On Thursday, April 25, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a Q&A with prolific Christian Science Monitor film critic, Bloomberg News columnist, and reviewer for National Public Radio’s FilmWeek, Peter Rainer.
Peter Rainer, a NYFA Master Faculty member, is film critic for the Christian Science Monitor and NPR, author of “Rainer on Film,” and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. Rainer started off the Q&A by sharing how he came to love movies; he shared that he grew up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s and 60s and enjoyed trips to the movie theater from a very young age. Rainer explained that, as a teenager, he could not fully relate to some of the classic films he was watching because he had not yet experienced the deeper emotions explored in them, “…of course, when you see a lot of these films when you’re not even out of high school, it’s hard to look at a[n] ‘adult’ movie like L’Avventura or some of these great European classics … and really, you know, you can say they’re great but what kind of a life have you lived to appreciate a film like that? So even though I’m not a huge fan of seeing films over and over again, I do think that, for great movies, it certainly make sense—just like with great literature—to … see them as you mature because you just get more out of them—that’s the definition of a great film.”
A member of the audience later asked Rainer what he believes to be the purpose of film criticism. “It’s not the value judgement, per se, that you look for in a critic,” said Rainer. He added, “If somebody says to me, ‘I really love your reviews; I agree with everything you say,’ it’s nice to hear but it’s kind of like saying, ‘Thank you for validating my good taste,’” joked Rainer. Rainer said that he likes critics who challenge his views and force him to look at things in a different way.
Another audience member shared that they believe film to be a type of art and Rainer agreed, saying, “Because it’s such an accessible medium, because we go there and we eat popcorn and we see films and, you know, talk about [them] with our friends … that somehow, you know, you might think that that’s devalued it as an art form, but it [hasn’t].” Rainer spoke of his belief that a film’s artistic relevance transcends the film’s popularity and is truly about how well the story and the characters’ emotions are conveyed.
New York Film Academy would like to thank Peter Rainer for sharing his critic’s perspective on film and its place in society.