Cinephilia as Activism

Kino #45  Photo by Sarah Kukathas

Postcard from Sydney, by Mathieu Ravier

Hi everyone,

I’ll start by claiming cinephile pride. Perhaps it’s because I’m French, but the word “cinephile” works for me. I like “fan”, but how many people out there don’t consider themselves fans of film? A distinction seems necessary, and in years of watching (reading about, writing about, dreaming about) cinema, no better term has been suggested to me. It describes – from Ancient Greek to French to English – someone with a passionate interest in cinema. That’s us, isn’t it?

In recent years (as I write this even!) the way in which we make, watch, share and talk about films has changed. Merci technology. More people seem to be joining the conversation and that conversation seems to be both more fragmented and less inhibited (by class, by education, by gender, by geography). Continue reading

The zine from here

Postcard from Los Angeles, by Mike Everleth

Frances (and the gang),

Yeah, if I had to, I’d call myself a “fan” over a “cinephile.”

(An aside: Does it mean anything when my spell-checker doesn’t even recognize the word “cinephile” and wants me to replace it with “acidophiles”?)

Like yourself and Neil, I meandered into this world of writing about film on the Internet. I never wanted to nor planned to write about film. My background is in film production and pre-Internet comic book zine publishing. As far as the comic scene in those days went, “fandom” was a positive, fun word and concept to throw around. Us fans banded together to publish each other’s articles in our self-published, photocopied zines to share ideas, history and our own amateur comics. Fandom meant togetherness in a world that didn’t appreciate our obsession. 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

Céci n’est pas un cinéphile

verpool (Lisandro Alonso) 2008 Argentina/France/Netherlands/Germany/Spain 84 min

Postcard from Sunderland, by Neil Young

Dear Frances (Mike, Matt and Andrew),

Of all the people to kick off a debate on New Cinephilia, they somehow picked me. I turned 40 in March, and there’s so much of current and recent and classic cinema with which I’m unfamiliar – if I reeled off the list of prominent directors of whom I have never seen a single movie, you’d be understandably shocked and startled (details of how I’ve managed to miss out on these guys’ work can perhaps be saved for later in these exchanges, though my preference for, if possible, seeing films on the big-screen is one factor, my 15 years as a horse-racing official another). So, by most cinephile’s standards, I am most likely not eligible to achieve proper “cinephile status”.

Or am I? As cinephilia – and New Cinephilia – evidently demands an engagement with current trends in cinema, is it necessary to (a) know who’s in the New Cinephile Canon at any given time, and (b) have seen at least one movie by those directors generally accepted as lurking within the pantheon? (just to reassure anyone who reckons I’m little more than a multiplex-haunting cine-philistine, I am up to speed on the likes of Albert Serra, Lisandro Alonso, Apichatpong Weerasethakul Claire Denis, Jia Zhang-Ke and James Benning, though that isn’t to say I’m a cheerleading fan for all of their films.) Continue reading

Taken Up by Waves: The Experience of New Cinephilia

Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz) 2010 Portugal 272 min

By Girish Shambu

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

Criticism and Film Studies: A Response to David Bordwell

Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hsiao-hsien Hou) 1996 Taiwan 124 Min

By Chris Fujiwara

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

Editorial: How We Got Here

Kings of the Road (Wim Wenders) 1975 Germany 175 min

Welcome to “Project: New Cinephilia,” a cross-platform initiative of the Edinburgh International Film Festival open to critics, students, curators, archivists, filmmakers, film-industry professionals, publishers, educators, movie lovers, and the film-curious public. In the weeks ahead, we will publish original essays, roundtable discussions, and film-related artworks by a roster of international contributors. Today, we are proud to debut the official P:NC website, co-published and powered by our friends at MUBI, who will host P:NC-related discussion in their Forums.

When festival director James Mullighan phoned in late December and asked if we would co-curate a symposium on film criticism for the upcoming Edinburgh International Film Festival, we were honoured to accept. He then suggested that we rethink the ossified formats of such symposia—keynote speeches and panel talks—and imagine what could be done differently. How could we create something people would want to be part of, something that would draw the interest of critics and filmmakers and have an educational component as well? We welcomed that idea, and talked through some possibilities. “I want you to reinvent the whole idea of such a conference,” he told us, invoking the iconoclastic spirit that has historically defined the Edinburgh Festival. “Break all the rules.” It was in this hugely ambitious context that the seeds of “Project: New Cinephilia” were sown. Whether we succeed or not depends largely on you—our audience—whom we hope to thoroughly engage throughout the coming weeks. Continue reading