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Lady in the DarkIris Barry and the Art of Film$
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Robert Sitton

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165785

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165785.001.0001

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Art High and Low

Art High and Low

(p.205) 19 Art High and Low
Lady in the Dark

Robert Sitton

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses how Iris Barry addressed the diverse agendas surrounding the development of the new Film Library. Iris' view that movies provided a legitimate dream-escape for people from otherwise oppressive lives, and that their content reflects cultural issues and trends worth studying, appeased the entertainment side of the American film scene represented by Hollywood. On the other hand, her regard for seminal filmmakers, and her historian's bent to preserve and study their works gave her efforts the air of legitimacy that sophisticated museum work required. The result was a movement which turned traditional aesthetic evolution on its head. Instead of lifting motion pictures upward to fit aesthetic standards derived for other and preexisting art forms, she focused critical attention downward to find in the vibrant new art form its own inherent validation. Ultimately, this populist dynamic set in motion an approach to film criticism later practiced by critics such as James Agee and Pauline Kael.

Keywords:   films, motion pictures, Dick Abbott, film library, aesthetics, populism, Hollywood, legitimacy

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