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Critical Independence

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Dear sir or madam:

Art, it is true, is transcendent, but it can't reach the masses unless someone with genuine passion and foresight champions it. That particular someone is a critic. And Chicagoans are very fortunate to have a particular critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, who demands that his specific art form, film, be taken seriously ("Acid Western," June 28).

By pointing out Jim Jarmusch's status as a true American independent (I'd also add John Sayles), Rosenbaum indirectly reminds us that critical independence is essential for any art form to survive. The true critic ignores hype, scorns cliches, punctures pretentiousness; instead, he or she concentrates on delineating freshness, originality, and imagination. In doing so, a critic becomes an active collaborator--a conduit, if you will--for a society's aesthetic well-being. It's no coincidence that three of the most fertile periods in filmmaking history--the Russian Revolution of the 1920s, Italian neorealism in the 1940s, and the French New Wave in the 1950s--were also accompanied by lively, collective debates, either in print or among audiences and critics alike, about the limitless possibilities of film as art.

Yes, America, it can happen here; however, we need thoughtful critics to lead us. Jonathan Rosenbaum is doing his part. The rest of America's critics could possibly do theirs, too--provided they set their priorities straight and stop reporting on twisters, impossible missions, erasers, and Demi Moore's (fake) boobs.

Thank you.

Bill Dal Cerro

River North

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