The New York film world was all a twitter yesterday, when an anonymous e-mail went out announcing that New York Press critic Armond White had been disinvited from a critics screening for Greenberg, the new film by one of his least favorite directors, Noah Baumbach. “John Doe”‘s e-mail, quoted yesterday by Vadim Rizov on IFC.com, invoked Hitler and the First Amendment, compared publicists to Nazis, and recommended that all critics express their solidarity with White by refusing to review the movie, or at least to publicize the scandal.
Repping distributor Focus Films, veteran publicist Leslee Dart took responsibility for the dis, having recommended that the distributor invite White to a later screening. The strategy went awry, she told me, through “a clerical error.” Focus neglected to take White’s name off a particular list, then had the unhappy job of informing the critic he’d have to wait until this week to see the movie (which opens March 19). Although White has consistently panned Baumbach’s films and larded his reviews with ad hominem attacks, Dart’s reason for keeping White from an early screening had more to do with White’s long-standing hostility toward Baumbach’s mother, former Village Voice critic Georgia Brown.
Still with me? Back in the day, New York Press writers were encouraged to badmouth the Voice, but White took it a bit further. (See Rizov’s historical account.) White’s accusations of racism led to a live dustup on Leonard Lopate’s radio show in the mid ’90s, when Brown challenged White to substantiate his charges and White refused. The most notorious statement was, however, the punch line of White’s review of Baumbach’s second feature, Mr. Jealousy, which suggested that the filmmaker’s mother should have gotten an abortion. Because this was published in the pre-Internet days of 1998, some have dismissed it as an urban myth. Uh-uh. White wrote it and, thanks to the New York Public Library — where the above clipping was found earlier today — it will live online forever. Now if only someone would retrieve that WNYC air check or reveal the identity of mysterious “John Doe.”
Update: White himself has suggested that the abortion quote was apocryphal. After Dart told Page Six this morning that the critic was uninvited “because he had made nasty comments about Noah, including calling him a [bleep]hole and saying his mom should have had an abortion,” White denied what he termed “responsibility.”