Biblioklept on Patience (After Sebald)

Well, after reading a number of reviews for Patience (After Sebald) in leading newspapers and magazines, this is the first review that I actually found insightful and to have meaningfully engaged the film (and book on which it is based).

That said, it’s a pretty harsh review, and while I agree with some of the critiques, I do not agree with the degree to which they are leveled at the film.

In an essay on Virginia Woolf—a writer who shows up in both Sebald and in Patience—literary critic (and Sebald champion) James Wood notes the anxiety of influence always at work between the artistic subject and the would-be critic: ”The competition is registered verbally. The writer-critic is always showing a little plumage to the writer under discussion.” Wood here is specifically calling attention to Woolf’s own critical powers—of her ability to transcend merely reviewing a work, of her status as a poet-critic—but I think he gives us a simple little rubric for evaluating critical work in general: the truly excellent stuff goes its own route. Gee’s film so dutifully commits to visually and aurally replicating the melancholy and erudite mood of Saturn that it often seems cartoonish or clumsy—or, even worse, dreadfully boring.

I really didn’t find the film boring to any extent. Some of the ideas that build upon Rings of Saturn were better than others, and, yes, Gee gets a little too in love with his “Sebaldian” effects, but I never found the film this nauseating.

I do agree, though, that a better film would have gone off of the source material, and that Gee’s film remains more a documentary about Rings than something that forges its own identity.



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