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Robin Wood close contact with what is happening in cinema today, at every level of achievement. But one needs to ''live'' with a film for some time, and with repeated viewings, in order to write responsibly about it—if, that is, it is a film of real importance and lasting value.
The difference between critic and reviewer is, then, relatively clear-cut and primarily a matter of quality, seriousness, and commitment. The distinction between critic and scholar or critic and theorist is more complicated. Indeed, the critic may be said to be parasitic on both, needing the scholar's scholarship and the theorist's theories as frequent and indispensable reference points. (It is also true that the scholar and theorist are prone to dabble in criticism, sometimes with disastrous results.) But the critic has not the time to be a scholar, beyond a certain point: the massive research (often into unrewarding and undistinguished material) necessary to scholarship would soon become a distraction from the intensive examination of the works the critic finds of particular significance. And woe to the critic who becomes too much a theorist: he or she will very soon be in danger of neglecting the specificity and particularity of detail in individual films to make them fit the theory, misled by its partial or tangential relevance. Critics should be familiar with the available theories, should be able to refer to any that have not been disproved (for theories notoriously come and go) whenever such theories are relevant to their work, but should never allow themselves to become committed to any one. A critic would do well always to keep in mind Jean Renoir's remarks on theories:
You know, I can't believe in the general ideas, really I can't believe in them at all. I try too hard to respect human personality not to feel that, at bottom, there must be a grain of truth in every idea. I can even believe that all the ideas are true in themselves, and that it's the application of them which gives them value or not in particular circumstances ... No, I don't believe there are such things as absolute truths, but I do believe in absolute human qualities—generosity, for instance, which is one of the basic ones. (Quoted in Sarris, Interviews with Film Directors, p. 424)
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