A Fearless Critic: Michael Wilmington (1946-2022) | Tributes


At Cannes, Michael loved the ritual and pomp of the festival. He loved blowing off the early morning competition press screenings in favor of getting dressed up in his formal wear for the evening premieres at the Lumiere.

If Michael was your friend, he fought for you. The notoriously thin-skinned and paranoid local Warners rep was blacklisting the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum from local screenings at that time, and Michael used his new found clout to intercede on Jonathan’s behalf.

He did the same with me, opening up a brief moment that allowed me to do some freelance reviews for the Tribune. He also, I learned from other sources, advocated for my behalf with some Chicago publicists who were reluctant to include me on their own screening invitation lists.

Michael was a lot of things, cantankerous, rough hewn, sometimes quick to anger, often hard to hear or difficult to understand. Technology easily flummoxed him. He was, to state the obvious, not socially skilled. He was also generous, warm, funny, unpredictable and a blast to be around.

That authentic intensity is what drew people to Michael, and allowed them to forgive his quirks and sometimes prickly behavior. I saw it first hand, in the presence of powerful, important artistic figures, like Altman or Jaqueline Bisset, and one could immediately sense the genuine, emphatic and tender qualities in the man.

The passion, the depth and intensity of his feelings, about acting, about a specific director, or a movement, became his own governing principles. Even when you argued with him over a director, the way I did with him about Kazan, for instance, I always respected what he had to say.

His mother’s passing was a death knell. It brought about his return to Los Angeles. He wrote about new movies and DVD releases for the website Movie City News.

“A poet takes words, thoughts and objects, talks colors and feelings, and makes them palpably physical and dancing lay meathorpic,” begins Wilmington’s apparently last published critical piece, writing about Jim Jarmusch’s “Patterson,” on December 30, 2016.

You can view the original article HERE.

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