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Perry Seibert

Perry Seibert

YDL Film Club–the Perry Seibert Interview

Film Critic Perry Seibert leads the Film Club at YDL-Whittaker. I am excited to share this Q&A with him. I hope we will see a few new faces at the Film Club this fall. Meetings are on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at 7 pm in the Whittaker Road Library Board Room (2nd floor).

Would you tell us a bit about your background and what drew you to film criticism? 

I fell in love with movies at the age of 7 when I saw Indiana Jones run away from the boulder at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was lucky enough to come of age as the VHS revolution happened, so I was able to absorb a great many great films at an impressionable age. Siskel and Ebert were heavy influences, not so much for their taste or their style, but they were an example that there were people who made a living thinking and writing about movies. That concept was somewhat alien to someone who grew up in a small town in the thumb of Michigan.

What roadblocks did you face when you were starting out? 

Roadblocks were the lack of jobs like this. I got very lucky and through a connection learned of All Media Guide, which has since changed names and has become part of TIVO. I worked there for fifteen years, in addition to having a spot on Ann Arbor radio with Lucy Ann Lance every week for over twenty years.

What is the guiding theory behind your film criticism? 

My guiding theory is to find an interesting context that allows me to explain my emotional and intellectual reaction to any given film. There are no hard and fast rules for what makes a good movie because there are always examples of films that subvert audience expectations when it comes to both form and content.

What are your favorite films?  Favorite director?  

My two favorite directors are Martin Scorsese and Jean Renoir. For me, they made the most films that I can revisit over and over and get new things out of them, or recapture how they made me feel the first time I saw them. Their works have levels that unfold to me with each viewing. Maybe that is because each work with the same contrast, they just come at it in different ways. Scorsese uses totally controlled physical settings and camera movements but encourages his actors to be as naturalistic as possible. Renoir, conversely, has the most naturalistic visual sense, but his actors are exceedingly theatrical. I find that the collision between these elements ceaselessly fascinating.

What made you want to start a film club at the library? 

For many years I have lectured at various high schools in the area on topics such as writing criticism and the history of French film, to explaining the historical importance of Citizen Kane. I savor the opportunity to share my passion for film with anybody, and when approached by the library to start this endeavor, I was more than thrilled to take up the challenge. I like nothing more than talking about movies and hearing from people about why they love or hate or are indifferent to a piece of cinema.