Andrew Sarris, the former film critic for the Village Voice and the New York Observer who died Wednesday morning, taught American moviegoers to obsess about directors, says Vulture.com.
If you've ever spoken about the oeuvre of Paul Thomas Anderson, or the cinema of Martin Scorsese, or the works of Alfred Hitchcock, you have Andrew Sarris to thank. If you've ever watched one of those YouTube supercuts where someone edits together, say, all of Michael Bay's slow-motion action shots as a means of demonstrating in great detail why Michael Bay is ridiculous, you have Andrew Sarris to thank....
[Sarris] took the French auteur theory — the idea that regardless of the hundreds of people who work to make a film, the director is the sole author of the work — and helped spread it to the minds of most American moviegoers.
Along with Pauline Kael, his contemporary and sometimes foe, Sarris was lucky enough to write criticism in the sixties and seventies, precisely the moment when audiences began to regard movies as something approaching art and movie criticism as something approaching respectable.
His wife, the film critic Molly Haskell, said the cause of death was complications of an infection developed after a fall, the New York Times reports. Of the heated, wordy intellectual disagreements with rival critics such as Pauline Kael that characterized film criticism in his time, Sarris once told the NYT, "We were so gloriously contentious, everyone bitching at everyone. We all said some stupid things, but film seemed to matter so much."