Jonathan Rosenbaum

Jonathan Rosenbaum (born February 27, 1943) is an American film critic and author. Rosenbaum was the head film critic for The Chicago Reader from 1987 to 2008, when he retired.[1] He has published and edited numerous books about cinema[2] and has contributed to notable film publications Cahiers du cinéma and Film Comment.

Jonathan Rosenbaum
Photo of a man with long gray hair and glasses
Rosenbaum in 2013
Born (1943-02-27) February 27, 1943 (age 78)
Florence, Alabama, U.S.
  • Film critic
  • essayist
  • author
Alma materBard College

Regarding Rosenbaum, French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard said, "I think there is a very good film critic in the United States today, a successor of James Agee, and that is Jonathan Rosenbaum. He's one of the best; we don't have writers like him in France today. He's like André Bazin."[3]

Early lifeEdit

Rosenbaum grew up in Florence, Alabama, where his grandfather owned a small chain of movie theaters. His childhood home was the Rosenbaum House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. As a teenager, he attended The Putney School in Putney, Vermont, where his classmates included actor Wallace Shawn.[4] He graduated from Putney in 1961.

Rosenbaum developed a lifelong interest in jazz as a teenager and continues to make frequent references to it in his film criticism. He attended Bard College, where he played piano in an amateur jazz ensemble that included future actors Chevy Chase as a drummer and Blythe Danner as a vocalist.[5] He studied literature at Bard with the intention of becoming a writer. Amongst his professors there was German philosopher Heinrich Blücher, whose teaching made a serious impact on Rosenbaum.[6] After graduate school, he moved to New York and was hired to edit a collection of film criticism, which marked his first foray into the field.

Rosenbaum moved to Paris in 1969, working briefly as an assistant to director Jacques Tati and appearing as an extra in Robert Bresson's Four Nights of a Dreamer. While living there, he began writing film and literary criticism for The Village Voice, Film Comment, and Sight & Sound.[5] In 1974, he moved from Paris to London, where he remained until March 1977, when he was offered a two-semester teaching position at the University of California, San Diego by Manny Farber.[7] Farber had been a major influence on Rosenbaum's criticism, but the two had never met until the latter arrived in San Diego.[7]

While teaching at UCSD, he shared a house with filmmaker Louis Hock and critic Raymond Durgnat.[7] Towards the end of his teaching stint there, he received a National Endowment for the Arts grant, which led to the writing of his first published book, Moving Places.[7] Rosenbaum then returned to New York, initially sharing an apartment with future Philadelphia Inquirer critic Carrie Rickey, a former student of Farber's.


Rosenbaum followed Dave Kehr as the main film critic for The Chicago Reader until 2008.[8] He is the author of many books on film, including Film: The Front Line 1983 (1983), Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism (1995), Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (1980; reprint 1995), Movies as Politics (1997), and Essential Cinema (2004). His most popular work is Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Movies We Can See (2002). He has also written the best-known analysis of Jim Jarmusch's film Dead Man; the volume includes recorded interviews with Jarmusch; the book places the film in the acid western subgenre. He edited This Is Orson Welles (1992) by Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, a collection of interviews and other materials relating to Welles, and was a consultant on both the 1998 re-editing of Welles's Touch of Evil (and based on a lengthy memo written by Welles to Universal Pictures in the 1950s) and the 2018 completion of Welles's The Other Side of the Wind.

In August 2007, Rosenbaum marked the passing of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman with an op-ed piece in The New York Times titled "Scenes from an Overrated Career."[9]

He is a frequent contributor to the DVD Beaver website, where he offers his alternative lists of genre films. He also writes the Global Discovery Column in the film journal Cinema Scope, where he reviews international DVD releases of films that are not widely available. He also writes a column called En Movimiento for the Spanish magazine Caimán Cuadernos De Cine.

Rosenbaum was a visiting professor of film at Virginia Commonwealth University's art history department in Richmond, Virginia from 2010 to 2011. From 2013 to 2015, he taught four times as a visiting lecturer at Bela Tarr's Film.Factory in Sarajevo.

Rosenbaum participated in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll, where he listed his ten favorite films as follows: Vampir-Cuadecuc, Greed, Histoire(s) du cinéma, I Was Born, But..., Ivan, Rear Window, Sátántangó, Spione, The Wind Will Carry Us, and The World.[10]

Rosenbaum appears in the 2009 documentary For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism, where he discusses the film criticism of Manny Farber.

Alternative Top 100Edit

In response to the AFI list of 100 greatest American movies published in 1998, Rosenbaum published his own list, focusing on less well-established, more diverse films.[11] It also includes works by important American directors (such as John Cassavetes and Jim Jarmusch) who were absent from the AFI list. A second list by the AFI would incorporate five titles from Rosenbaum's list.

In Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (2004), he appended a more general list of his 1,000 favorite films of all nationalities, slightly over half of which were American. He starred his 100 favorite films on the list, marking both traditionally canonical films like Greed and Citizen Kane and harder-to-find films like Michael Snow's La Région Centrale and Jacques Rivette's Out 1.


As author
  • Moving Places: A Life in the Movies (1980/1995) ISBN 0-520-08907-3
  • Midnight Movies (1983/1991) (with J. Hoberman) ISBN 0-306-80433-6
  • Film: The Front Line 1983 (1983) ISBN 0-912869-03-8
  • Greed (1993) ISBN 0-85170-806-4
  • Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism (1995) ISBN 0-520-08633-3
  • Movies as Politics (1997) ISBN 0-520-20615-0
  • Dead Man (2000) ISBN 0-85170-806-4
  • Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films You See A Capella/Chicago Review Press (2000) ISBN 1-55652-454-4
  • Abbas Kiarostami (Contemporary Film Directors) (2003/2018) (with Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa) ISBN 0-252-07111-5
  • Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (2004) ISBN 0-8018-7840-3
  • Discovering Orson Welles (2007) ISBN 0-520-25123-7
  • The Unquiet American: Transgressive Comedies from the U.S. (2009) ISBN 978-3-89472-693-5
  • Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia: Film Culture in Transition (2010) ISBN 978-0-226-72664-9
  • Cinematic Encounters: Interviews and Dialogues (2018) ISBN 978-0-252-08388-4
  • Cinematic Encounters 2: Portraits and Polemics (2019) ISBN 978-0-252-08438-6
As editor


  1. ^ "Something to Talk About". Archived from the original on September 20, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  2. ^ "Jonathan Rosenbaum". Archived from the original on June 16, 2006. Retrieved July 1, 2006.
  3. ^ "Movies as Politics". Archived from the original on May 3, 2008. Retrieved July 3, 2008.
  4. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Playing Oneself Archived November 9, 2020, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b "To Understand Movies You Have to Understand the World": An Interview with Film Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum Archived June 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "True Believers". July 26, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Rosenbaum, Jonathan. They Drive by Night: The Criticism of Manny Farber.
  8. ^ "". Archived from the original on October 11, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  9. ^ "Scenes From an Overrated Career". Archived from the original on November 8, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 2, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "List-o-Mania. Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love American Movies". Archived from the original on March 21, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2006.

External linksEdit