Salient: At Victoria University College, Wellington, N. Z. Vol. 24, No. 10. 1961.
Obligations of a Critic
Obligations of a Critic
Sir,—Critics generally fall between two irrational extremes: the one who depends solely on his feelings, and the critic who attempts to reject all appeals to emotion. Murray White is an irrational critic of the latter type, and he makes the mistake of assuming that other critics (and no doubt, his correspondent opponents) fall into the former extreme category. But critics may either form an emotional opinion first and then subject that opinion to rational analysis, or they may accept a work's merit as a fact, and then find aesthetic justification for that deduced merit Modern art, for example, is usually approached through the emotions; classical art through reason. But the exclusion of either aspect mocks the function of communication of both art and the critic.
Unfortunately for White, the critical approach to be adopted in the case of Hiroshima mon Amour is the approach towards modern art in general, that based on its emotional impact. So in his rejection of other critics, he may be condemning some who are quite reasonable and logical. (And, by the way, the word "movie" is generally avoided as a term of reference to a serious film). And it by no means follows that a rejection of alleged critical emotionalism over a work of art justifies a rejection of the work itself, as White denies the value of Hiroshima because he denies the validity of its genre, doubts the sincerity of its producer, and rejects its critics.
Furthermore, Mr White, pursuing his anti-emotionalism theme (and getting very worked up in the process), objects to esotericism in art. But a critic need not be initiated in avant-garde philosophy in order to understand Hiroshima mon Amour—the work of art. if it is based on an unusual philosophy, is by its function as art, a communication of that philosophy to the uninitiated, and although the demands on the intellect made by the film or work of art may be great, one cannot refuse to apply one's intellectual powers if through them only one may appreciate the work's significance.
Salient's Fine Arts Editor, in the final paragraph of his criticism, makes that refusal to consider the aspects of the film upon which the film's value rests. His fear of the corrupting influence of emotion on a rational judgment, extending - even to his own emotions. cuts him off from any moral involvement in the film or any moral obligation towards his readers. So his criticism is invalid.
Robin J. Maconie.(Abridged).