The history of the Young German Film and the European New Waves is widely rehearsed as the story of rebels who sought new visual languages in the face of moribund film culture. Perhaps less consistently told is the contemporaneous debate in Western European film periodicals about the function and itinerary of “serious” criticism. This lacuna includes the position and role of Filmkritik. The leading German cinephile magazine was founded to create a “legitimate” postwar German film criticism against prevailing “impressionism,” but within a decade it had transformed from an organ of ideological criticism into a forum for subjective auteurism. A close examination of Filmkritik's Kracauerean founding principles and its dramatic change in editorial direction evinces competing ontological understandings of film criticism divided across axes of the formal, political, normative, and “objective”—but also reveals sliding generational conflicts and alliances and shifting constellations of cosmopolitan taste. New trends in European (and, in particular, French) film culture provided approaches, vocabularies, and inspiration for a transition in the style, perspective, and function of German film criticism and a way for domestic writers to conceive of and position developments in their own national cinema.

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