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always saying, that’s not exactly true, or that’s not fair, or look at this other side’, Farber explained: ‘She cannot be unscrupulous.We have ferocious arguments over every single sentence that’s written.’ Those battles, however essential to the production of their essays, leave few traces here, except in the unusual variety of texture and the inescapable impression that the stakes have been raised and there is so much left to be said.
In 1966 Patricia Patterson, an artist and teacher in her own right whom Farber married ten years later, began collaborating informally with him.
Though uncredited at first, she had an ever stronger hand in his .
(Nicholas Ray, 1957), Jean-Luc Godard famously declared: ‘There was theater (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir).
Henceforth there is cinema.’ You can still hear the dramatic pause ...
Most of Farber’s work in his career of more than 55 years—including art and movie criticism, renowned film classes at the University of California at San Diego, and especially the paintings he began after his move to Southern California, shortly before was published—has emphasized polyphony.
He began blazing this trail quite early on and was always in dynamic if unspoken dialogue with other writers, critics, and artists, testing his perceptions against theirs, interrogating and incorporating their languages and techniques, and using them to triangulate his positions.As his sophisticated painter’s eye began to take greater precedence over his gift for ridicule both caustic and sly, his work became more and more dense without, however, sacrificing its suppleness or speed—just one result of his inveterate habit of repeated viewings and reconsiderations of a given film, his attempt to go beyond his private reactions to accommodate plural perspectives, and the fact that he is admittedly ‘unable to write anything at all without extraordinary amounts of rewriting.’ These factors helped forge a criticism that took its author’s initial responses to a film only as a launching pad; the published work was the re-sult of rigorous self-criticism and endless mulling, a trial by fire.Within this crucible Farber fashioned a style whose prodigious vocabulary, flexible syntax, and racing pulse were exquisitely at-tuned to the phenomenologies of artistic process (especially the momentary fluxes of filmmaking).This may be one reason why, whatever his obsessions, he seems never to have become stuck on the films of one country, genre, or era but continued searching.Where he wound up—light-years from where he began—no one could have predicted, though he had consistently zeroed in on mavericks and radicals.Though he can seem ‘opinionated,’ ‘intensely personal,’ ‘eccentric’—all the things he’s blurbed to be—strictly speaking, the first person is virtually absent from his prose.Anything but private, his critical voice is suffused with personality and ‘attitude,’ but not exactly that of the man himself.Again there is a personal critical voice, yet it is neither Farber’s nor Patterson’s, but an unprecedented blend.‘I can’t imagine a more perfect art form, a more perfect career than criticism,’ Farber told Thompson at the end of their conversation in 1977.In his essay , he wrote: ‘One day somebody is going to make a film that is the equivalent of a Pollock painting, a movie that can be truly pigeonholed for effect, certified a one-person operation. It was this feeling for impurities that made Farber an uncanny dowser when it came to spotting an individual’s stamp on a film, wherever it could be discerned, and something of a seer about the relations between a film and its historical moment.Until this miracle occurs, the massive attempt in 1960s criticism to bring some order and shape to film history—creating a Louvre of great films and detailing the one genius responsible for each film—is doomed to failure because of the subversive nature of the medium: the flash-bomb vitality that one scene, actor, or technician injects across the grain of a film. Farber has also been considered a ‘curmudgeon,’ but his alleged ‘crankiness’ is something more: an immediate responsiveness, a desire for precision, and an invitation to dialogue.