Longtime film critic and writer David Chute dies at 71

David Chute, a longtime film critic and writer who tirelessly championed Hong Kong films in the United States, died on November 8 in Los Angeles.

His daughter, Nora Chute, confirmed he died of esophageal cancer.

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Chute has written for publications such as the Boston Phoenix, The Film Comment, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times and Variety, often advocating for genre films and international filmmakers to get the recognition they deserve.

Chute grew up in Maine with her father, Robert, a poet and biology professor at Bates College, her mother, Vicki, a novelist. He launched his career in the 1970s as a film critic at the Kennebec Journal and the Maine Times, where he discovered Stephen King, whom he also profiled for Take One. In 1979, King wrote a copy of “The Shining” to David Chute, “America’s Best Movie Critic”.

In 1978, Chute joined the team at The Boston Phoenix, where he was one of the first champions of innovative horror writers such as George Romero and John Carpenter. Chute was always at the forefront, taking genre fiction, movies, comics and graphic novels seriously long before other critics heard of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, R. Crumb or Harvey Pekar.

“I could never have survived those early years without his ability to face whatever I threw at him and produce a fluid critical piece, scintillating with nuggets of insight,” wrote his film editor in Phoenix, Stephen Schiff. , on a long Facebook thread on the impact of Chute. about a generation of movie critics. “The genre and all the thrills that came with it drew him in, then obsessed him – I first read the then under-recognized Stephen King just to see what David was talking about – and it was fascinating to seeing him continue to push his geek into more and more niche niches… It shed a lot of light on what, to most American readers, had been pretty obscure corners.

In 1981, Film Comment published two career defining profiles by Chute in the same issue, on independent mavericks John Sayles and John Waters, who, along with Stephen King, attended his 1983 wedding to Film’s associate editor. How, Anne Thompson. “David Chute was one of the few critics to champion my early films and his reviews were a huge help in getting my career on the right track,” John Waters wrote in an email. “He understood my humor and knew that there really COULD be exploitation films for art theaters.”

In 1982, Chute joined Peter Rainer as a film critic at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, where Chute was nominated for a Pulitzer for his ten-part “Behind the Screen” series on the craft of filmmaking. But he also continued to file stories for Film Comment. Over the years, Chute has featured David Cronenberg, Roger Corman, George Miller, Joe Dante, Brian De Palma, Water Hill, James Cameron, Zhang Yimou, Suzuki Seijun, Tsui Hark and Hayao Miyazaki, and edited influential sections on Hong Kong and Bollywood. Movie theater. Pauline Kael cited the Miller profile of Chute in her New York review of “The Road Warrior”.

Chute also covered Lawrence Kasdan for American Film; Jackie Chan, Youssef Chahine, Om Puri and Pedro Almodovar for LA Weekly; Philip Kaufman and Francis Ford Coppola for the Los Angeles Times; and Gong Li and John Woo for Vanity Fair. “Honestly, I can’t quote another reviewer – including Ebert and Kael,” wrote LA reviewer Wade Major, “that seems to have touched so many lives. “

Above all, Chute helped popularize Hong Kong cinema in the United States, particularly filmmaker John Woo (“A Better Tomorrow”, “Hardboiled”), introducing it to Universal director James Jacks, who supported the first American film by Woo, “Hard Target”. Chute served as the unit publicist on this film, and Woo’s “Broken Arrow”, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown”. Together, David and Tarantino recorded commentary tracks for a set of classic martial arts reissues from Shaw Brothers Studios in Hong Kong, and Chute has contributed to several Criterion Collection releases for Hong Kong films.

“David was an extremely fine and insightful film writer and I have always enjoyed the articles and reviews he wrote for various film magazines,” producer Terence Chang wrote in an email. “He championed the films of John Woo and other Hong Kong directors long before anyone heard of them. Likewise, he made us discover the brilliance of Indian cinema when no one took it seriously. Above all, David was the most decent, genuine, honest and kindest friend I have ever known. A rare breed in this industry in which he worked.

In 2003, Chute and Cheng-Sim Lim hosted a UCLA archival film and television series, Heroic Grace: Chinese Martial Arts Film, accompanied by essays by critics David Bordwell and Berenice Reynaud, among others, and in 2004 , Chute hosted the Indian film series Bombay Melody at UCLA. “David had a knack for doing things like that,” Lim wrote, “recognizing talent where others (especially Western critics) weren’t looking. “

From 2004 to 2013, Chute was the Senior Writer at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, while continuing to provide reviews of new versions of Bollywood at LA Weekly, Variety and IndieWire. In recent years, he had prepared the first definitive historical overview of martial arts cinema in Wuxia.

He is predeceased by his parents and is survived by his sister Dian Chute; his daughter Nora Chute, producer; and his wife Anne Thompson, editor at Indiewire.

A memorial service will be held privately in Los Angeles.

(Pictured: Chow Yun-Fat and David Chute)

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