Goodbye to Language
Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.
Roger's review of "Last Tango in Paris"
Why did I choose this review?
As a film studies student in the late '90s, it wasn’t uncommon for me to look for film essays deconstructing some of the movies we watched in class. It also wasn’t uncommon for Roger’s critiques to come up in the first page of a search. (Here’s a bit of trivia: in those days, you couldn’t cheat search rankings.)
While drumming up material for an essay on Bertolucci, I came upon Roger’s 1995 revisit of “Last Tango in Paris.” What struck me about it was this quote:
“I once had a professor who knew just about everything there was to know about ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and told us he would trade it all in for the opportunity to read the play for the first time. I felt the same way during the screening: I was so familiar with the film that I was making contact with the art instead of the emotion.”
A couple of things occurred to me just then:
Like many people not from Chicago, I’d known Roger as a film reviewer on TV. This is when it hit home that he was a writer—a really freakin’ good one—as well.
Deconstructing any art form robs you of the pleasure of experiencing it for the first time. This is one of the plights of the critic.
From that moment on, I would try to read Roger’s reviews after seeing a movie so I could experience more of them without a preamble. Not that Roger spoiled anything (he was careful not to). It was more like relishing the possibilities of something you didn’t expect.
I discovered this review of Roger’s during my first year in Montreal, a city located some 1,000 km away from my hometown. I’ve often said that nothing could replace that first year in Montreal. So far, nothing has.
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