Jonathan Rosenbaum

For the television director, see Jonathan A. Rosenbaum. For the paleographer and President of Gratz College, see Jonathan Rosenbaum (scholar).
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Born (1943-02-27) February 27, 1943
Florence, Alabama
Occupation Film critic, essayist
Nationality American
Alma mater Bard College

Jonathan Rosenbaum (born February 27, 1943) is an American film critic. Rosenbaum was the head film critic for the Chicago Reader from 1987 until 2008, when he retired at the age of 65.[1] He has published and edited numerous books [2] and has contributed to some of the world's most notable film publications, including Cahiers du cinéma and Film Comment.

He promotes the dissemination and discussion of foreign film. His strong views on filmgoing in the U.S. hold that Hollywood and the media tend to limit the full range of the films Americans can see, at the cineplex and elsewhere.

Jonathan Rosenbaum appears in the 2009 documentary For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism discussing the film criticism of Manny Farber, and giving his approval to young people writing film reviews today on the Internet.

Regarding Rosenbaum, French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard said: "I think there is a very good film critic in the United States today, a successor of James Agee, and that is Jonathan Rosenbaum. He's one of the best; we don't have writers like him in France today. He's like André Bazin."[3]

Early life

Rosenbaum grew up in Florence, Alabama, where his grandfather owned a small chain of movie theaters. His childhood home was the Rosenbaum House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. As a teenager, he attended The Putney School in Putney, Vermont, where his classmates included actor Wallace Shawn.[4] He graduated from Putney in 1961.

Rosenbaum developed a lifelong interest in jazz as a teen, and continues to make frequent references to it in his film criticism. He attended Bard College, where he played piano in an amateur jazz ensemble that included future actors Chevy Chase as a drummer and Blythe Danner as a vocalist.[5] He studied literature at Bard with the intention of becoming a writer; amongst his professors there was German philosopher Heinrich Blücher, whose teaching made a serious impact on Rosenbaum.[6] After graduate school, he moved to New York and was hired to edit a collection of film criticism, which marked his first foray into the field.

Rosenbaum moved to Paris in 1969, working briefly as an assistant to director Jacques Tati and appearing as an extra in Robert Bresson's Four Nights of a Dreamer. While living there, he began writing film and literary criticism for The Village Voice, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.[5] In 1974, he moved from Paris to London, where he remained until March 1977, when he was offered a two-semester teaching position at the University of California, San Diego by Manny Farber.[7] Farber had been a major influence on Rosenbaum's criticism, but the two had never met until the latter arrived in San Diego.[7]

While teaching at UCSD, he shared a house with filmmaker Louis Hock and critic Raymond Durgnat.[7] Towards the end of his teaching stint there, he received a National Endowment for the Arts grant, which led to the writing of his first published book, Moving Places.[7] Rosenbaum then returned to New York, initially sharing an apartment with future Philadelphia Inquirer critic Carrie Rickey, a former student of Farber's.


Rosenbaum followed Dave Kehr as the main film critic for Chicago Reader until 2008. He is the author of many books on film, including Film: The Front Line 1983 (1983), Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism (1995), Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (1980; reprint 1995), Movies as Politics (1997) and Essential Cinema (2004). His most popular work is Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Movies We Can See (2002). He has also written the best-known analysis of Jim Jarmusch's film Dead Man; the volume includes recorded interviews with Jarmusch; the book places the film in the acid western subgenre. He edited This is Orson Welles (1992) by Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, a collection of interviews and other materials relating to Welles, and was consultant on the re-editing of Welles's Touch of Evil released in 1998, based on a lengthy memo written by Welles to Universal Pictures in the 1950s.

In August 2007, Rosenbaum marked the passing of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman with an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times entitled "Scenes from an Overrated Career".[8]

He is a frequent article contributor to the DVD Beaver website, where he offers his alternative lists of genre films. He also writes the Global Discovery Column in the film journal Cinema Scope, where he reviews international DVD releases of films not widely available.

Rosenbaum has launched a website,[9] which archives all of his work for the Reader as well as pieces written for magazines and film festival catalogues.

Rosenbaum was a visiting professor of film at Virginia Commonwealth University's art history department in Richmond, Virginia in 2010-2011, and in 2013-2015 he has been teaching as a visiting lecturer at Bela Tarr's Film.Factory in Sarajevo.

Alternative Top 100

In response to the AFI list of 100 greatest American movies published in 1998, Rosenbaum published his own list, focusing on less well-established, more diverse films.[10] It also includes works by important American directors (such as John Cassavetes and Jim Jarmusch) who were absent from the AFI list. A second list by the AFI would incorporate five titles from Rosenbaum's list.

In Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (2004), he appended a more general list of his 1,000 favorite films of all nationalities, slightly over half of which were American. He starred his 100 favorite films on the list, marking both traditionally canonical films like Greed and Citizen Kane and harder-to-find films like Michael Snow's La Région Centrale and Jacques Rivette's Out 1.


As Author
As Editor


External links

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