Narrowing the gap

From Genevieve Yue

Michael pointed me to David Bordwell’s great and polemical piece, “Academics Vs. Critics,” and while I agree with much of the essay (I appreciate, especially, the care Bordwell takes in offering a bridge between the two camps), the scholar-critic divide doesn’t appear quite as stark to me. Of course I’m writing with only six years in the academy and not Bordwell’s thirty, but that might be part of the generational point. If film criticism was considered a lower form of journalism than art or architecture writing in the past, then it’s certainly on par today, at least from the perspective of university training. Continue reading

The well-tempered critic

From Daniel Cockburn:

Michael mentioned that “usually only passing remarks are made about cinematography, lighting, sound design, etc., as if they’re tangential aspects of a film rather than the entire presentation.”  Which may be true.  But of course that’s not the whole story either—plenty of writing on film exists which makes mention of the more technical, artisanal aspects of filmmaking (some would call these aspects more “cinematic,” which is a blood-red herring if ever there was one) to no insightful end. Some of the most exciting film writing I have read is that which talks about actors (stars or not) and performance in a genuine attempt to articulate what these performances are, and what they do to us. Continue reading

Re-making criticism

From Kent Jones:

Before I write another word, I want to acknowledge the quality of everyone’s responses. This has been a really interesting discussion.

I want to begin with Daniel’s inversion of my badminton birdie metaphor. I think he’s absolutely correct on that count. What’s being swatted around is the film-under-consideration itself – swatted and batted and kneaded and punched and rolled like pizza dough, ranked in a series of endless beauty contests with other movies, categorized and re-categorized, but never quite looked at. Continue reading

Cinema is what we make of it

From Michael Koresky:

First of all, thanks to all of you for what is so far an incredibly engaging, provocative, and insightful discussion. Despite the depths you’ve all plumbed in terms of defining strains and eras of cinephilia, we’ve only scratched the surface. Or rather, I feel we can take these fascinatingly nebulous diagnoses about our affliction/gluttony/passion and apply them to where we are now. Continue reading

Beyond the romance of cinema

From Kent Jones:

In his response to David Bordwell’s criticism/academia piece for Film Comment, Chris Fujiwara makes an interesting assertion: “…it’s not at all clear that cinephilia is necessary to film criticism.” This is a valid and provocative point, and a good starting place for this discussion.
 
Of course, if one takes the term “cinephilia” at face value, then it is indeed necessary. I don’t really know how someone could write serious film criticism without loving movies. One might offer David Thomson as a counter-example, but David really does love movies and has spent many years wrestling with himself about it.
 
Moreover, the days of the gentleman film critic, the man or woman of letters or politics who is intrigued by the notion of movies and amused by how seriously people take them, are long over. Again, one could argue that Anthony Lane’s relationship to cinema is on the tentative side, but even he seems to feel the weight of film history. 
  Continue reading

Owning the movies

From Michael Koresky

To: Kent Jones, Melissa Anderson, Daniel Cockburn, Genevieve Yue

Since this cinephilic world we’re about to talk about is always plagued (from our own ranks and externally) by nattering questions about its own relevance, let me start by saying that the four of you who have agreed to participate in this roundtable discussion represent the types of people—thinkers—that keep this form we love relevant. What’s most gratifying is that you come from a cross-section of cinephilic worlds: while you are all writers, you approach writing about film from different angles: variously you have been or continue to be filmmakers, programmers, academics, and, of course, critics. You have worked at nonprofits dedicated to film preservation, or to film presentation; you have been employed at weekly newspapers, written for print magazines and blogs; you have made films that have been shown at international festivals or broadcast on public television; you have covered the contemporary avant-garde scene, the festival circuit, the art house, the films of Hollywood past. Most importantly, it would be impossible to compartmentalize any of you into any one professional category, regardless of your specialty or particular talents. Because above all, you are what I would proudly (and others might derisively) call cinephiles, a mercifully nonprofessional term that allows all of these worlds to swoop and dovetail with ease. Continue reading

Of cinephilia(s) and fandom

Postcard from London, by Frances Morgan

Hi Mike (Neil, Mathieu, Andrew),

I’m going to dive into the middle of Neil’s great opening statement before I have a nibble at the edges. ‘Personally speaking, I’m interested in how modern cinephilia overlaps with the business of making a living from film – making them, writing about them, programming them’, he says, and I agree. Perhaps one of the reasons the notion of cinephilia is being debated is to do with this particular question, but it’s hard to talk about business and making livings in relation to this art form that we love, and easier, perhaps, to talk about why and how we love it. Continue reading