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As his sophisticated painter’s eye began to take greater precedence over his gift for ridicule both caustic and sly, his work became more and more dense without, however, sacrificing its suppleness or speed—just one result of his inveterate habit of repeated viewings and reconsiderations of a given film, his attempt to go beyond his private reactions to accommodate plural perspectives, and the fact that he is admittedly ‘unable to write anything at all without extraordinary amounts of rewriting.’ These factors helped forge a criticism that took its author’s initial responses to a film only as a launching pad; the published work was the re-sult of rigorous self-criticism and endless mulling, a trial by fire.Within this crucible Farber fashioned a style whose prodigious vocabulary, flexible syntax, and racing pulse were exquisitely at-tuned to the phenomenologies of artistic process (especially the momentary fluxes of filmmaking).Yet the briefest look at his work reveals an astute appreciator of actors, one who paid subtle attention to body language, physiognomy, and other presentations of self.
He possessed an unerring eye and ear for identifying and exposing clichés, anything remotely corny, and the dead on arrival.
What his mainstream colleagues held fast to-plot maneuvers, psychology with a capital P, character ‘development’ -he virtually ignored, as though he considered these elements channel markers, not the anchors they had been taken for.
In 1966 Patricia Patterson, an artist and teacher in her own right whom Farber married ten years later, began collaborating informally with him.
Though uncredited at first, she had an ever stronger hand in his .
This may be one reason why, whatever his obsessions, he seems never to have become stuck on the films of one country, genre, or era but continued searching.
Where he wound up—light-years from where he began—no one could have predicted, though he had consistently zeroed in on mavericks and radicals.
Though he can seem ‘opinionated,’ ‘intensely personal,’ ‘eccentric’—all the things he’s blurbed to be—strictly speaking, the first person is virtually absent from his prose.
Anything but private, his critical voice is suffused with personality and ‘attitude,’ but not exactly that of the man himself.
always saying, that’s not exactly true, or that’s not fair, or look at this other side’, Farber explained: ‘She cannot be unscrupulous.
We have ferocious arguments over every single sentence that’s written.’ Those battles, however essential to the production of their essays, leave few traces here, except in the unusual variety of texture and the inescapable impression that the stakes have been raised and there is so much left to be said.