Jay Carr, member of FIPRESCI and the National Society of Film Critics, critic for the Boston Globe from 1983 to 2002, died May 15. He was 77.
Carr was an exceptional film critic because he brought to his discussion not just an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema but also a wide range of cultural interests and expertise. He had a B.S. in chemistry, won a George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism in 1970 as the drama critic for the "Detroit News", and in 1989, was named Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French government for his writings on French film. As for music, the basement of his home in Somerville, Massachusetts served as a vault holding rack upon rack of classical music LPs, tens of thousands of them, a source of wonder for those of us lucky enough to have a tour.
And he had a knack for sports. Jay was an excellent softball pitcher. Some years ago a group of Boston area critics and their friends got together to play informal games, and Jay would always be the pitcher. He had a stately, high-arcing pitch that looked so tempting... but more often than not, he'd strike you out. His writing was like that: finely shaped, muscular and with a lot more behind it than its effortless grace would indicate.
Film criticism is a tough profession, especially today, with full-time positions a much-coveted scarcity. Some in the profession are guarded about helping out others, especially younger critics starting out, and understandably so. Not so Jay. Many benefitted from his help, including myself. Had it not been for his persistence and support, I probably would never have become a member of the NSFC or FIPRESCI. He didn't make a big deal about such things, but his generosity of spirit and joie de vivre were always evident.
I last heard from Jay when he e-mailed me two essays he was contributing to a National Society of Film Critics anthology I was editing. He said he'd send the other two once he finished another assignment he was working on. That was ten days before he died. Up until the end he was doing what he loved most and did best.