Raymond Durgnat

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Raymond Durgnat
Born (1932-09-01)1 September 1932
London, England
Died 19 May 2002(2002-05-19) (aged 69)
London, England[1]
Occupation Film critic
Nationality American
Alma mater Pembroke College, Cambridge, Slade School of Fine Art

Raymond Durgnat (1 September 1932 – 19 May 2002) was a British film critic, who was born in London of Swiss parents. During his life he wrote for virtually every major English language film publication.

Durgnat's books include Films and Feelings (1967), A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence (1970) and The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock (1974). He also wrote books on Luis Buñuel, Jean Renoir, Georges Franju, and King Vidor. A book on Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho was published posthumously. He wrote for Films and Filming, Movie, Time Out, Oz and Film Comment among many other publications, and often lectured on cinema at various academic institutions, notably as visiting professor at the University of East London[2] towards the end of his life.

Biography[edit]

Durgnat was born in 1932 to Swiss parents who had emigrated to England in 1924.[1] Durgnat's family was of French Huguenot descent, and he was raised in a religious Calvinist household.[3] Durgnat's father worked as a window dresser but lost his job in 1932; afterwards, he opened a drapery shop.[3]

As a young man, Durgnat spent two years in the national service serving in the Education Corps in Hong Kong,[3] then in British possession. After leaving the army, he studied English at Pembroke College, Cambridge.[1] With the filmmaker Don Levy, Durgnat became one of the first post-graduate students of film in Britain, studying under Thorold Dickinson (director of Gaslight and The Next of Kin) at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1960.

In the 1950s, he had written for Sight and Sound, but he later fell out with this British Film Institute publication after the exit of Gavin Lambert in 1957, often accusing it of elitism, puritanism and upper-middle-class snobbery, notably in his 1963 essay "Standing Up For Jesus",[4] (which appeared in the short-lived magazine Motion, with which he was strongly involved) and in his 1965 piece "Auteurs and Dream Factories". He did, however, return to write for another BFI publication, the Monthly Film Bulletin, in the years before its merger with Sight and Sound in 1991, and contributed to that publication again later in the 1990s.

In the mid-'60s he was a major player in the nascent London Film-Makers' Co-op (LFMC),[5] then based at Better Books off Charing Cross Road, a hub of the emerging British 'underground'. As the counter-culture turned left and, simultaneously, sought state funding for its activities, Durgnat looked to the past in major works on film style (Images of the Mind, 1968-9), Hitchcock and Renoir.

In the late 1970s he taught film at the University of California, San Diego alongside Manny Farber, Jean-Pierre Gorin and Jonathan Rosenbaum.[6] Returning to the UK at the close of the decade, he launched a series of withering assaults on the linguistics-based film theory that had come to dominate the young film academia over the previous decade.

Durgnat's socio-political approach — strongly supportive of the working classes and, almost as a direct result of this, American popular culture, and dismissive of Left-wing intellectuals whom he accused of actually being petit-bourgeois conservatives in disguise, and dismissive of overt politicisation of film criticism, refusing to bring his own Left-wing views overtly into his writings on film — can best be described as "radical populist".

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