Film critic David Christopher Chute died this month of esophageal cancer in Los Angeles. He was 71. His death November 8 was confirmed by his daughter, Nora Chute.
His career kicked off in the 1970s as a critic for the Kennebec Journal and the Maine Times. Chute was a fan of horror author Stephen King and profiled him for Take One. In return, King gave Chute a signed copy of The Shining and the title of “best film critic in America.”
In the late ’70s, Chute was staffed as a writer at the Boston Phoenix where he expressed his love for comics, and the horror films of John Carpenter and George Romero.
“I never could have survived those first years without his ability to take on anything I threw at him and turn out a fluid critical piece, glinting with nuggets of insight,” his Phoenix film editor Stephen Schiff wrote on a long Facebook thread about Chute’s impact on a generation of film critics. “Genre and all the strong sensations that came with it attracted him, then obsessed him – I first read the then-underecognized Stephen King just to see what David was going on about – and it was fascinating to watch him keep pushing his connoisseurship into ever more niche niches…He threw a lot of light into what, for most American readers, had been some fairly obscure corners.”
Chute was instrumental in bringing Hong Kong action cinema to the mainstream in the U.S. especially the films of director John Woo (A Better Tomorrow). The critic introduced Woo to executive James Jacks at Universal who backed Woo’s first American movie Hard Target. From there he served as unit publicist on Broken Arrow, and on Jackie Brown. In addition, he contributed to several Criterion Collection releases for Hong Kong films.
From 2004-13 Chute worked at UCLA’s senior writer for the School of Theater, Film, and Television. He also took a liking to Bollywood films and wrote reviews about new releases in the genre for LA Weekly, Variety and IndieWire.
Chute is predeceased by his parents and survived by his sister Dian Chute; daughter Nora Chute; and wife, IndieWire editor-at-large Anne Thompson. A private memorial service will be held in Los Angeles.
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