Project: New Cinephilia invited music journalist and book author Michael Azerrad (Our Band Could Be Your Life; Come As You Are) to create an audio/video installation that spoke, in some fashion, to the way that rockers are depicted in the movies. As co-producer of Kurt Cobain About a Son, a documentary based on his marathon conversations with the Nirvana frontman, we figured he would have something provocative to say about such representations, and we weren’t disappointed. “Hot Freaks: Fictional Rock Stars on Film” is an annotated guide to a very prevalent, but under-noticed conceit in the movies. It will be on display at Festivalhouse@Teviot from June 16-23, 2011, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.Continue reading →
Why would we ever want a website? That was the question that arose among Reverse Shot’sfounding editors in 2003. It had been almost six months since we, along with our friends Neal Block and Erik Syngle, started what we had then dubbed, somewhat grandiosely, “the new magazine of film culture,” but until that moment we hadn’t much considered the possibility, let alone the necessity, of establishing a web presence. But now we knew we had to give it serious consideration. Reverse Shot was at this point a staple-bound, 8.5 x 5.5–inch twenty-plus-page print magazine with a “widescreen” design, self-published and hand-distributed around New York art-house theaters and museums; those who knew about it knew because they had grabbed a free issue after a screening at Film Forum or Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek, or after a shopping trip at dearly departed Kim’s Video on St. Marks, the Valhalla of rental stores (its contents currently taking up space in Sicily). Continue reading →
Cinema is a medium tied to temporality. We experience a film one frame at a time, and barring a projector meltdown or remote control mishap, we watch it from start to finish in the order designed by the film’s creators. Comics, on the other hand, are a profoundly spacial medium. Time is read between the lines and between the panels, but it is the space of the page that we primarily consume. Over a two-page spread, all moments are one, and page-time is traveled as the eye darts back and forth across the page. Continue reading →
In the embarrassment of riches that is the new digital age, we are not lacking for critical voices. There are far too many good blogs and web sites and film-news outlets to keep up with at present, many built on the ashes of defunct print magazines and journals (Bright Lights or Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism, for instance), others erected by thoughtful cinephiles (Girish Shambu) or maintained by seasoned professionals (Dave Kehr, Jonathan Rosenbaum) who have much more to say than the shrinking newshole at their current or former outlet normally allows for. Consider those published in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Hindi, Arabic, and other major languages, and it’s easy to be not only awed by the choice and variety of quality sites devoted to cinema, but almost oppressed by their multitudinous manifestations. On the Internet, anyone can operate a fanzine or film journal, and for the most part, we benefit immeasurably from this cinephilic outpouring. Continue reading →
Art about art-or better put, art through art–is a tradition as long as artistic and literary history itself, extending back through many centuries of literature and visual representation and forward into film history, from well before John Keats’s ode on an urn to well after Buster Keaton’s comedies about a film projectionist and cameraman.[i] Like its forerunners, film’s versions of this reflexivity both create and participate in their own aesthetic principles, overlapping their representations of other artistic and aesthetic experiences with their own cinematic processes and frequently reflecting those processes as a reflection on film itself. Continue reading →
My cinema education was backwards: from a primal attachment to video in the suburban backwoods, I discovered filmin the city. This trajectory, from small screen to large, comes with its own fundamental logic. As Thomas Elsaesser observes in his essay “Cinephilia, or the Uses of Disenchantment,” published in a 2005 anthology called Cinephilia: Movies, Love and Memory, the contemporary breed of movie love has matured at a time of academic purgatory–critical theory’s aftermath–and a dumpster-diving impulse seems to be one of its distinguishing characteristics.
These things are related. In college (I studied art history) it seemed to me that everything had been said, challenged, reiterated, and reworded again: an echo chamber of theory. I craved tactile discovery, historical aura. I wanted to plunge into the obscure to find something less mediated, more authentic, that hadn’t been pawed threadbare already. Continue reading →
As a film critic I’ve always rued having missed out on one particular professional rite of passage: a single revelatory, life-changing encounter with cinema. One constantly hears of such experiences from people deeply involved with movies, whether it be directors, actors, critics, programmers and scholars who profoundly remember the initial eureka moment that got them hooked on the art form: a Lubitsch retrospective that warmed them during a particularly harsh and lonely winter; an apparent act of divine intervention in a midnight airing of The Night of the Hunter on local TV; a pirated VHS copy of Scorpio Rising lent by a friend, subsequently horded and never returned.
In contrast, my own interest in movies bloomed slowly over many seasons. Granted, a few seminal films marked my adolescence, the time when one usually starts to watch and think about cinema with intellectual, artistic, or emotional purpose. Slacker was the first film I strongly related to for its eccentric cultural vantage point (I was 15 and, though half an hour from New York City, dying to find my own private Austin) and unconventional narrative; 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film to transport me through vast imaginings of time, being, and human destiny; Eraserhead was the first film that simply—yet powerfully—showed me you could create something like that. Continue reading →
A few nights ago, after a screening of some locally produced short films at the Royal Cinema in Toronto — a recently restored, single-screen rep house struggling to program contemporary art cinema in the shadow of the mammoth TIFF Bell Lightbox — I started polling some friends about my upcoming lecture series on controversial directors — the sequel to a successful programme I’d concluded earlier in the year. In the first month-long sequence, I had covered Paul Verhoeven, Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg and Catherine Breillat, all noted provocateurs whose career trajectories, in my opinion, shared a general arc from the margins towards the mainstream. The question was: which other filmmakers combined the requisite artistic bona fides with the sort of “brand-name recognition” that could entice both my regular students and new recruits in equal measure?
“Well, you have to do Lars,” laughed one of my friends, referring to reports of the scandalous Cannes press conference for Melancholia. As the world knows (and is surely bored of talking about by now), an arrogant director known for viewing cinema as a stone in the shoe had gone and put his foot in his mouth.“Yeah, doing von Trier is going to go over really well with people at that particular location,” I replied. I was referring to the fact that home base for my “Controversial Directors” series is the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in downtown Toronto. Continue reading →
Early in 2009, Nicholas Rombes on his blog Digital Poetics launched the project 10/40/70, for anyone who wished to use it:
An experiment in writing about film: select three different, arbitrary time codes (in this case the 10 minute, 40 minute, and 70 minute mark), freeze the frames, and use that as the guide to writing about the film. What if, instead of freely choosing what parts of the film to address, one let the film determine this? Constraint as a form of freedom – a new method of film criticism, freed of the old tyrannies of continuity. The discontinuity of the digital age, demanding a new way of seeing. A new way of writing.
This wonderful avant-garde call to critical arms recalls – consciously or not – a century of manifesto-style pronouncements. Constraint as freedom: wasn’t that the literary motto of the Oulipo group? Down with the tyranny of continuity: couldn’t that have been the cry of every art movement devoted to collage, montage, cut-up? Let the film overwhelm us and determine what we will say about it: maybe the ‘impressionist’ Manny Farber could have agreed with the Surrealists on that point? A new way of seeing tied to a new way of writing: hasn’t every revolution in film criticism proceeded with precisely that same, impassioned, almost hallucinatory conviction? Continue reading →
This essay draws from two previously published pieces: “The 21st Century Cinephile” (which appeared in the Dutch film magazine De Filmkrant in February 2011) and “Mediators” (published on the blog, girish).
Cinephilia is enjoying a wonderful, global resurgence. Not that it ever disappeared: cinephilia has been around almost since the birth of the medium. When we in the West trace its history, we tend to locate its first distinct and unified incarnation in France in the ‘20s. Louis Delluc and Jean Epstein are the key figures we associate with this historical moment. The next great flowering of cinephilia occurs during the ‘50s, also in France, in the decade preceding the Nouvelle Vague.
But before we continue with this story, it is important to ask: Who is a “cinephile”? What sets a cinephile apart from any other person who loves films? Yes, both likely enjoy watching films in good numbers. But beyond that, I would draw a line and assert: cinephilia involves an active interest in the discourse surrounding films. Not just watching but also thinking, reading, talking, and writing about films in some form, no matter how non-standard: these activities are important to the cinephile. Continue reading →