From Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader:
At our request, Rosenbaum supplied this reply to Tavernier's letter (below), which has appeared elsewhere on the web but is now "slightly retooled and updated."
Let’s see if I have this straight. I have “a lot of pre-conceived opinions,” and for me “a lot of films and directors are presumed guilty before being heard or seen” (no examples given). Your letter meanwhile seems to imply that it’s perfectly OK for Roger to dismiss Abbas Kiarostami as an important filmmaker solely on the basis of "Taste of Cherry" and "10," thereby consigning "The Traveler," "Homework," "Close-up," the Koker trilogy, and "The Wind Will Carry Us" to oblivion. It's also OK for Roger not to bother to clarify whether or not he’s seen the original version of "Fanny and Alexander," which Ingmar Bergman himself preferred, while chastising me for not having yet seen the three-hour version (which I finally caught up with, by the way, quite recently). Yet it’s scandalously unacceptable for me to have responded favorably to an invitation from a Times editor to argue that some recent claims being made for Bergman after his death, in the Times and elsewhere--some implying that he dwarfed every other filmmaker in the history of cinema—were a bit overblown, even if I allude in the piece to Bergman's "genius" and compare him to a director as admirable as George Cukor. And apparently having seen roughly 26 of Bergman's films doesn't make it any more acceptable.
Your outburst reminds me of a comment I used to hear in Alabama during my teens: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” (This often made me want to reply, “Then why are you speaking to me?”) But if I wanted to write a major polemic (as I tried to do, for instance, in my book Movie Wars), I wouldn’t have attempted to squeeze it into an Op Ed piece. All I wanted to do was let some air into a subject that some people appeared to be taking for granted--although the mere fact that my comments appeared in the Times seems to have unleashed a wave of hysteria.
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