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September 18, 2010

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Michael Rogosin

In response to Seth Watter's commentary on "On The Bowery"-
I disagree with the conclusions of this article which bring up points that are often made in criticising
Flaherty 's films as well and merit a detailed answer/discussion to be continued at another point . For now let me say that Cinema verite which came later may have some positive aspects but lacks the profound nature that "On The Bowery" has and which also lead to a lot of superficial and "facile" cinema that we see today . "On The Bowery" had a profound effect on Cassevetes who took the impovisational methods and freedom that he saw in the film and combined that with his theatrical background and thus this went on to affect anyone influenced by Cassevetes . "On The Bowery" opened Cassevets eyes to what cinema can do . It seems to me that Mr.Watter's is following the ideas and esthetic that his teacher taught him and not seeing the film. I also think that he is missing the point as to what thiis film really means and was showing vis a vis America and the era that it as made as well as the deep pool of humanity that we touch in this film. I must agree that the importance of my father as a distributor and promoter of cinema culture is of the utmost importance . Never the less two confirmed masterpieces and possibly a third in "Good Times Wonderful Times" merits a central place in the history of American Independent cinema . In the next few years we will start to discover the full range of my father's films and actions that have been neglected by the mainstream media .

Jonas Mekas has called my father's generation the "Lost Generation" because of the difficulties they faced
in making and getting their films shown.

My conclusion would be that "On The Bowery" did not bring the death knell to a generation but was one of the most important films that gave birth to an Independent cinema in America. Neglected by the powers that be because it was too profound and political for the time.My father's films show the world the things that people do not want to see , that make one question society and our responsibilities and thus "disturb"."On The Bowery" is as fresh as it was 50 years ago and in my opinion lead the way for young filmmakers TODAY in how to get their films to a much deeper level if they study the methods that my father developed and show the same courage in the choice of their subjects.

My father's films will be available in the US within the year - contact MILESTONE FILMS

s.w.

I think it is unfortunate that Mr. Rogosin has felt the need to respond to my quips as if they were serious analysis, or as if they were printed in Film Quarterly and not a variety blog. I think it is also unfortunate that he has misinterpreted my brief description of the film's style as an ideological attack on its aesthetic, as if I were a Socialist Realist critic condemning Mandelstam and Bulgakov to the chopping block. (It should be noted that, unconstrained by monetary concerns, I only promote things on this blog that I actually like and admire.) Most of all, I think it is unfortunate that he has come here to write of my ignorance while furnishing a well-rehearsed PR script in its place. I am in no doubt as to the film's historical and artistic importance, though I am not convinced that liberal-humanist platitudes like "the deep pool of humanity that we touch" have any more legitimate place in critical discourse than my commentary above.

Regarding the ideas and aesthetics of my teachers, I can only say that we are all products of our education. A case in point--Mr. Rogosin seems unable to move beyond the lessons and beliefs of that most important teacher of all: one's parent. If we left behind artistic hagiography for a moment, we would realize that criticism is in no way incompatible with praise and admiration. When Parker Tyler wrote "Underground Film", he forced himself to take a critical eye toward the work of people he deeply respected, some of whom were his closest friends; and one can see similar self-laceration in writers like Farber and Sontag. In some ways, those books where objectivity forces us into 'betrayal' are the hardest to write of all...

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