Rosenbaum on Rosenbaum | Letters | Chicago Reader

Rosenbaum on Rosenbaum 

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I was disappointed to see the one star accorded to The Hudsucker Proxy in your April 1 review. I quite enjoyed and appreciated the film for what it is. I thought: It's a shame that Jonathan Rosenbaum's rather tiresome and verbose review can't get beyond a simplistic compendium of motifs and Trivial Pursuit style gurgitation of references to the films of Sturges and Capra and any other film he sees as obviously seminal in the "formulation" of HP.

But then I realized that the review wasn't, as I had been led to believe, about HP at all. Rather it's about, or could be titled, Jonathan Rosenbaum: his ego and erudition. The Reader also seems to think that by giving Rosenbaum a lot of column inches in which to wax grandiloquent, that the reader (small r, clearly) will take him all the more Seriously.

Rosenbaum certainly props himself up to considerable height in "reviewing" the film. The film should variously, in his estimation, (a) show interest in abstract art; (b) faithfully and in a historically accurate way depict the years 1958-'59; (c) show concern for the "social realities and fantasies" germane to that time; (d) pay tribute to the films of Capra and Sturges; and (e) on top of it all, say "something" about the 90s! Why does it have to? Why must this film conform to Rosenbaum's conservative and traditionalist, not to mention universalist and reductive, notions of the film? Maybe Rosenbaum should do his own remake if he has such specific ideas.

Most offensive of all is Rosenbaum's childish ranting about how cool the Coen brothers are and that they're the Beavis and Butt-head of the film world. That HP is comparable to a semiliterate MTV cartoon catering to the lowest common denominator is ludicrous.

HP is best appreciated as a film not pretending to be anything else but . . . a film. It's wonderful in its highly styled and mannered artificiality and rich quotation from various periods and styles of film, the corresponding zeitgeist of those eras and how they have become embellished in our memories. Gosh, Rosenbaum even missed the wry 90s references to a beat juice bar and the word phat. (And a couple of facts: Norville was hired as a mail room worker, and he was pushed, did not jump, off the 45th, 44th counting the mezzanine, floor.)

Maybe Rosenbaum should stop pretending to be anything but a film critic.

Jennifer Riddell

N. Wolcott

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