The cinema : 1952 (1952)

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Y€>UR CRITIC - RIGHT OR WRONG ! 131 Matthew Arnold). Sometimes his reputation came to rest more on his work as a critic than on the other forms of crea- tive work that he did; this is true of Dr Johnson and prob- ably of Coleridge. In this way the profession of criticism was created, partly in the academic studies of the universities and partly in the open field of writing itself. 11 is always open to debate whether the critic is just an encumbrance, a parasite gaining a specious sort of livelihood at the expense of the artist whose work he pretends to dis- cuss for the amusement of the ignorant bystanders. After all, the man who writes a play or paints a picture presum- ably does these things for the direct enjoyment of the audi- ence he reaches; he does not want a middleman to interpret his work to them unasked. The reviewers, too, have often been notoriously wrong in the past, and done great injury to rising artists who were moving in new directions in their art, men like Keats or Ibsen. Of the reviewers, however, one thing could be said in their favour, that in writing at all they were actually practising the art they criticized. Film-makers are only too often heard to say that film critics write about an art of which they have not even bothered to learn the elementary technical principles. The position has changed considerably since the days when Keats was bitterly wounded by the mockery of the references to him in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. The British public is faced nowadays with services of information and entertainment which drown it with so many oppor- tunities for recreation that many people take to bridge or drink in order to avoid the responsibilities of keeping men- tally and emotionally mature. Between three and four thou- sand novels are published each year, about one hundred plays (old and new) are produced annually in London, about two hundred and fifty new films a year are shown to the critics, while British radio and television offer the public four parallel programmes each evening. With the rise of a