Tastemakers or taste-testers?

From: Michael Koresky

Thanks so much, Kent. Daniel, I’d obviously like for you specifically to keep in mind Kent’s closing words regarding filmmaking and its critical appreciation existing on what seem like two different planets. Considering you’ve played both sides of that fence, you seem well positioned to talk about this….especially considering that you refuse to play both sides of that fence….your critical writing is not about evaluation per se, but rather, like your feature You Are Here, it’s about searching for a way to describe a form. Or at least it seems to me.

That said, I’d like to pass the baton along to Melissa for now. I’m interested in hearing your response to this philosophical take on cinephilia and criticism, and if and how you think it applies to what Kent refers to as “the community of cinema” now. As a critic do you sometimes feel, as I do, the difficulty of reconciling wanting to move past polemics and campaigns and judgmentalism and the need to create a narrative of the new cinematic landscape? Can or should we find anything heroic in that “heroic” strain of cinephilia that lives on, hungry for new discoveries, cinematic world hotspots, star auteurs, a moral movie compass for how to watch and how to live?

It’s hard not to become addicted to those thrills as a way of keeping our movie love alive….how often do we go through rough patches (months…longer?) in which the thought of even going to a new film feels like not only a chore but a terrible reckoning with our own selves (“Why am I devoting my life to so debased a medium?!”). So when a Tree of Life or an Autobiography of Ceausescu or a Boonmee (only three personal examples) comes around, we feel the need to put it on a pedestal; all others automatically take the bronze. It seems our cinephilia is tainted by such automatic evaluative measures. Perhaps the problem is that we too often consider ourselves the tastemakers—should we just be the taste-testers?


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