example of illiteracy. Philip wrote back: ‘Not to worry. You can use it in your class – but as an example of misunderstood irony.’
Philip had made a tentative start at preparing an anthology of his reviews and had thought of organising the material thematically. Reluctantly we decided against this. It is our view that this book shows Philip developing as a critic. The thirty-something writer of the earlier articles was very different, we feel – more polemical perhaps) – from the Philip French of the 2000s, with a thirty-year relationship with his readers and almost a lifetime of films, not to mention the decades of voracious reading and theatre-going and absorption in the visual arts.
This is not a potted history of the cinema. It is not an anthology of masterpieces. There are masterpieces reviewed here, but also minor films. We tried to choose films that covered the range of Philip’s interests and the scope of his life. Faced with the choice between two equally good reviews, we chose the more important film. But each review we picked struck us as in some way revealing, enticing, entertaining in itself.
This is not a systematic account of the cinema. But even so we hope that a particular idea of the movies emerges from these pages, and also the idea of a man. Robert Warshow, an American critic Philip much admired, once wrote: ‘A man watches a movie, and the critic must acknowledge that he is that man.’ The reader of these reviews will come to know and recognise a man who grew up in provincial England, served in the army, studied at Oxford and in the United States, married a Swedish woman, had three sons, and spent his working life mainly at the BBC and the Observer. He was an old-fashioned liberal, a Labour supporter in the Clement Attlee/Nye Bevan tradition, a critical friend of America and an opponent of totalitarianism in all its forms. Among many other things – and, we hope, many other pleasures – this collection may serve as the memoir Philip French never quite got around to writing.
Kersti, Karl, Patrick and Sean French i n t r o d u c t i o n xv