Jonathan Rosenbaum is an American film critic and author. From 1987 to 2008, Rosenbaum was the head film critic for the Chicago Reader; he now works as a freelancer and has a website. According to his rough calculations he has published over 9,000 items since the late 60s, with over 5,500 of these appearing in the Chicago Reader. He has written and edited numerous publications about film and contributed to notable film publications, including Cineaste. Regarding the critic’s work, Jean-Luc Godard (1930–2022) 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”.
Founded in 1967, Cineaste is today widely regarded as one of the most important film quarterlies published anywhere in the world. The journal’s unique editorial focus is reflected in the in-depth nature of its feature articles and interviews, as well as its reviews, written by leading film critics, journalists, and scholars.
1) Do you remember a specific moment that kickstarted your love of cinema?
My grandfather and my father ran a small chain of movie theaters in northwestern Alabama, so it’s impossible for me to single out any particular moment. My free and easy access to three of those theaters in my home town made them part of my everyday landscape.
2) Could you please pick out and tell us about some highlights from your long career as a film critic and author?
Publishing a poem and a story in national magazines during my early teens; being invited to lunch by Orson Welles in Paris two decades later; brief stints of working for Robert Bresson and Jacques Tati in the same city; a few friendly encounters with Jean Luc Godard; smoking marijuana with Abbas Kiarostami in Tehran; teaching at Bela Tarr’s Filmfactory in Sarajevo.
3) Which article that you’ve written for Cineaste are you most proud of?
“Rediscovering Charlie Chaplin” (September 2004).
4) Do you have any predictions for how the film industry will change over the next 20 years?
I’m not interested in either business or prophecy.
5) Do you have any work coming out soon you’d like to let our readers know about?
I’m currently working on a book to be called In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: A Jonathan Rosenbaum Reader which collects my previously uncollected film criticism, literary criticism, and jazz criticism while exploring some of the relationships between these arts and my long-term engagements with them.
Thank you Jonathan for taking the time to contribute to the #MeetTheContributor blog series. We particularly loved hearing about the incredible highlights from your career.
Digital subscriptions to Cineaste are available in the Exact Editions individual and institutional shop. These include unlimited and fully-searchable access to the modern archive, stretching back to 2014.