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The dissemination in the U.S. of the critical positions associated with Cahiers du cinema is usually accredited to Andrew Sarris. His famous "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962," one the first statements of that theory of film authorship in this country, was conceived as a rejoinder to Andre Bazin's essay critiquing the auteur policy at Cahiers. In fact, Bazin's rethinking of cinema history and his aesthetics of realism had been as profound an influence on Sarris as had auteurism (as it was asserted by Godard, Truffaut, et al). But Sarris is not alone is showing the dual influence of these Cahiers figures. Susan Sontag, too, was deeply influenced by the critical sensibilities and positions of the Cahiers critics, though perhaps less obviously so. Just as Sontag's critical sensibility may be seen as the antithesis to that of her contemporary, Pauline Kael (as Craig Seligman has elaborated it), and just as Sarris and Kael were famous nemeses, it is useful to consider Sontag's position in relation to Sarris--neither as an antithesis nor an antagonist, but as something more like a variation on a theme. (1) The influence on Sarris of both Bazin and the young auteurists is evident in Sontag as well, though in a somewhat different way. For with Sontag, we see the influence of both critical position and critical style. An obvious point of entry into this consideration is Sontag's essay, "The Decay of Cinema," the lament for the death of cinephilia that was not only Sontag's last public pronouncement on the state of film, but perhaps her last important critical pronouncement of any kind. That this would be so is somewhat curious, given that it had been several decades since Sontag had offered any significant consideration of contemporary cinema. But that it was so is evidence of the continued importance that the art of cinema held for her. The thrust of her centenary eulogy is by now well-known: movies do not matter to our culture the way they did in the 1960s and 1970s. It's not that great films don't get made, she wrote; it's that the way in which we value them (if we value them at all) has changed. Once upon a time, however, cinema was for many the most alive, the most privileged of art forms.

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