That Obscure Object of Desire. Courtesy of Rialto Pictures

Dave Kehr: When Movies Mattered

March 26–27, 2011

The erudite and deeply knowledgeable film critic Dave Kehr is best known to cinephiles for his DVD column in The New York Times, where he is able to range freely through film history and write about classic and contemporary world cinema. His website has become the home for some of the most thoughtful, best-informed film discussion forums on the Internet. Yet for many years, some of Kehr’s best writing, his brilliant long-form film criticism for The Chicago Reader, written between 1974 and 1986, has been unavailable. The new anthology, When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade (University of Chicago Press) is a treasure for serious film enthusiasts. For one thing, Kehr was covering an enormously vibrant period, when new films were being made by grand masters like Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles; emerging New Hollywood directors like Walter Hill, John Carpenter, and Jonathan Demme; and international stars like Jean-Luc Godard, and Wim Wenders. Kehr’s writing is lucid and expansive, informed by both a deep respect for the history of classic cinema and an openness to new modernist forms. Simply put, the book establishes Kehr as one of the most important film critics of his time.