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Essential Jonathan

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 24, 2006 1:49PM

"... when people ask me today where I live, I am often tempted to say instead of Chicago, I live on the Internet."

feat_jonathan_rosenbaum.jpgThat quote is from a new interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum that we came across at one of our very favorite film/TV blogs, The House Next Door. There are two giants of film criticism in Chicago, and we're talking of course about Roger Ebert and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Ebert has the TV show and greater recognition (and bless his heart -- we love him and wish him a continued speedy recovery), but it's Rosenbaum who has an endorsement from French film icon Jean-Luc Godard. ("I think there is a very good film critic in the United States today, a successor of James Agee, and that is Jonathan Rosenbaum. He's one of the best; we don't have writers like him in France today. He's like André Bazin.") We don't always agree with Mr. Rosenbaum. But when he hits the nail on the head, he's dead on.

In Jeremiah Kipp's fascinating interview, Rosenbaum touches on a variety of topics, including how he came to be a film writer and what it's like at the Reader these days. (He sums up the situation bluntly: "I generally have much less space nowadays in the Chicago Reader. This is partly a function of their losing money.") Unlike a lot of the old-guard critics, Rosenbaum seems to have genuinely embraced the net and its possibilities. In addition to a regular column at cinemascope, he even helped write a book called Movie Mutations, consisting largely of international correspondence between dozens of cinephiles.

Rosenbaum has long been a tireless champion of world cinema and has undoubtedly wielded a lot of influence in the Chicago film world. His championing of the epic Hungarian film Satantango, which screened at the 1994 Chicago International Film Festival, has led in part to its status as a cult film; the nearly seven-hour-long film will be shown in its entirety next month at the Siskel Film Center. Rosenbaum also co-authored a book on Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami with Columbia College film professor Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa.

Spring 2007 will see the release of a new Rosenbaum book, "Discovering Orson Welles." It draws from his own personal experiences getting to know Welles (which began by lunching with Orson in early 70's Paris) and his work reconstructing the classic Touch of Evil. We'll be looking forward to it; in the meantime, whenever we're unsure what to rent at greencine, we'll scour his list of 1000 Essential Films.

image from cool local e-zine HonestMag.