IN LOVING MEMORY
Our wonderful and generous Washington DC moderator and Cinema Club Artistic Director, Peter Brunette, passed away on June 16th, 2010, attending the Taormina Film Festival in Italy. Peter suffered a fatal heart attack while eating breakfast at his hotel with fellow critic Laszlo Kriston. Peter is survived by his sister, Rose Dean, and her family. Peter's wife, Lynne Johnson, passed away in March of 2007. Peter was 66 years old.
image courtesy Wake Forest University
Though Peter's role in the program had diminished over the last five years with his move to North Carolina to head Wake Forest's Film Studies program, he still flew to D.C. four times a season to lead screenings and he continued to be our first pair of eyes on new films in both Cannes and Berlin. The Cinema Club's loss is shared with the larger film community of which Peter was a vital part. His energy and enthusiasm as a critic and writer, along with his warmth as a colleague, made him friends everywhere he traveled. We encourage you all to read the articles linked to at the bottom of this page as they give a wonderful flavor of his popularity on the festival circuit.
From Club Owner Andrew Mencher: “I met Peter in 1992 as a guest speaker during our very first season when he introduced Alain Corneau's TOUS LES MATINS DU MONDE, and we grew much closer as Peter became more significantly involved in the program (he became our Artistic Director in the summer of 1993). He was a great friend, colleague and mentor for me in both my professional and personal lives. I just can't believe Peter's no longer here to share his warmth and intelligence with us any longer.”
“Peter Brunette: In Memory” by Gerry Peary - indieWIRE | Washington Post Obituary
indieWIRE Report | Hollywood Reporter Report | Rotten Tomatoes Review Archive
Tonight, cleaning out boxes of old papers, I found ten pages of faded penciled notes dated November 5, 1989, where I'd scrawled "Film Lecture–Peter Brunette." Peter was featured speaker at an event hosted by a film group I joined shortly after I moved to Washington. Peter fast forwarded through film history then discussed auteurs and their camera techniques. He segued into a discussion of semiotics, post structuralism, and Lacanian theory, finally wrapping up the lecture with examples from Kurosawa and Hitchcock. I had a conversation with him after the lecture, intrigued by a remark he made comparing the human psyche to an onion. 'It's not like a peach,' he said; 'there's no core there – if you keep peeling it, you'll find nothing at the center.'
So began my education in postmodernism and a more than twenty-year friendship with Peter. I've been a member of the Cinema Club since it started up at the Key Theater in Georgetown. When Peter picked up the artistic director baton – the films became more challenging, edgier, more international, more intellectual, well, more like Peter. But he was a fan too – one day with a crush on Michelle Pfeiffer, then smitten with Julianne Moore or a French actress he'd interviewed at Cannes. He was a scrupulous journalist, unpretentious, always crediting the 'press kit' when it was his principal source.
I'll miss Peter's wry Sunday morning 'hello', his wicked sense of humor, his brags about trips to the Riviera for Cannes in spring, to Sarasota in winter, to Toronto in the fall, while we lived our ordinary little lives. I'll miss his irony, his pithy put-downs of the misguided few who voted 'A Bomb.' There were few bombs on his watch. I'll also miss his warmth, his compassion, his insights. Peter was no onion – he was a good man, a good friend, a peach.
Janice Meer, DC Member
I'm deeply saddened to hear of Peter Brunette's death. We first met at a film studies conference many years ago and immediately became friends; he was smart, generous, warm, direct and often quite funny. Later he suggested me to David Levy as the moderator of the new Boca Raton club, so I owe my very rewarding participation in the club to him. And even before I knew him I was reading his impressive scholarly writings, and later his insightful reviews as well. He was that rarity among film scholars, someone who did outstanding work both in the academic world and in the world of popular film criticism and commentary. And his ability to cross conventional boundaries with grace and intelligence came through strongly in person as well, and I'm sure in his teaching. He was a good friend, and will be sorely missed.
Mike Budd, Boca Raton Moderator
Peter was so generous with his time, his enthusiasm, his thrilling insights and intelligence that I can't imagine being at film festivals and not seeing him. Peter made all of his friends and admirers glad to be enamored of film and sharing his enthusiasm, debating directors' achievements and lesser efforts, appreciating the unconventional works that reached out to us and that he helped us understand. His 1983 NYU seminar that brought 12 eager academics together was indeed a highlight never again equaled. And it was thanks to his encouragement that many of us redoubled our intellectual efforts, thrilled by the open, invigorating exchanges that proved so rewarding. I can only say that I'll miss him. May we all find our ways through the sadness knowing Peter would want us to continue to celebrate life as he always did.
Diane Carson, St. Louis Moderator
I'm horrified to hear of Peter's sudden death. He's been such an important presence in my life. Peter, Diane Carson, and I go back some 25 years, to when Peter directed an NEH seminar on film theory, hosted at NYU, when we were just dipping our feet in film studies. We spent eight wonderful weeks in intense discussions of films Peter assembled for us and a great reading list. We argued, analyzed, listened, talked back, and laughed often and hard. Intense though it was (one of us, Kevin, depended on carrot juice to keep his eye sight functioning), we had fun in equal measure. Some of us continued to meet regularly with him at conferences, festivals, and the like. We've become lifelong friends. Peter was an incredibly generous host and guide to our seminar. His embracing, joyous energy and reaching for the fullness of life made this a memorable experience that carried over to all the subsequent times we spent together.
Linda Dittmar, Boston Moderator
A great voice for and about world cinema has been abruptly stilled. I hardly knew the man, but I definitely knew the man's esteemed reputation. Peter Brunette was THE primary pillar from which all of our Cinema Club's scaffolding was constructed. He was clearly a man of impeccable integrity in an industry based on the antithesis of integrity. Paradoxical he was without illusion in a world driven on illusion and deception. He brought our film club so many of our primary resources and basic assets: film selections, personnel, cinematic knowledge, critical judgment, and so much vital wisdom about cinema and club management. Few better understood the film industry and cinematic narrative, or knew cinema as an art form, much less valued the history of film and film criticism deeper or more richly than did Peter. Still fewer art intellects had greater impact on raising film awareness or greater skills about teaching film. I know for a fact that David and Seena and Andy depended heavily upon his mind and his joyful spirit. Bottom line: Peter Brunette was an outstanding teacher, period! God rest his soul. He died like he lived, doing what he loved, being where he loved being. Doing it all so passionately-- at a film festival and dining on Italian cuisine. Prayers to his family and his devoted friends and colleagues.
"Cousin Larry" Aaronson, cousin to David Levy, Boston Manager
I was close to Peter for many years. He benefitted tens of thousands through his work. I helped him to lose weight (my field). We both came from Pittsburgh and I have been to the magnificent place where he died. We can honor his memory by a contribution to the classic Avalon Theatre, which he loved. I shall miss him.
Paul Seder, DC Member
It is hard to imagine the DC Cinema Club without Peter's presence, I know that I will never forget him and how he gave me "new eyes" with which to view films. It is so unfair, he was to young to go with so many films ahead of him to see. Peter will be missed.
Anthea Conlon, DC Member
I have been a member of the Cinema Club since the days of Georgetown and was most sad to hear this tragic news. Peter will be missed by many and the first movie of this Fall season will be very hard for many of us to absorb the void. He was witty and warm and I had the opportunity to chat with him on several occasions during pre-movie coffee. One time Peter asked the audience how many people have been attending over 10 years. When those of us raised our hands, he said, "for gosh sake, get a life!"
Pauline Jakobsberg, DC Member
I'm so sad to hear this news. Peter had great insight on many subjects and a deep appreciation for the craft of film making. He could get people excited about even the smallest films. I will especially miss our discussions on music in film. He was a great mentor and we were blessed by his generosity, wit and warmth. Condolences to his family and to the Cinema Club.
Carlos Garza, DC Member
The first movie I saw when I joined the film club was The Shawshank Redemption. I liked the film, and I liked Peter, too. Over the years, there was no substitute with his knowledge of film, or with the same witty observations about the comments made by film club viewers on their evaluation cards. He was truly "value added" at the movies.
Roz Jonas, DC Member
Peter was one of my favorite people in the film world. Period. He invited me to host the Atlanta club thirteen years ago. With his deep voice, bear hug friendliness, wise and ethical sensitivity to human nature, outstanding scholarship and lively writing style, he as a model for all of us. The world is not as bright a place without Peter in it.
Matthew Bernstein, Atlanta Moderator
I was so shocked and saddened to hear of Peter's passing. I've been going to the Cinema Club for many years -- since "The Conversation" -- and Peter has always brought knowledge and insight and wry humor to the discussion. For a certain type of movie, I will always think of Peter's analogy of water dripping on stones. I'm comforted to know he was doing what he loved, and saddened that he will miss his planned summer of festivals. And we will all miss him terribly when the Cinema Club meets again.
Barbara Magid, DC Member
Peter was the first film critic I ever spoke to directly. I truly enjoyed interacting with him at the DC Cinema club. I am very sorry to hear of his passing. If anyone has an archive of Peter's reviews, I would enjoy reading them.
Brett Michaels, DC Member
» CLICK HERE FOR AN ARCHIVE OF PETER'S REVIEWS «
How sad. You never know when it will be the last time you see someone. He was a brilliant moderator and was so warm and witty as a person. At least he was doing what he appeared to love, covering new movies at a film fest. I'm sure I join a cast of thousands who will miss him.
Karen Kinard, DC Member
What shocking and terrible news, and what a loss to the film community. I've been attending the Cinema Club here in DC for a decade or so, and Peter made it worth returning to time and time again. His insights, his humor -- and even his gaffs -- will be much missed. My deep condolences to all who cared about him.
Andrea Solarz, DC Member
I'm stunned! What a devastating loss for all of us.
Barbara Meade, DC Member
I'm going to miss Peter's voice and smile the most. He may not have always remembered my name (Blake kind of sounds like Grant, kind of), but I will always remember him making my mornings with the film club memorable. I'll miss you Peter.
Grant Lazer, DC Manager