Will the circle be unbroken?

In which Neil Young, chair of the first online roundtable, concludes the discussion.

Czech films, Underground films, Hollywood films. Now people who take films seriously study skin flicks, TV commercials, scopitone. In the days of Wrath or Raft, there were just Hollywood films, “B” or “A”, Arthur Rank, and a few art directors like Renoir. The sheer bulk of what is known as film, plus the equal cheers for so many different types of film, has loosened everyone’s bowels.–Manny Farber, 1968

Dear all,

Well, we’re nothing if not eclectic around this here round table… My second contribution was bashed out as I prepared myself for Elliott Lester’s Blitz at a Sunderland multiplex (which turned out to be comfortably the worst new UK release of 2011 so far, I’m afraid to report), and Andrew’s saw him speeding out the door en route to a Berlin screening of Die Wahlverwandtschaften by Siegfried Kühn (cheers, IMDb!) at Berlin’s charming Babylon cinema. Of course, to a Brit of my age – even those of us brought up far from Brixton – the word “Babylon” has a certain degree of negative connotations, being the Rastafarian term for “any oppressive political and economic power structure”. Bad news… and thus incongruous when applied to Berlin, which must surely rank as one of the global hubs of worldwide New Cinephilia – along with Paris, New York, London (and presumably Tokyo) – and a model for other cities and towns to follow, in terms of respecting cinema as a major art-form, and respecting the fact that the discussion and analysis of that art-form is both a boost to the art-form and a desirable end in itself. Continue reading

Programming, discussion and racing to the Tree

Tree of Life (Terrence Malick) 2011 USA 138 min

Postcard from Berlin, by Andrew Grant

Cinephilic brothers-in-arms:

Much to chew on here. Will return to matters of cinephilia in a moment, but I wanted to address the issues of criticism that have been raised. While I agree that critics, particularly those that write for online-only outlets, are under pressure to turn in copy while the topic is still “fresh” it’s reached rather ridiculous levels of late, and one only need turn to Cannes coverage for proof, particularly the morning of 16 May, when Malick’s The Tree of Life was unspooled for critics. At 10:05am (CET) Fabrice Leclerc’s review appeared on the L’Express site, even though the film still had about another 30 minutes to go. No idea how that happened. Was he filing from the screening, or did he decide he’d seen enough around the ninety-minute mark? Continue reading

Reclaim The Screens!

Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) 2004, Thailand/France/Germany/Italy, 118 mins

Postcard from Sydney, by Mathieu Ravier

Hi everyone,

How rewarding to read your words, such interesting ideas bouncing back and forth across time zones (and hemispheres!).

I’m thrilled about how information technology is changing the way films are made, seen, disseminated and talked about. It’s opened up new opportunities for many who were previously excluded from this creative universe. It’s turned cinephilia from a secret club for the privileged to a “Broad church” in which anyone can worship.

I don’t think access, even defined as overexposure, poses a threat to thoughtful criticism. Those sensitive to its charms had to seek it out in the past, they will seek it out in the future. The same can be said of contemplative cinema. Isn’t part of our role to aggregate, demystify, point the way? If anything, I think the abundance of un-sponsored, unedited, multifaceted voices helps bridge the gap between an audience too often treated like a market, and a cinema too often marginalized by its inability to compete for attention in a media-saturated landscape. For all the trash that washes up on its beaches, the internet is still a place where one can access treasures of cinema, gems of criticism. It’s an ocean of information, not a tidal wave. Continue reading

Slow! Cinephiles writing!

Slow! Cinephiles Writing

Postcard from Los Angeles, by Mike Everleth

Gang,

You’re making me dizzy. So many great points to respond to! But, I have to start here:

Andrew said: “the cinephile label is what separates writers and commenters on mubi.com from those at movies.com.”

Funny you brought that up because I used to make a living as a writer for movies.com! (Back when it was owned by Disney.) Clearly, movies.com wasn’t and isn’t made for cinephiles, but I just need to say that if I ever knew a dude who I thought was a cinephile, it would be reviewer Dave White, who still writes there.

But that also leads into Frances’ excellent points about the importance for “slow” film criticism to exist. (Someone needs to mock up a street sign: SLOW! CINEPHILES WRITING!)[done!-ed]. The Internet really has gone from mostly a place where one could find great, detailed, obscure information to a marketplace where everybody has to be up on every late-breaking-oh-my-god-this-is-so-important piece of minutiae that zips by at supersonic speeds. Continue reading

Sound, vision, action

Postcard from London, by Frances Morgan

Hi Mike (and all),

In response to Andrew, a few thoughts on oversaturation. I think we all share those concerns. Again, it’s a conversation that’s frequently had in music criticism, in particular with regard to our knowledge of marginal or ‘lost’ music, as well as our instant access to what’s new – I haven’t read it yet but I think this is be explored at some length in Simon Reynolds’s new Retromania book. The problem is, of course, that we discuss it on the one hand while downloading with the other; concern and action don’t always mesh.

Slow criticism’ is one solution, in as much as I understand it – I’d like to hear more from the panel on this, if they have thoughts, because for me it’s a little confused with the idea of ‘slow cinema’ (which doesn’t necessarily have to be subject to slow criticism?). Certainly the pressure to be ‘first’ with an opinion, to show that you’re more abreast of a particular argument than others, seems more pressing – but I wonder if criticism has always been thus, it’s just that the audience – and our relationship with them – has grown and fragmented. As someone who only began a critical career in the 2000s, I realise that I have no idea really what a pre-Internet critical environment was like! Continue reading

Je suis un cinemaphile…

Blitz (Elliot Lester) 2011 UK 97 Min

Postcard from Sunderland, by Neil Young

Thanks Andrew (and everyone else – I’m humbled to be in such eloquent company),

Greetings from a wet, grey-skied, chilly Sunderland, on a late May day that looks, sounds and feels more like early November. It’s been raining on-and-off all day, including a massive cloudburst about an hour ago. Likelihood is, when I step out of my front door in 90 minutes or so, I’m going to have to have the hood up on my sou’wester-ish rain-slicker.

My destination: the Empire Cinema in Sunderland city centre, which is a 25 minute walk at the brisk clip which precipitation usually engenders.

My target: the 4.40 screening of Blitz, a violent British cop-thriller starring Crank 2 : High Voltage‘s Jason Statham that received (predictably) mixed-to-negative reviews from the British critics when it opened last week, and which will linger in our multiplexes (late-night shows only) for another week before making the 21st-century version of what Variety used to be called the “fast trip to half-inch”. Continue reading

It’s about time

OUT 1 (Jacques Rivette) 1971, France, 729 min

Postcard from Berlin, by Andrew Grant

Neil, Frances, Mike, Mathieu –

Greetings from Berlin.

A thought occurred to me while reading your letters – have I actually ever referred to myself in conversation as a cinephile? Though I’ve been called one on numerous occasions, and certainly align myself with the more-or-less agreed upon definition of the word in that I’m interested in (to quote Girish Shambu from his inaugural post on the site) “the discourse surrounding films”, it’s little more than a label used to distinguish ourselves from those who simply love and see films as often as we do. I mention that not to knock the word, or anyone who proudly considers him/herself one, but I think there’s no question that the democratizing nature of the Internet is, in some ways, responsible for resurrecting the label, and giving it a new significance. Continue reading