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 →
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 →
Each post on the Project: New Cinephilia is linked at the bottom of the page to a topic on the MUBI Forum. You’ll find P:NC discussions grouped here and one that managed to get away here. In Feedback Loop we’ll be pointing to some of the forum debate and first up its the burning issue of academia. 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 →
As I was brooding over what I could come up with to do justice to Damon Smith and Kate Taylor’s invitation to write about contemporary film criticism and cinephilia, a friend who had no idea I was pondering this problem sent me an answer to it. The answer took the form of a link to a new piece by David Bordwell on the Film Comment web site, called “Academics vs. Critics: Never the Twain Shall Meet: Why Can’t Cinephiles and Academics Just Get Along?,” in which, with his usual clarity, Bordwell proposes his view of the current configuration of approaches to writing on film. I have no desire to enter into a battle with Bordwell and no intention of raising larger issues about his work in general. I want only to use the opportunity afforded by this particular text of his to set forth, by contrast, my own views on the current situation of film criticism, cinephilia, and academic film studies. Continue reading →