ISBN 0 85170 086 1
*"King Vidor, American" The University of California Press, Berkeley, 1988, 382 pages, ISBN 0 520 05798 8
*"WR: Mysteries of the Organism" BFI Publishing, distributed by The University of California Press, Berkeley, 1999, 96 pages, ISBN 0 85170 720 3
*"A Long Hard Look at Psycho" BFI Publishing, distributed by The University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002, 248 pages, ISBN 0 85170 920 6

External links

* [http://www.cinemonkey.com/reviews/raymonddurgnat/raymonddurgnat.html A Raymond Durgnat Bibliography] (A descriptive, illustrated bibliography of the work of noted film critic) Cinemonkey.com
* [http://www.vertigomagazine.co.uk/showarticle.php?sel=bac&siz=0&id=504 A tribute to the late Raymond Durgnat] By Henry K Miller, Vertigo magazine, Vol.2 No.4 - Spring 2003
* [http://www.rouge.com.au/8/interview.html ‘Culture Always is a Fog’] - an interview that took place in mid to late 1977, when Raymond Durgnat was a visiting professor in the Critical Studies program of the Film Department at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Rouge.com


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