Kent Jones | Film CommentWhere would American movie culture be without Andrew Sarris? He gave us—and by “us” I mean anyone who is troubling to read these words or visit this website—more than we fully comprehend...
Richard Corliss | TIME
The Voice gave him a weekly pulpit to promote his view that the director was the author of a film and, more important, that cinema was a form of aesthetic expression as rich as life and much more beautiful. In nearly a half-century, Sarris demonstrated that movie criticism could be its own art, powerful and poetic. Less the commissar of critics than a romantic poet whose subject was cinema, Sarris believed that “the world [could] be remade in the moonbeams of a movie projector.” As his masterwork proved, the film world could also be enlightened by one man’s passion and eloquence. He was the prime reviver of our ragged, treasured art.
Richard Brody |The New Yorker
Andrew Sarris is the one indispensable American film critic. Before he showed everyone which way to look, hardly anybody knew that it was there at all. Whether he’s read or not, he’s the dominant figure of film criticism in the last half century. Like a director, he is present, exercising his influence, unseen, on a vast array of movie people and leaving a virtual impression on screens everywhere, from art houses to multiplexes.
We were cowed into thinking that only European cinema mattered. What Andrew showed us is that art was all around us, and that our tradition, too, had much to offer; he was our guide to the world of cinema.
David Bordwell | Observations on film
The death of Andrew Sarris isn’t just a saddening moment for those of us who admire exhilarating film criticism. It also reminds us how much American culture can owe to a single person.
Mick LaSalle | San Francisco Chronicle
The greatest film critic this country has ever produced. Sarris was consummately erudite but completely down to earth. He never forgot that people went to the movies to fall in love. He never forgot that movies were a place of feelings, and this was reflected in his film criticism, which was full of his personality, though never about his personality. He could be acerbic or funny or naked in his emotions. His was a gut-level response, refined by reflection and raised to the level of art. He wasn't just a giant. Mr. Sarris was the giant - and utterly irreplaceable.
J. Hoberman | Art Info
Sarris’s “The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968,” […] was a bible for countless cinephiles, including me. My undergraduate comrades and I used to call it The Book, as in “Paul Wendkos? I don’t know — check the book!” I referred to my tattered, underlined copy so often as to have whole chunks engraved in my memory…
James Schamus | Film Department, Columbia University
Andrew Sarris knew — and embodied — a fundamental fact about the cinema, and indeed about all things: there is no knowledge without love. Sarris taught us, in words and by example, that cinephilia and cine-knowledge are, at their core, one and the same thing; and if our individual movie pantheons may be populated by different gods, our pantheon of critics will always have Andrew Sarris sitting front row and center.
Stephen Whitty | Newark Star-Ledger
In his hands, reviewing was an art... And to generations of shy kids who read him -- and through reading him, first learned who F.W. Murnau was, or how to wrap their tongues around words like “oeuvre” -- Andrew Sarris was the artist who mattered most, holding open the door to a million movie theaters with an encouraging smile and a murmured "I can’t wait to show you this."
Robert Lang | Director Talk
I always marveled at his apparent ability to talk about absolutely any film: he could keep up a continuous patter of penetrating insights and entertaining digressions (that only seemed to be digressions, but were not) and biographical information and historical context: in this mode, at this game, he was unbeatable. The depth and breadth of his learning, and his sense of historical context, seemed effortless. He seemed to be a kind of Scheherazade, a raconteur, or teller of fascinating tales, but he was a critic and historian. He made it look easy…
Philip Lopate | Film Comment
What I loved most about Andrew was his humanity, which is to say, I loved the kind, complex man he was, and the way that came through both on and off the page.
David Edelstein | New York Magazine
When he loved something, he could barely contain himself. And Sarris was a huge presence.
It has been impossible to be a critic since the 1968 publication of his "The American Cinema" without reckoning with Sarris’s work, which, at its best, combined the French penchant for logic and categorization with a spiky American iconoclasm. He was often the first critic we turned to when confronting a particular filmmaker, finding penetrating insights in even his most packed and unwieldy sentences. Before Sarris, most American cinephiles didn’t know you could study the body of a director’s work that way, finding echoes and interconnections and themes that stretched back to the beginning of American literature. Indeed, I can’t imagine a month in which I won’t pull down "The American Cinema" from my shelf and hear Sarris’s breathless voice, scattering keys that will unlock the work of some of our greatest artists with grand and enviable exuberance.
Matt Zoller Seitz | Indiewire
Andrew Sarris put a frame around cinema itself. He turned the appreciation of movies into an art, but with elements of science. "The American Cinema" is a taxonomy of directors, arranging them from most to least evolved, most to least artful, most to least memorable. His way of thinking about movies influenced not just film criticism, but pop music and TV criticism and comics criticism, too. Critics of any art form that was previously too young, awkward and humble to dare to define a pantheon were emboldened to try it thanks to Sarris, who insisted that movies could be art as well as entertainment and found the words to explain exactly how that could be so.
I think we can all agree that we all owe Andrew Sarris everything. One of the great virtues of this polemical work [The American Cinema] is that inspired debate and invited reasoned disagreement. Sarris is large; he contains multitudes. Sarris wrote many beautiful sentences (they were not only true because they were beautiful but also beautiful because they were true, to paraphrase Godard on Rossellini).
Glenn Kenny | Film Comment
Quoting Godard on Welles, 'All of us will always owe him everything.' People still argue over the categories in "The American Cinema," and they argue angrily, lustily, and sometimes with a "who does he think he is" indignation that I think ill-befits consideration of a book that is now over 40 years old. And beyond that it's a book that still, whenever I open it, makes me feel, yes, like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken.
Roger Ebert | Chicago Sun-Times
He was the most influential American film critic of his time, and one of the jolliest. I began to read Sarris regularly in the Voice,and found his voice to be clear and energetic, free of jargon and self-importance. Although he was famous as the leader of the auteurist critical school in America, he was not particularly theoretical or doctrinaire, and seemed in close touch with the actual experience of seeing the movie itself. I remember him the year "Apocalypse Now" was being premiered at Cannes. A half-dozen American critics were invited to visit Francis Ford Coppola on his yacht and talk about his film. That was the fateful night he expressed his doubts about its ending. Coppola told us he considered Cannes his "out of town try-out." Sarris asked, "Where's town?"
Scott Foundas | Film Society of Lincoln Center
Simply put, he was one of the key reasons why it is even possible to speak about film criticism as an art. He wrote about movies with a clarity, economy, insight and deadpan wit—an ability to seem at once inside and outside of a film, decoding its patterns while placing it in broader artistic and sociological contexts—that remains all too rare in criticism today. The movies have a funny way of making people immortal—not just the movie stars onscreen, but all those who somehow make their careers out of obeisance to the flickering light. So Andy’s voice will remain to guide us through the dark, making the culture of film all the richer for it.