Sony’s exec vp publicity Andre Caraco has issued a letter to critics that admonishes New Yorker critic David Denby (and by extension his editors) for ignoring Sony’s strict review embargo policy concerning David Fincher‘s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — i.e., no reviews before 12.13. Denby’s review, says Caraco, will appear tomorrow morning, on 12.5, which Caraco calls “completely unacceptable.”

The thrust of Caraco’s letter is a warning to critics that Denby’s “violation” in no way constitutes a green light for everyone to break ranks and post their own reviews tomorrow morning, or before 12.13. The cat is not out of the bag, security is still being maintained, etc.

Caraco states that “we have been speaking directly with The New Yorker about this matter and expect to take measures to ensure this kind of violation does not occur again.” What does that mean? A Sony blacklisting of Denby?

If there are no further violations Denby’s review, be it positive or negative or mezzo-mezzo, will set the tone of the conversation about Fincher’s film for the next week.

Dragon Tattoo was screened last Monday for the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review and to a select group of Los Angeles-based Fincher fanboys. It was then shown to a small group of critics and columnists (including myself) last Friday morning at Sony’s L.A. lot.

“By allowing critics to see films early, at different times, embargo dates level the playing field and enable reviews to run within the films’ primary release window, when audiences are most interested,” Caraco states. “As a matter of principle, the New Yorker‘s breach violates a trust and undermines a system designed to help journalists do their job and serve their readers.”

This is a curious event in that Denby and fellow New Yorker critic Anthony Lane are almost always bringing up the rear, review-wise. As far as I’m aware the New Yorker refuses to publish in fluid digital time, sticking to a policy of refreshing material only when the new print edition appears on Monday morning. And so Lane and Denby’s pieces rarely appear concurrent with a film’s release — they usually follow a film’s opening by three or five days and sometimes as long as a week or so later.

When was the last time a New Yorker review appeared a full week ahead of an embargo date and over two weeks ahead of a film’s nation release? I’m assuming this has happened on occasion over the last two or three decades, but I haven’t done the research. I’m tempted to write that the last time a New Yorker review caused this much of a stir was when Pauline Kael‘s early-bird piece on Robert Altman‘s Nashville (“The funniest epic vision of America ever to reach the screen”) came out many weeks if not months ahead of its opening.