Yet the briefest look at his work reveals an astute appreciator of actors, one who paid subtle attention to body language, physiognomy, and other presentations of self.Farber had a coterie reputation, particularly in the postwar world of New York intellectuals, as a keen observer, a brilliant and original stylist, and an exacting but generous critic (as well as a pioneering painter).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.
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 .
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.
But until this selection of fugitive articles was culled from a career then approaching three decades, it was necessary to unearth back issues of For many years, and much to his irritation, Farber has been typecast as the champion of B movies and ‘the male action film.’ He was certainly among the first to call attention to the achievements of directors as different as Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh (no relation), William Wellman, Samuel Fuller, and Anthony Mann at a time when they were virtually ignored, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s his notoriety was enhanced-or, as it turned out, calcified—with influential summing-up pieces such as shows, Farber covered a much more sprawling domain than he is usually given credit for, while displaying ever greater critical ambitions.
In contrast to his temperament, which inches along by layered reiteration, Farber’s pieces hooked and seduced readers from the opening phrase and drew them along, sometimes flagging a quick detour before sweeping them off again in other unexpected directions, though usually arriving at an energizing envoi.
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.
No critic, not even Godard, has had a more developed understanding of a movie as mobile composition, a wheeling mandala of sounds and images in dialogue with one another and with their viewers.
Perhaps because of his relationships with contentious friends in the literary and art worlds—from James Agee to Jackson Pollock, Walker Evans to Clement Greenberg—as well as making his living for many years as a carpenter, he came to examine each movie as an open set of overlapping fields, which encouraged a style that reveled in Borgesian catalogues of telling detail and led him to give heightened prominence to the varieties of film space.