Screen Scene: Local film news

CRITICAL CONTEXT: Film historian and BPR classical music host Chip Kaufmann is retiring May 31 and moving to Hilton Head, S.C. “I have never thought of myself as a film critic,” he says. “I’m always trying to bring up older movies. I want to expand or broaden people’s film horizons.” Photo by Edwin Arnaudin

With Chip Kaufmann’s retirement and subsequent move to Hilton Head, S.C., Asheville will lose one of its brightest cinematic minds. The film historian recently taught his final class on silent movies for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville, hosted his last classic film screenings and discussions with Buncombe County Public Libraries and the Hendersonville Film Society and, on Friday, May 31, will sign off for the last time as BPR’s morning classical music host, a position he’s held for 36 years.

The Greenville, S.C., native grew up watching films with his mother and developed a passion for the art form’s craft and history while attending the University of South Carolina. He credits professor Benjamin Dunlap with programming diverse offerings at the student union, showing him that all films have value and instilling in him the importance of historical context.

“Film is the only time machine that man has invented. It’s been around since 1897, and you can go back and look at those older films and see how life was,” Kaufmann says. “Those people are long gone, but we have them forever captured. We will always have [Humphrey] Bogart’s voice — all of these things. That’s why the movies are so wonderful, because they are a reflection of society at the time when they are made.”

In 1979, Kaufmann was a volunteer with South Carolina Public Radio station WSCI in Charleston when he was told that his love of film and radio-friendly voice would make him an excellent fit for filling some of the three-to-five minute gaps between programs. His contributions were soon given the title The Capsule Critic.

After moving to Asheville in 1983 to work with a short-lived dinner theater in the basement of Cahoots on Grove Street, Kaufmann volunteered at BPR (then WUNF) and was later hired. In 2003, he found a home in the local film critic scene alongside peers Ken Hanke and Marcianne Miller as judges for the inaugural Asheville Film Festival. Along with fellow critic Michelle Keenan, Kaufmann then started reviewing films for Rapid River in 2005, work that earned him membership in the Southeastern Film Critics Association.

Reflecting on his time in Asheville, Kaufmann fondly recalls the “amazing experience” of Hanke and filmmaker Ken Russell in conversation at the 2005 Asheville Film Festival, and attending the weekly Asheville Film Society screenings, where he’d occasionally spar with the late Xpress critic over the likes of A Clockwork Orange and Tetro.

In Hilton Head, where he’ll live at the condo his family has owned since the early 1980s, Kaufmann plans to teach through USC Beaufort’s OLLI and continue to review classic and silent films on Amazon.com. He’ll take at least 1,000 films from his personal library with him — nearly half of which are silent titles — and is donating nearly everything he owns that was made after 1968 to the Hendersonville Film Society and his fellow cinephile friends.

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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7 thoughts on “Screen Scene: Local film news

  1. Marcianne Miller

    Thanks, Edwin, for your sketch of Chip… it’s impossible to imagine life without him. Heard his voice on the radio almost every week day. Read his movie reviews. Recommended his classes. Wrote about the films he hosted at Hendersonville Film Society. Carpooled twice a month to our neighborhood Beverly Hills Film Society (meeting now for 10+ years) and many times to the Asheville Film Society when “Cranky” was still with us. The conversations we all had on every topic –never tempered, always civilized—did we ever agree? Perhaps one time – when we played trivia at a bar in Black Mountain—and won, of course! I know I’m not the only Ashevillean planning to visit Hilton Head in the near future. Godspeed, dear friend.

    • Chip Kaufmann

      No, I am not a fan of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. I disliked it when I first saw it in 1971. In fact I detested it as much as Ken Hanke detested FOREST GUMP (read his review in Xpress archives). Ken once asked me if I had ever come to terms with CLOCKWORK. I replied “Have you ever come to terms with GUMP?”. His reply was “Point taken.”

      FOR THE RECORD: Although I have been a classical music host at WCQS/BPR for 36 years, I was not always the morning host. For many years that job was held by former WCQS music director Dick Kowal. It was also held at one time by former host Josh Jourdan.

  2. Bill Grindstaff

    I worked with Chip back in the day at WUNF and the early days at WCQS. It was always a pleasure back then and it has continued to be a pleasure listening to him since and for all of these years. All of us that enjoy and support public radio in Asheville owe a debt of gratitude to Chip, Linda, David, Doug, Barbara, Tim, and all the folks that have given Asheville it’s own portal to our national public radio network.
    Chip; best wishes, godspeed, and Thank You!!
    Sincerely,
    “Wild I” Bill Grindstaff
    RastaManRadio

  3. Christy Dickson

    Thank you for your excellent article about Chip Kaufmann’s retirement.
    When I first met Chip about ten years ago, my experience of silent movies was limited to the speedy slapstick of Chaplin and Keaton as shown at Shakey’s pizza parlors during my college years. From Chip I have gained a deep appreciation of all kinds of silent films and have learned to watch them effectively. I have also learned from him a lot about film history (silent and sound) and how to enjoy movies more, and how to be discriminating about my viewing without being “trendy.”
    I will miss Chip, as will so many others. Our loss is Hilton Head’s gain. I wish Chip and Diane all the best in their new home.
    Christy Dickson
    Black Mountain

  4. Steve Van Duyn

    I’ve been sojourning to Southern California, for over a years time out of the last two. So I’ve had to miss some of the local showings recently. I’m a movie buff and a cinema memorabilia collector. I always wanted to take Chip’s silent course, but I’m going to miss putting that check mark, on bucket list. As long as I’ve been in Asheville, I’ve tried to partake in Chip’s, Elaine’s, Ken’s, Carlo’s, Scott’s, and other writers or critics showings. It’s something I needed to support, while I’ve been here. I’ve done the same thing in California. Film can say and show things that are a reminder or revelation to me. I always enjoy waking up an emotion. Well Chip, enjoy yourself. Maybe, your ready for a new adventure. I hope so, and thanks for letting us share the one you’ve been living. Your friend.

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