Stanley Kauffmann, Film Critic, Dead at 97

Reviewed film and theater for the New Republic for five decades

Stanley Kauffmann,who ladled out praise and pans as the New Republic’s film and theater critic for more than five decades, is dead. He was 97.

The New Republic said he died of pneumonia at St. Luke’s Hospital on Wednesday morning.

Kauffmann’s voice was intellectual and measured. He championed directors like Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman and Sam Peckinpah without ever adopting the hectoring or evangelical tone favored by contemporaries like Pauline Kael or Andrew Sarris. He had the good fortune to sound off on popular culture at a time when films like “The Godfather” and “Mean Streets” raised the art form and its criticism to new levels of artistry and debate.

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“For a man who never seemed to raise his voice in print, who practiced a sweater-vest decorum, he was raptly receptive to rebel outbreaks on the screen from such crafty, iconoclastic insurgents as Jean-Luc Godard to Quentin Tarantino,” James Wolcott wrote in a fine appreciation for Kauffmann’s genteel, yet authoritative voice.

But Kauffmann’s contributions extended beyond the silver screen. He coined the term “film generation” to describe the great swell in film criticism that rose along with the quality of American movies in the 1960s an 70s.

He was also indirectly responsible for bringing Walker Percy’s existential masterpiece “The Moviegoer” to the world stage. As an editor at Alfred A. Knopf, he came across Percy’s manuscript and advocated on its behalf. It went on to win the National Book Award.

In addition to his writings in the magazine, Kauffmann published several books, many of them collections of his essays such as “Before My Eyes: Film Criticism and Comment” and “Persons of the Drama: Theater Criticism and Comment.”

The New Republic said there will be no funeral for Kauffmann, but the magazine will host a memorial service in New York to celebrate him and his work at a date and time to be announced.

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