Film history: Focus on film criticism

From the very beginning of movies, at the time when Thomas Alva Edison’s little toy gave birth to an art that would challenge our literary and dramatic traditions, and that would be seriously discussed in polite society, there were perceptive critics, much of whose work appeared anonymously. By 1924, all of that changed when British-born Mordaunt Hall (1878-1973) was assigned by The New York Times as its motion picture critic. It was the start of a long tradition of film criticism in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and finally on the internet. Many critics have come and gone since then—some became renowned filmmakers (including François Truffaut, Karel Reisz, Peter Bogdanovich); others became prolific film historians (Bosley Crowther), and there were other critics who became conscious of the power of their reviews. But the voice of most film critics was anonymous throughout the years: to honor and to celebrate the craft of filmmaking as a universal, powerful and/or entertaining language.