what’s criticism for?

Peter Suderman at The American Scene is glad he didn’t have to write a review of Up:

That Pixar’s marvelous, moving, and altogether astounding Up deserves every one of its accolades, and perhaps more, should be obvious just a few minutes into the film. But I feel a least a little bit sorry for the critics who had to sing the film’s praises. Yes, I love writing about film, and that love is rooted in a passion for sharing — some of my friends might call it pushing — great cinema with others. But every now and then, a movie comes along that’s so effortlessly delightful that I just want it to be mine, a treasure that I don’t have to share.

This seems like an odd contention for a film critic to make: Isn’t criticism a kind of proselytizing? Isn’t criticism about nothing else but sharing a love of film (even if that love is sometimes disappointed) with others?

Suderman continues:

I’m glad I don’t have to write about it in a comprehensive or authoritative way, to summarize its plot or characters and make a careful case for its greatness. Doing so, even to rave, requires putting at least a bit of distance between oneself and one’s subject, and with a film as elegant and lovely and honestly heartfelt as Up, that’s not something I ever want to do.

Does critiquing a film put distance between the critic and the movie? Can’t it bring even a critic closer to a film, by helping him or her better understand his or her own reaction to it?

Perhaps it’s for the best that Suderman was not compelled to review Up after all…

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