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The Lens: Critic should understand madness

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 25, 2010 - I'm not much of an admirer of the work of David Thomson, the critic, novelist and professional name-dropper, so I hadn't really made plans to read his latest book, "The Moment of Psycho," a critical study published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Hitchcock's great film. But surely it deserves better than the tossed-off treatment it receives from Neil Genzlinger in the most recent "New York Times Book Review." 

Like so much of what passes as cultural criticism these days, Genzlinger's snide review is a pre-emptive shot fired against the notion that anything - let alone a 50-year-old movie - should be taken very seriously. Thomson, he notes "isn't crazy ..., just knowledgeable," and you get the sense that that's an even worse offense in Genzlinger's eyes. "Psycho," we are told, was an early drop in a deluge of pop-cultural production.

That's the problem with art: There's always more on the way, so why bother to stop and think about any of it, especially something that is just "a nugget of silliness wrapped in retro cool" (whatever that means). Surely the editors at the New York Times think otherwise, having deigned to give space to this and dozens of other "cultural products" in their pages each week. The next time any of the Gray Lady's many arts columnists lament the poor state of contemporary criticism, they need look no further than their own door.

The Lens is provided by Cinema St. Louis.

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