This interview was originally broadcast on August 8, 1990.
Andrew Sarris, who popularized the auteur theory and was called the "dean of American film critics," died on Wednesday. He was 83.
In 1962, Sarris became the first American film critic to write about the auteur theory. That's the idea that the director of a movie is the person most responsible for it, and that movies can be better understood if they're seen in the context of a director's complete body of work.
Pauline Kael wrote a spirited critique of Sarris in 1963, and as another film critic observed, "Kael and Sarris' wrangle over the auteur theory had the excitement of politics and sport. The intensity of their debate lured people to see new films, and to see old movies in a new way."
Sarris spent decades writing about film for The Village Voice. He later became the film critic for The New York Observer and taught at Columbia, Yale, Juilliard, and New York University.
In 1990, he joined Terry Gross for a conversation about his career and the art of film criticism.