31 décembre 2006

DIGEST : Décembre 2006

Unreviewed screenings, current reading, links, recommendations, free talk, questions, thoughts, informal conversation, anything... comments welcome

>> updates below (sticky entry for a month)

28 décembre 2006

The blog war will not take place

Looking back on the Film Criticism Blogathon. Comments on As a Preface: Andy's Letters to the "Young Turks" 3:1 (Or something), Andy Horbal's contribution at No More Marriage!

Andy Horbal interestingly compares the emergence of the online community of Film Bloggers to the historical split of Cahiers critics with the establishment of classic criticism in the 50ies in France. There is indeed a generational confrontation between the seasonned professionals who worked all their life in the print world and the digital generation of homegrown film buffs who are born with TV, videotapes and DVDs. Their tastes, viewing habit, references and practice clash. But if the internet promises a technological turning point, I wonder if the press can become outdated this easily by amateurs.
I certainly agree the complacency of the populist weekly press has given up on true insightful analysis to discredit the values of critical thinking. However could we rely on the blogosphere to take over the job and wage a groundbreaking revolution like the Nouvelle Vague did?

There is no lack of potential online, some bloggers are superior critics to what we can read in newspapers. But the democratic blogosphere is an anarchical system in itself and we cannot consider "bloggers", in general, the next form of criticism that will make everything else obsolete like Bazin's Cahiers did. So when I hear the word "bloggers" tossed around like an end-all argument solution, I'm worried. "Blog" equals to "rant without credential", so this is far from "criticism".
Either bloggers want to dump the baby with the bathwater, and get rid of the idea of "critical evaluation" altogether, no need for legitimacy then. Or bloggers want to invent a new way to criticism, more informal, but not acultural.

The blogosphere as it is now is far too messy to produce any relevant upgrade of the critical reflexion. Individuals could however, but not as a mass movement under the banner of "everybody's word matter". If the internet does kill the press, it will declare the victory of demagoguery, the rule of "common feelings" and uneducated opinions. I don't care if analytical criticism has less influence on the box office than the fads of the "word-of-mouse", it's not the point. If the B.O. and the mass blogs win, criticism will die that's all; there will not be a new form of "criticism" without values that will come out of this. This is not the future I want to see happening for film writing.

Sure it is necessary to talk back to the old farts who dismiss bloggers without knowing anything about the internet, but we won't gain credibility by opposing the blogosphere to the press. As flawed and tasteless as it is, the long established system of print writers will always have the upper hand. So I'm not surprised they chuckle in contempt when bloggers suggest a duel. The terrain to fight is not technological (digital v. ink), but it's the generational discrepency. The cultural battle is one that could be won online today.

Truffaut's famous Politique des Auteurs article was a bold provocation that had the knowledge, the inspiration, the intuition, the genius to offer a sustainable theory that would direct the birth of a new era. Where is the blogosphere manifesto today?

Bloggers claim to power is based on the weight of the virtual multitude. The blogosphere evolved from a tool that was there. It might be the expression of a public demand for information-sharing, but there is no conscious design to replace the establishment with revolutionary values. All they do is to pretend they are print critics without education, writing skills or film culture... Far from revolutionary, it's a reactionary and degrading tabula rasa. Of course this type of summary opinions is easier to swallow for the anti-intellectual crowd (a reader demographic that didn't read the press anyway).

My point is that the "blogosphere", as an abstract entity, doesn't consitute a solid, organised, willfull alternative to the press. So the "Bloggers v. Critics" war is absurd. If we want to impose a certain credibility online, we'll have to define the new generation of critics by something more substantial and more refined than just "bloggers". The blogosphere is only a tool used for best or for worst. The vast majority of bloggers is useless as far as the constitution of a new culture is concerned. I believe the hope for future criticism is in the fresh blood, the new perspective, the 21st century culture of images. That's what the old critics have hard time to catch on, and understand. But just because bloggers are more familiar with the tools doesn't mean they have the critical standards to understand them better than educated critics.

The blogosphere is a success of popularity, not so much of quality. What I'd like to see announcing the revolution of the blogosphere era is not Truffaut's manifesto, but the equivalent of Bazin's "Ontology of the cinematographic image" for the web : the ontology of the blogosphere journalism.

I'm not interested to fight to impose "online diaries" as the substitute to the press. Film bloggers must earn credibility through hardwork and discipline. Criticism is not intuitive and improvisational, unless you're a genius. So "helping our case to earn legitimacy" as Andy says, first means to dissociate the insight from the mindless chattering. Thus the "online film critics community" makes more sense than just "bloggers", which includes all sorts of blogs more or less meaningful.

Sorry to sound so negative and elitist like that, but the popular enthousiasm for an informal "blogosphere" to become more meaningful than the press is something that can only hurt the level of film culture. Being open-minded and lowbrow inclined is one thing, but to consume free-for-all movies without reflexive distance is not criticism anymore.
The blog war will not take place... until proper weapons are developped by bloggers, for bloggers and appropriating the true potential of the internet-multimedia technology.

Andy's 5 recommendations (Exploring, Linking, Creating, Debating, Supporting) are perfect to lead on the right way for legit online critics. I've been too long so that will be for another post.

26 décembre 2006

La Condition Critique

Notes from : La Condition Critique by Maurice Blanchot (in Le Nouvel Observateur #6, 1950, republished in Trafic #2)

Even if critics think little, they comment, give interpretations, are opened to the world. Criticism is daily, fugitive, instantaneous, versatile like time passing by. It is motion and becoming. Its role is to disolve solemnity and the abrupt, secluded character of film works through daily life reflexion that has respect for nothing.
Critics shall not have proper art or personal talent : they shall not be self-centered, they are a regard, anonymous, impersonal, vagabond. Anonymous, irresponsable, presence without tomorrow, someone who never says "I", the powerful echo of a word expressed by noone.
The task of the critic is becoming one (antagonistic moment of the work of art). The critic is the outside, while the art is a closed intimity, jealous, denying outside. Critics shall therefore contradict the instinct of art. But shall go near, to understand, to betray (great effort of comprehension).
The most faithful interpretation is the most inaccurate one because it opens art to the truth of common light, whereas the "raison d'être" of art (its essence) is to stay away from versimilitude, to escape truth.
The critics excessively dedicated to the intimity of art, eventually reach obscurity and denies themselves. No longer the capricious will of present moment shines briefly on the art (or neglected by it), and retrieve whatever they want. But they become supporters of culture and make art timeless.

22 décembre 2006

Critical Fallacy 6 : Mannerism

Susan Sontag : "It would be hard to find any reputable literary critic today who would care to be caught defending as an idea the old antithesis of style versus content. On this issue a pious consensus prevails. … In the practice of criticism, though, the old antithesis lives on, virtually unassailed. Most of the same critics who disclaim, in passing, the notion that style is an accessory to content maintain the duality whenever they apply themselves to particular works of literature. … Many critics appear not to realize this. They think themselves sufficiently protected by a theoretical disclaimer on the vulgar filtering-off of style from content, all the while their judgments continue to reinforce precisely what they are, in theory, eager to deny." cited at Jahsonic

I know it's awkward for me to pin down mannerism because I can't write in English, and I'm not even a good writer in French. But I'm against style on principle, not to justify or excuse my own lazy and deficiant wordsmith. Actually I feel more comfortable developping content and ideas in criticism in a foreign language precisely because I don't have the possibility to resort to self-indulgent formulas that plague the French intellectual criticism where nice words worth better than ideas or even substitute them. Although the low brow reviewing is not immune to ready-made clichés. Too often words precede ideas. When you start a sentence, or when you use a certain verb, there is a selected possibilities to follow up that are engraved in the collective culture, a series of clichés embedding consensual ideas into catch phrases. Critics believe they said it all when they come up with a nice sentence while there is nothing really new or actually pertinent to the film at hand below the stylish surface.

bradstevens : "I've always believed that film criticism should be approached responsibly, not as an opportunity for stylish displays of wit that end up trivialising both writer and film. I expect film critics to inform or educate, not entertain." at a_film_by

Criticism is a literary genre and I would have nothing against this practice if it was only the icing that does not replace meaning. The reason it's dangerous and that this fallacy should be pointed out here is that most readers are duped by the icing and since they found entertainment in reading believe the critics did a good job. Mannerism breeds routine, apathy, mindlessness. Readers are happy with "word-dropping", "bon mots", and it spares them the bore of an extended demonstration or the underlaying reflexion overlooked by the critic.

Luis Buñuel : "I loath pedantism and jargon. I happened to laugh to tears when reading certain articles in Cahiers du cinéma."

In a recent article, Charles Tesson (former editor at Cahiers) compiled a list of such "generally accepted ideas" that French critics enjoy themselves with : Dictionnaire des idées reçues de la critique (in Panic #4, july 2006) denouncing these self-satisfied, superior, ridicule, smart-ass, hype sophisms.
He points out to certain absurd word combination, tautology ("rigor of construction"), pleonasm ("classic shot-countershot", "impression of reality"). He warns against denegation that spells in words something that shouldn't be brought to the reader's attention even if disabled by the negative form ("The film is not..."). He's annoyed by the trivialization of great theories through adjectivation ("Deuleuzian", "Derridian"). He calls the emptiness of some overused expressions ("debauchery of special effects", "return to real", "curious alchemy", "magnificent movie", "Death of cinema", "Subtil cinema"). If it was clever the first time, it becomes tired and voided of its sense when repeated at every opportunity and sometimes in the wrong instances. Others examples are typically French, or locale jokes, so don't translate well.

Clive James (NYT) : "To know what can't be shown by the gag writers, however, you have to know about a world beyond the movies. But the best critics do, as this book proves; because when we say that the nontheorists are the better writers, that's what we mean. That extra edge that a good writer has is a knowledge of the world, transmuted into a style."

Clive James on the rest of us -- we're doomed (at a_film_by) follow up discussion

My preference goes to rich and precise vocabulary detailing one's mind (closer to the film's reality, which is accuracy not mannerism) than the use of ready-made phrases or the elaboration of stylistic/rhetoric hallucinations (offsetting from reality). Literary skills could go two ways, one is to refine descriptions, one is to evoke a fertile imagination. The former (respectful, insightful, helpful) should never be overwhelmed by the the latter (dubious, extravagant, risky), especially when the credibility of the critic's taste is in question. If two trusted critics disagree frontaly on a film I want to see, how could I tell which one best assumes my perspective if they can only be compared by their style? It's the contrary for the journalists of course who prefer to entertain the reader nomatter what the film is, rather than to engage in an adequate reflexion on cinema.

Anthony Lane (The New Yorker/Nobody's Perfect) : "The primary task of the critic, and no one has surpassed Miss Kael in this regard, is the recreation of texture, filing a sensory report of the kind of experience they will have if they decide to buy a ticket. A review should give off some reek of the concession stand." at Undercurrent

When a good writer with a contradictory taste talks lyrically about a film I haven't seen, I'm particularly warry of stylistic flare focusing on abstract/general appreciation rather than specific evidences... It's easy for the positive review to emphasizes solely on hyperbolic enthousiasm that informs one of many possible experiences of that film. Excess of literary style celebrates the individual emotional reaction of one person as if it was any indication of what every reader will feel themselves.

What is a spellbinding story? What is a haunting movie? What is a mesmerizing performance? What is a riveting plot? Translating a film into appreciative adjectives assumes we believe anything the critic says without the need for an analytical demonstration or any kind of descriptive evidences that would corroborate this summary opinion. First they are impersonal abstract wordings and could apply to any movie, taken out of context, copied and pasted ad infinitum. Second they are evaluative (on an unspecified scale of values) instead of qualitiative (to characterize a certain detail defining THIS film in particular). Perfect quote-ables.

It could be a relative adjective without referential comparison : "it's great/bad, believe me"; unverifiable gradation (praise, success, quality level) "it's the best film of... [insert director, year, country]".

And finally we have the professional jargon (ellitist technical words), abbreviations (acronym, hip shorthands, truncated titles) -- see Variety!, metaphors (themed vocabulary calling all the funny expressions linked to the film's topic) -- see David Edelstein's review of The Devil Wears Prada, puns (smarty wordplay, jokes with the title or actor/character's names) ...

This fits in the larger rhetorical questions : Can words incarnate the multimedia experience of cinema? And what exactly do readers imagine when reading chosen words? What is the gap between the reader experience and the viewer experience? Don't critics manipulate this gap with stylish obfuscation to push their opinions?

Jonathan Rosenbaum : "although initially [Moving Places] had a very negative effect on my career in film criticism, because it wasn’t film criticism and it wasn’t something that could pave the way toward a career in film criticism. I was naïve enough to believe it was a road out of film criticism. I still have a side of me that has an interest in literary writing." Interview at The House Nextdoor
Mannerism could be the vertue of a certain kind of impressionistic criticism, but I leave that to others to chant its glory because this series only deals with the flawed habits of critics. So please defend mannerism in the comments if you wish, to offer a more balanced view.

See other entries in the Critical Fallacy series on the sidebar menu.

01 décembre 2006

Defining a critic

The Film Criticism Blog-a-Thon hosted by Andy Horbal Check others' contributions and comments at No More Marriages!
all weekend (Friday, December 1 - Sunday, December 3)

I'll probably post more later, but here's for starters, a compilation of aphorisms by critics, directors or writers trying to define what is a "film critic".

"The undefined place where the critic stands. When I was a critic, I thought a film, to be accomplished, should express simultaneously an idea of the world and an idea of cinema. Today, I expect the film I watch to express either the joy to make movies, or the anxiety to make movies and I don't care for everything in between, i.e. all films that do not vibrate."
"Anybody can become critic of cinema; the candidates don't need a tenth of knowledge required for literary, musical or painting critics. A filmmaker today shall accept the idea that his/her work will be eventually judged by someone who hadn't ever seen a Murnau film."
François Truffaut (French critic-filmmaker), "A quoi rêve les critiques?" in Les Films de ma Vie (1975)

* * *

"Oeuvres are of infinite solitude; to grasp a work of art, nothing is worse than the word of criticism." Rainer Maria Rilke (German poet)

* * *

"The critic is meant to make see and make listen" Jean-Louis Bory (French critic)

* * *

"I don't believe, as a matter of criticism, in the existence of objective truths or more exactly, I value more contradictory judgments that constrain me to consolidate mine, rather than the confirmation of my principles by weak arguments." Cahiers #44, 1955.
"The critic is meant to continue -- as much as possible within the readers' intelligence and sensibility -- the shock of the work of art."
"Don't be so severe with the film, put yourself in the shoes of the filmmaker, and find out his/her motivations"
André Bazin (French critic)

* * *

"The best in criticism, it's the dialogue that is, sometimes, established with the radio audience or the reader. Business as much profitable when your point of view is disputed by the contestant. Critical dialogue and tea for two."
"We write our critiques for filmmakers first. Readers shouldn't feleft outout though. They are asked to bear witness, we feel more liberated in presence of a third party to express our sentiments."
"Paraphrasing Flaubert: to be a critic of cinema, one shouldn't know personally filmmakers, actresses, producers... But we know some of them! That's the problem."
"A critic : a resistant -- to pressure, to fad, to consensus"
Michel Boujut (French critic), La Promenade du critique, 1996

* * *

"To be a disinhibited critic, one should be a creator in becoming" François Weyergans (French critic)

* * *

"Every competent critic is an aspiring filmmaker" Roger Leenhardt (French critic)

* * *

"A critic is someone who shoots at his own regiment" Jules Renard (French writer) cited in Godard's Nouvelle Vague

* * *

"To be a critic is to be able to reflect on films. The question of criticism is this : shall criticism evolve because the status of cinema has changed?" Jean-Michel Frodon (French critic)

* * *

"What is annoying, isn't that a critic suggests reservations on our films. It's the manner, the tone, the facile and demagogical use of controversial tricks : this semantic of hatred and contempt." Patrice Leconte (French filmmaker), infamous letter against French critics in 1999.

* * *

"To me, criticism is included in cinema. There is no art without commentary." Robert Guédiguian (French filmmaker)

* * *

"The 'critic' of cinema [in the popular press] (often not a specialist, but a journalist from the "culture" pages) is no longer delegated by the community of readers to the front line of cinema, (s)he is the inert "mirror" of the supposed social class of such readership, and is the commercial target of this publication. He/she is commanded to scout for films that will give readers a pleasant, gratifying image of the imaginary demographic they supposedly belong to, of which the publication is the mirror, rather than the spearhead." Alain Bergala (French critic), Cinemas Vol 6, N°2/3, 1996.

* * *

"Like/Like not : matters to nobody; this, apparently, is meaningless. Meanwhile all this means : my body is not the same as yours. Thus, within this anarchy of taste and distaste, kind of distrait mesh, little by little is outlined the figure of a corporeal enigma, calling complicity or irritation. Here begins the intimidation of the body, forcing the other to bear liberally, to remain silent and courteous before pleasures and denials that (s)he doesn't share." Roland Barthes (French semotician), 1975

* * *

"Criticism is the art of Love. It is the fruit of a passion that is not self-devoured, but aspires to control a vigilante lucidity. It consists in a tireless research of harmony within the couple passion-lucidity." Jean Douchet (French critic), Cahiers #126, 1961.

* * *

"Criticism is a business of provocation rather than conviction. Its best role is to call forth, about a film, some reactions, preferably violent, in the reader." Louis Seguin (French critic), Cahiers, 1969.

* * *

"The efficiency of criticism relies on nothing but the seduction of words" Michel Mourlet (French critic), Cahiers #163, 1960.

* * *

"The critical judgment constitutes the only cultural valuation. The artist exists only under the look of the critic. Artists don't exist without commentary! Death of commentary means the disappearance of the artist." Michel Ciment (French critic), 1999.

* * *

"Criticism is hermeneutic by vocation, normative by fatality, impressionistic by facility and aesthetic in practice." René Prédal (French cinema historian), 2004

* * *

"Open criticism gets its efficiency and its fecundity from its ability to discussion and welcoming." Raymond Barkan (French critic), Cinéma 60, #45.

* * *

"My definition of a good critic is somebody who communicates their enthusiasm for work they find of merit, without ruining the option of you, the reader, also discovering the film's merits. " Lisa Nesselson (American critic), Variety

* * *

"The role of the film critic is to write well, or speak well. A critic is someone who I think should try to tell a story about the film that they're reviewing. And the story can be the story of their response to it, the story of their coming to understand that film, coming to a position on it." Adrian Martin (Australian critic), Undercurrent #1, 2006

p.s. Sorry for the approximate translation. Now what are your thoughts provoked by these phrases? Add other quotes if you have more, I'm always interested in these kind of encapsulated thoughts. Thanks.

[EDIT : See also Citations sur la critique]

26 novembre 2006

Another Counter-Canon

Counter-Canon : another viewing recommendation list

From the reaction of Zach Campbell at Elusive Lucidity to the articles in Film Comment by Paul Schrader on the construction of a highbrow canon, I'm tempted to propose my own "counter-canon" (as coined by Zach), even though my knowledge of film history isn't wide and deep enough to allow me to do so. But I guess it's always possible to find criminally under-represented (alternative) gems when we talk about canonical masterpieces. I don't think a canon can be representative with 60 titles out of thousands of great films out there, much less for a counter-canon meant to open new leads into non-trumpetted territories, so I pushed the limit to 111 (arbitrarily) to give some room. I don't have the viewing history to make a top1000 like Rosenbaum yet. I'm not sure they are really original, but I hope there will be at least a couple of new gems new to you, that you will adore discovering. Only prime material that floored me and revealed inspired ways to form cinema. Although I tried to leave out the familiar films critically acclaimed in every academic Canon. So the complete oeuvre of Bergman, Ozu, Kurosawa, Bresson, Maya Deren, and the Soviet Montage will not make the final cut, only because most advanced cinephiles already know them.
An anti-canon, an alternative breech into offbeat cinema territories, the favorite milestones from my subjective journey through cinephilia :

Counter-Canon Gems anti establishment
(111 recommendations ranked chronologicaly) :

  • Jean-Daniel Pollet essay-films (France) = Méditerranée (1963); Le Horla (1966); Tu imagines Robinson (1967); L'Ordre (1973); Pour Mémoire (la forge) (1978); Dieu sait quoi (1994); Ceux d'en face (2001)
  • Spring of Prague (Czech New Wave) complete oeuvre : (Fruits of Paradise; Peter and Pavla; The Party and the Guests; Loves of a Blonde; Daisies; Ucho; Long Live the Republic; Marketa Lazarová; Intimate Lighting; The Cremator; Closely Watched Trains; Nobody Will Laugh; Hop Side Story; Transport From Paradise; Higher Principle; Romeo, Julie a Tma...)
  • Leaves from Satan's Book (1921/Carl T. Dreyer/Denmark)
  • The Phantom Carriage / Körkarlen (1921/Victor Sjöström/Sweden)
  • La Roue (1923/Abel Gance/France)
  • Secrets of a Soul (1926/Georg Wilhelm Pabst/Germany)
  • Finis terrae (1929/Jean Epstein/France)
  • The Salt of Svanetia (1930/Mikhail Kalatozov/Russia)
  • The Glass Eye / L'Oeil de verre (1930/Lili Brik/Russia)
  • Bezhin Meadow / Bezhin lug (1937/Eisenstein/Russia)
  • Ye ban ge sheng / Song at Midnight (1937/Weibang Ma-Xu/China)
  • L'Espoir (1945/Malraux/Peskine/Spain)
  • Ryoju / The Hunting Rifle (1961/Heinosuke Gosho/Japan)
  • Le Feu Follet (1963/Louis Malle/France)
  • Pasazerka (1963/Munk/Poland)
  • Un roi sans divertissement (1963/François Leterrier/France)
  • Film (1965/Alan Schneider/Samuel Beckett/USA) Short
  • Cul-de-sac (1966/Roman Polanski/Poland)
  • Faraon / Pharaoh (1966/Jerzy Kawalerowicz/Poland)
  • Irezumi / Tattoo (1966/Masumura Yasuzo/Japon)
  • Ningen Johatsu / A Man Vanishes (1967/Imamura Shohei/Japon) DOC
  • Faces (1968/John Cassavetes/USA)
  • Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968/Alain Resnais/France)
  • Coming Apart (1969/Milton Moses Ginsberg/USA)
  • Invasión (1969/Hugo Santiago/Argentina)
  • Korol Lir / King Lear (1969/Kozintsev/Russia)
  • Days and Nights in the Forest (1970/Satyajit Ray/India)
  • The Ceremony (1971/Oshima Nagisa/Japan)
  • Le Moindre Geste (1971/Fernand Deligny/France)
  • Viva La Muerte (1971/Fernando Arrabal/Tunisia)
  • Wanda (1971/Barbara Loden/USA)
  • Le Journal d'un suicidé (1972/Stanislav Stanojevic/France)
  • Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble (1972/Maurice Pialat/France)
  • El Castillo de la pureza / Castle of Purity (1973/Arturo Ripstein/Mexico)
  • The Holy Mountain (1973/Alejandro Jodorowski/Mexico)
  • The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973/Wojciech Has/Poland)
  • Edvard Munch (1974/Peter Watkins/UK)
  • India Song (1975/Marguerite Duras/France)
  • Impressions de la Haute Mongolie (1976/Dalí/Montes-Baquer/Germany) DOC
  • Le plein de super (1976/Alain Cavalier/France)
  • Twenty Days Without War (1976/Aleksei German/Russia)
  • Dossier 51 (1978/Deville/FR)
  • In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978/Guy Debord/France) DOC
  • Shoah (1985/Claude Lanzmann/France) DOC
  • Le Déclin de l'empire américain (1986/Denys Arcand/Canada)
  • Mauvais Sang / Bad Blood (1986/Leos Carax/France)
  • L'homme qui plantait des arbres (1987/Back/Canada) Short Anim
  • Lonely Human Voice (1987/Alexandr Sokurov/Russia)
  • Out of Rosenheim / Baghdad Café (1987/Percy Adlon/Germany)
  • Akira (1988/Katsuhiro Ôtomo/Japan) Anim
  • The Eye above the well (1988/Johan van der Keuken/Netherlands) DOC
  • Elephant (1989/Alan Clarke/UK) Short
  • C'est arrivé près de chez vous / Man Bites Dog (1992/Belvaux/Belgium)
  • De Noorderlingen / The Northerners (1992/van Warmerdam/Netherlands)
  • Sátántangó (1994/Bela Tarr/Hungary)
  • [Safe] (1995/Todd Haynes/USA)
  • Das Schloß / The Castle (1997/Michael Haneke/Austria)
  • Généalogies d'un Crime (1997/Raoul Ruiz/France)
  • Lost Highway (1997/David Lynch/USA)
  • Pokój saren / Roes' Room (1997/Lech Majewski/Poland)
  • Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998/Martin Arnold/Austria) Short
  • The Flowers of Shanghai (1998/Hou Hsiao-hsien/Taiwan)
  • Idioterne (1998/Von Trier/Denmark)
  • Paris, mon petit corps est bien las de ce monde (1998/Pressant/France)
  • Juha (1999/Aki Kaurismaki/Finland)
  • Father and Daughter (2000/Michael Dudok de Wit/UK) Short Anim
  • The Heart of the World (2000/Guy Maddin/Canada) Short
  • In Absentia (2000/Quay Brothers/UK) Short Anim
  • Songs from Second Floor (2000/Andersson/Denmark)
  • Sous le Sable (2000/François Ozon/France)
  • Altyn Kyrghol / My Brother Silk Road (2001/Marat Sarulu/Kyrgyzstan)
  • Copy Shop (2001/Virgil Widrich/Austria) Short
  • The Cinemascope Trilogy : L'arrivée / Outer Space / Dream work (1998-2002/Peter Tscherkassky/Austria) Shorts
  • Cremaster Cycle (1995-2002/Matthew Barney/USA)
  • De l 'autre côté / From the Other Side (2002/Akerman/France) DOC
  • Decasia (2002/Bill Morrison/USA) DOC
  • Dolls (2002/Kitano Takeshi/Japan)
  • Hukkle! (2002/György Pálfi/Hungary)
  • Japon (2002/Carlos Reygadas/Mexico)
  • L'Homme Sans l'Occident (2002/Raymond Depardon/France)
  • Los Muertos (2003/Lisandro Alonso/Argentina)
  • The Brown Bunny (2003/Vincent Gallo/USA)
  • Reconstruction (2003/Christoffer Boe/Denmark)
  • Struggle (2003/Ruth Madder/Austria)
  • Tiexi Qu : West of Tracks (2003/Wang Bing/China) DOC
  • Vozvrashcheniye / The Return (2003/Andrei Zvyagintsev/Russia)
  • 2046 (2004/Wong Kar-wai/HK)
  • La Blessure (2004/Nicolas Klotz/Belgium)
  • Our Daily Bread (2005/Nikolaus Geyrhalter/Germany) DOC
  • The Wayward Cloud (2005/Tsai Ming-liang/Taiwan)

EDIT : adding 7 films by Jean-Daniel Pollet I had forgotten, and taking out 7 films that were too "classic".

21 novembre 2006

Critical Fallacy 5 : Complacency

To put it plainly, "complacency" is the contrary of "being critical". It's the censorship of the Political Correctness mentality.
Some critics claim to write only on movies they liked to communicate an honest enthusiasm rather than a bitter resentment. Although favorable reviews always sound complacent to detractors. Except a chosen few masterpieces, every movie could/should/must be engaged both on its strong and weak aspects, to create a balanced, credible critical assessment.
Because of the lack of cinema culture and the domination of marketing brainwashing, critics fill a gap that isn't their job, which is to nurse, champion and promote the underexposed or panned movies... But critics aren't supposed to do P.R., that would be a conflict of interest (another installment of this series). Even back in the time of Bazin (40-50ies in France), instead of fully dedicating their time and writings to criticize and evaluate movies, critics had to advocate certain neglected auteurs, notify their screenings, drag the audience in, say a lot of good things about the film and overstate an hyperbolic enthusiasm... Where is the critical thinking when there is too much praise? The point isn't to pick a challenger and feel gratified if it scores a big B.O.
Klaus Eder : "That we write about this film and not another one, is dictated by the strategy of the distributors. They decide if and when to release a film, and we react and become a part of their strategy, whether we wish to or not. Specialist magazines fortunately have a bit more freedom and distance from the marketing system." Undercurrent #1
Criticism should, in theory, be disconnected from the commercial distribution and success of a film. Ok, maybe newspapers worry about the appeal to readership productivity of reviews, but the press doesn't define the ethics of criticism. Although they may decide whether a critic gets exposition, the compromise with aesthetic standards defines the critic's personality and complacency.
News journalists have the same duty to truth, whether it is pleasant to hear or not, but unlike critics they could/should remain neutral. The word "criticism" often implies "negative comment", because a critical judgment precisely denotes the flaws and weaknesses in a film, or else there is nothing to say but congratulations. There is a fine line between "respectful" and "complacent"... which will always be argued from a subjective standpoint. It's not easy to voice out a critical mind if it's going to hurt someone's pride or feelings, although some people enjoy just that, and think the most vociferous they are the most feared their "authority" will be (those controversial slanders aren't sound arguments).
The other side of this coin reminds us that "art is difficult and criticism is easy". Even the worst film, collective achievement of many artists and technicians, requires more work than the best movie review! So, due respect for the hardworking, yes, but partisanship, pontification, apologia, flattery, connivance, conformism, political correctness... no.
The spectrum of the film critic press shows variable tolerance to complacency, from specialized revues (filmcraft only) to glamour info-tainment (star system promotion), and some aim to be balanced or neutral, others just make their living of press-junket bribery, cover photo deals, indulgent interviews, advertisement/sponsors, mass-appeal to the point of being integer part of the marketing machine.
Promotional interviews (is there any other kind? these guys only meet the press when they have something to sell)
Certain films do deserve a humble, admirative, unconditional praise... sometimes the critic is useless in front of cinema genius. But looking at the reviews it's like there is at least one masterpiece each week! movies that are quickly forgotten after the award season.

19 novembre 2006

Exclusive Online Search

Screenville's Cinema-specific web search engine (see sidebar too)

Thanks to Robert Davis at Errata who pointed to this new feature at Google co-op, I've created my own selection of URLs (170 sites exclusively with film criticism material so far [EDIT June 2008: 262]) to look up cinema-specific topics on Google, which helps to browse the internet archive of film bloggers and online publications with only relevant results.
The problem with Google, is that the search engine is based on "word spotting" instead of "topic related filtering". Google returns all pages where the words required are found, but it doesn't mean the acception of the word matches your query, or that the words are in the same sentence or in the same article. Sometimes funny word strings lead to your page, because the text in the Google cache is scanned indifferently when several posts are showing on the front page. That's one of the reasons why I took out the post content from my index page on this blog, so that the text of each post is archived on its own specific page. And it also keep my post and the comments on the same page. I guess the words used in the links of the sidebar also alter the scanning of the blog frontpage by search engines.
So now Google adds some intelligence in their search results by asking users to qualify the pages, and restrict searches on a predefined thematic list, exclusive, or weighted among an all web search. Although there is no RSS feed on Google co-op, to keep track live on a feed aggregator of your favorite recurrent query... which is very useful.
I couldn't embed the search button within this post, so the results are hosted over at Google.

Let me know if the search results prove to be more fruitful and pertinent than usual. I will tweak the settings, add/remove URLs, as I figure how to improve the relevance and richness of cinema queries.

Try :

17 novembre 2006

Pan's Tests

Continuation from page 1 and 2. Pan's Labyrinth (2006/Del Toro)

Pan's magic book. Ofelia can only read it when she's alone (i.e. without adults/unbelievers around) because its pages are blank and a magic ink forms letters and drawings. The book is empty because Ofelia creates her own fantasy. After reading over and over her old books, she's now prepared to write her own story. The insect mistaken for a fairy, is named as such by Ofelia herself (she initiated this fantasy by projecting her imagination onto a detail of the real world, the fantasy world doesn't come to her, she spells out the magic identity of a common insect).

Pan orders 3 symbolic tasks to the young cursed princess who lost immortality. A crescent on her shoulder proves the unbelievable prophecy. Fable of regressive initiation, from an abominable reality to the retreat of an idyllic fantasy, from orphan to recomposed family, from unbearable life to dreamlike death. War killed the child, her innocence, her world. A painful and sudden transition to adulthood.

Pan's 3 tasks (dreamwork analysis) :

1) First Test
A giant toad lives under the roots of the biggest tree in the forest, and made it die out. Ofelia shall toss 3 magic stones into its mouth and retrieve a golden key from its guts.

This is a test of fear domination (dark hole with bugs, disgusting monster), and transgression of parental authority (runaway, dirty fancy clothes, late to dinner). Ofelia spells it out under the tree : "you don't scare me, I'm the princess". She also says "Look at you, you're so fat, aren't you ashamed to live under there and eat bugs?". I wonder if the 3 magic balls are the pills given by the doctor to her mother, and through fantasy she allows herself to blame her mother (for her deformed pregnant belly). The key is usually a male sexual symbol, if found inside the toad's belly, maybe it's an allegory for the fecondation of her mother by Vidal, which she disagrees and secretly wishes the abortion (the toad expels out its guts and deflates). She also says at the beginning of the film that the baby is the reason her mother is sick, so all this (Vidal and the baby) takes her mother away from her. She craves to return when she was the only center of attention, before the new baby, before her father died (ideal situation she finds again in death, in the final scene).
Only that she wears the fancy dress her mother wanted Ofelia to wear for the official dinner with her step-father. She wears a "princess gown", but doesn't want to make her stepfather happy so she's drawn to disobey : her dress is all dirty (to hurt her mother) and she's late (to hurt Vidal who is maniac with punctuality). The test is a success for her fantasy mission (she earns credit), but it's disastrous in the real world (punished).
This first task is her first attempt to help cure her mother by taking out the baby (out of anger).

Interlude (1)

Ofelia cannot go on with her next task because her mother is sick. When she opens the magic book, red ink forms a bloody uterus (like a Roshach inkblot test), and fills the page with red. Like a divination, Ofelia foresees the next scene when Carmen loses blood. Maybe this traumatic experience has to do with the first menstruation of a girl (blood, entering womanhood, fecundity, association with mother's pregnancy, pain).
Pan, impatient, comes to remind her duty. Then offers a mandrake (foetus symbol) that will cure Carmen if placed under her bed, bathed in milk and fed with 2 drops of blood every day (echo of the 2 drops of drug prescribed by the doctor in real world). This vegetal foetus evokes the doppleganger substitutions in Ferrara's Body Snatcher (1993).

2) Second Test

Magic chalk that opens passages to another dimension (symbol of her desire to get out of this world). Hourglass (time symbol referring to Vidal's obsession). One of three safe (wooden, iron, silver, or something like that) to open with the golden key (reminds of the choice for the right Grail, which is not the shiniest), and find the dagger for the final sacrifice (mirrors Mercedes' knife that will stab Vidal). Feast table temptation (interdiction to eat anything, echo of her punishment after first task).
Pale Man : Ogre threat to enforce the interdiction through terror ("what lives there is not human" says Pan). 2 fairies die to save Ofelia because she fell into temptation.
Pale Man is a peculiar monster, scary looking but slow and handicapped (no ears, eyes in his palms). Del Toro explains the orbits in his hands are christlike stigmata, but the symbolism is more complicated. It's disturbingly analogous to the aspect of a phallus (floppy bare skin, bold head, it's called "Pale Man"). The association to treat temptation (grape) from a pervert, the illustrations on the wall of the Pale Man chasing children, devouring them... suggests discreetly a sexual/incestuous molestation in symbolic form (maybe Vidal, although this subplot is very shy). Next to the stoic monster lays a pile of children shoes, remnant of his past victims (a shocking sight recalling the imagery of extermination camps).
Ofelia eats grape from the forbidden table (original sin of the fruit from the tree of knowledge in the Bible = loss of innocence, shame of nudity, sexual guilt of mortals), thus fails her task, but surprisingly manages to escape the monster by opening another door after the hourglass exhausted (which is a contradiction of the rules imposed upfront by Pan, apparently threats and orders aren't as incorruptible as in traditional fairytales... re-interpretation and last minute changes are always welcome).

Interlude (2)

Ofelia hands over the dagger, but confesses eating the grape, Pan is furious and abandons her, she will never be immortal. Although the mandrake dried up, Carmen feels better, the doctor can't explain this remission. Vidal finds out, and Carmen throws the root in the fire "Magic doesn't exist!" she says, and she suddenly falls very ill again. Vidal had just killed the doctor so Carmen won't be saved... only the baby survives. Ofelia, orphan, is definitely separated from her past, and her mother who compromised with the evil side, now her surrogate mother, Mercedes takes over, and she can fully embrace the rebel side (denial of order, passage to clandestinity).

3) The sacrifice

The final task is to bring the baby to the altar where Pan will shed his blood to re-open the gates of Ofelia's kingdom and grant her immortality. Test of faith (in Pan) v. reason (of her heart). But she refuses, and like Vidal had to choose between saving Carmen or his son, Ofelia offers her life in exchange to save the baby (saved twice from death by the mimetic sacrifice of both Carmen and Ofelia).
Del Toro makes a special twist of the Bible's archetypical sacrifice. Abraham surrenders his reasoning to pure blind faith when God asked him to kill his only son Isaac. The philosophy of this act is not the horror of murdering one's own child, but the absolute trust in a superior Good that man cannot foresee and shall not question. In fact God stops the sword to spare Isaac's life once Abraham has proven his faith to comply without arguing. But Del Toro turns this reference upside down, and questions the faith in a superior messenger and the application of solemn promise (dispute of unjust orders). A 12 yold girl doubts the command from the god Pan, who purposely tricked her to follow a deviant order. The film makes a case for the sovereignty of the individual's choice, and even suggests God can be fallible.

14 novembre 2006

Pan's fantasy

Continuation from first page : Pan's Labyrinth (2006/Del Toro)

Guillermo del Toro composes an odd mixture of neo-fairytale... The film is introduced by Ofelia's classic books of medieval fairytale, with traditional drawings (like Grimm or Andersen). But the encounter of a concrete fantasy in the real world is most unusual in the traditional fairytales. Although we can find many elements borrowed from various sources which original meanings are slightly altered.
Maya : "Pan, who self-effacingly refers to himself as a faun, when in truth he is a lord of the earth with a ram's crown, scented with leaf-molded earth, chthonic to his bark-encrusted core." The Evening Class
  • Pan is a god from the Greek mythology (not the fantasy of fairytales), the god of Nature, and looks like a satyr, with goat legs and horns. The head of the bed of Ofelia's mother features the head of Pan, half hidden by pillows and we only see the spiraling horns emerging.
  • Fauns however are demi-god from the roman mythology, looking like humans with horse ears and a tail.
  • There is a reference to Echo, the Greek nymph, when Ofelia visits the pit in the middle of the labyrinth for the first time with the fairy, she calls "Echo" to play with the acoustic. Echo was killed by Pan because her voice could make every man fall in love.
  • The fairy first appears under the form of a praying mantis (without front hooks) coming out of a carved stone looking more Aztec than Celtic this time.
  • Other reference for creature design : Arthur Rackham
  • The labyrinth is gothic from the XIIth century (Chartres cathedral) and is in fact a symbolic procession rather than a maze, because there is only one possible way. This 11 rings labyrinth (Christian) is a more elaborate version of the 7 rings labyrinth (Celtic).
  • At the center of the labyrinth, steps go down into the pit, where a smaller labyrinth is carved in the ground and at the center stands a Celtic-type megalith. This stone is sculpted with a head of Pan, and a curious addition of a Christian figure, the virgin Mary with a baby Jesus in her arms, which Pan identifies as Ofelia (messiah prophecy in the film), princess of this magic kingdom, but refuses to talk about the baby (we assume the baby was the sacrifice Pan expected to re-open the gates before the full moon). This bit is quite confusing in Del Toro's fabricated mythology.

Like in fairytales, Ofelia becomes the hero of an initiating adventure, Pan reveals to her she's the princess of a secret underworld, and she must pass 3 tests before the full moon to save her kingdom from destruction, and become immortal again in the land of magic creatures.

Here we have the desire of delirious escapism children look for in fairytales, they are keen to imagine they have been adopted and are in fact of a noble descent, with superior powers. The infantile megalomania of being the center of the world, and being the last resort to save the world. The parallel with the war makes this regular passion for fairytales all the more relevant to Ofelia, who lost her father, and whose mother married a cold-blooded torturer of the fascist army. I think she misses her father and summons an ambiguous father figure in the person of Pan. To her mother she says Pan is very old and smells earth, which could mean he's been exhumed from the grave. The underworld is the world of the dead, where she meets her dead parents in the end. Of course the final scene shows Pan at the court of the underworld kingdom, with Ofelia's father on his throne, so they are two separate characters. But Pan could be the fatherly friend linking her to her father. On the other hand, the film installs a mimetic parallel between captain Vidal (real world) and Pan (fantasy world).

Filiation trauma

Vidal is tied to an inescapable fate inherited through the heroic death of his father. The pocket-watch of his father (that reminds me of a subplot in Pulp Fiction) literally makes every second of his life a preparation for a brave death. He is obsessed with punctuality, which is a derivation of this paternal legacy, and a control-freak who imposes his meticulousity onto everyone around him. His only goal is to perpetuate this overwhelming ascendant onto his newborn son, to transmit the pocket-watch and the anxiety by fulfilling his destiny and die like his father. This perspective overrules his love for his wife (and her life), his responsibility for his step-girl (and her life), and even his loyalty to Franco, as his final words will be to negotiate the transmission of this filial bound with the rebels. However the rebels deny him this last will, and promise instead that the baby will never know about his father. And the film ends there on the creation of a new orphan.

Coincidently, Vidal is orphan like Ofelia. Their parallel struggle to live up to the ideal of a gone father makes their love-hate confrontation more interesting. This tension could be caused by the mysterious link between Vidal and her father's death (murder?), Ofelia being a living image of his late rival. And Ofelia obviously refuses to see anyone replace her beloved father.

Although I would expect the symbolism of Ofelia's fantasy to reflect this quest of a missing father, but nothing in the legend really refers to a father figure, and her late father appears in the last scene without any symbolic/dramatic build up...

Pan is the only father figure available to Ofelia to unload her father affliction and repair a dysfunctional family balance. Yet his persona is obscure and untrustworthy. Mercedes warns her against fauns, and her mother flat out denies the existence of fantasy creatures, establishing the critical dilemma to choose between fantasy (immortality, fun, adventure, friends, childhood) and reality (adults, mother, step-father, fear, war, death).

In spite of the scary look, Ofelia feels strangely attracted to Pan (a satyr known to seduce and trick mortals). After all, he promises her immortality and a magic kingdom. Although in Del Toro's world Pan is good, his devious side reveals to have been a test to check how much Ofelia was ready to follow her heart even if it contradicted recommendations made by dear friends of hers. With the minimized role of her mother (even her death is overlooked), Ofelia's journey is mostly independent, in solitude, and the only authority regulating her life comes from Vidal and Pan.

More on Pan's Tests next...

12 novembre 2006

Pan's Labyrinth (2006/del Toro)

El Laberinto del Fauno / Pan's Labyrinth (2006/Guillermo del Toro/Spain) ++

Opening Sequence : Slow travelling forward (swirling?) on a girl laying on the ground with blood leaking from her nose, her head half tilted toward us. Heavy breathing.
This is a glimpse of the last shot of the film, playing backward (the blood appears to creeps back into her nose, which is more a digital special effect than a backward footage I think).

Spain 1944, fascist army of Franco still struggles to put out the underground guerilla of the republican fighters hidden in the mountains. Interesting historical context reminded by David D'Arcy at GreenCine :
"Bear in mind that this story is set against the background of a war that was won by Spanish fascists, killing millions of civilians and forcing many more into exile, all with the support of Hitler and Mussolini."
and acquarello at Strictly Film School :
"Set in 1944, the year that the annals of history have officially annotated as the year that the Republicans were defeated, thus marking the end of the civil war, reality proves less than neatly conclusive as the insurgency rages on (and would continue for nearly two decades), the resistance fighters fortifying their strongholds in the mountains with the covert aid of sympathetic villagers."

Guillermo del Toro rehashes the same concerns developped in El Espinazo del diablo / The Devil's backbone (2001), that mixed supernatural and the horror of war in a world of orphans confronted to unjust discipline (in 1939 at the end of the civil war), written after Pan's Labyrinth (which took 10 years for greenlight).
It's interesting to note the absence of a religious reference/character in Pan's Labyrinth, despite the arguable role of Church in supporting Franco. As acquarello quotes, Guillermo del Toro said the hand-eyed Pale Man was inspired by the stigmatas from christianity, so this would be the clerical figure disguised under a cryptic allegory (which is also inspired by Goya's Saturn Devouring one of his Children).

Ofelia, a 12 yold girl who lost her father during the war, is drawn with her mother, Carmen, outside of the city by a severe step-father, Vidal (captain in Franco's army), who is the father of the baby Carmen is about to deliver. Although the mother is only a secondary character, her illness doesn't give her much speaking parts, she doesn't make the end of the film either, and Mercedes, the servant, becomes a surrogate mother, trusted, affectionate advisor. Her father is dead, so he's out of the picture (or is he?), and the step-father is dominant, even if the father-daughter relationship is very limited and filled with mutual hate. And the rebels are also distant secondary characters. Thus the main characters (Vidal, Pan, Mercedes, Ofelia), forming the nucleus family model (dad-mom-girl) are strangers each playing a role that isn't theirs. The dad role being shared between captain Vidal and Pan (who I suspect is the dream reincarnation of her dead father).
The war trauma and political turmoil in Spain is translated in this allegory of a dysfunctional family. Ofelia, on the fence between a fairytale books populated childhood (metaphor of peace and innocence) and the conflicts of adolescence with parents (metaphor of the violence of war, of resistance and breaking up with an authoriarian regime). The film is a symbolic lesson on the moral consequences, in life and death, of a blind submission to orders or a reasonned defiance to constraints based on terror.
A principle illustrated many times in the story, both in the real world and in the fantasy world, with almost each main characters, and slightly different results according to the purity of their mind. Ofelia disobeys her mother to accomplish her first test, ignores Pan to stay with her mother, contradicts the fairies suggestion to pick the right safe, disobeys Pan to eat the grape, defies the captain to kidnap the baby, and finally turns back on Pan to give the baby back to the captain. The doctor disobeys the captain to end the suffering of the tortured prisonner and thus risks his own life. Mercedes disobeys the captain to help the resistance despite the threat of torture and death.
The test of rebellion is always risky and balances the higher moral ground of a heroic sacrifice of one's life v. a submissive/coward life condoning the evil happening around. The heart of success in a resistance against the almighty despotic machine is self-sacrifice in the hope to save a better life for future generations.
[EDIT] Bringing up past history today in Spain, after the 3-11-2004 terror attack in Madrid, could be a reminder of the legitimacy of resistance and the blindness of a standing army following narrowminded orders... The reference to Gulf War 2 is not too far fetched. And the point of view chosen by Del Toro to observe this war from the (evil) side of the official army, matches the position of Spain in Irak, in the Bush cohalition, against the local guerilla fighting against the oppressor.

The Western genre influence on the direction of war sequences is made obvious by the cavalry, the smoke clouds raising from the forest, the way Vidal checks the rebels' abandonned campfire to tell how many they are, and the attack of the locomotive. Like in a Western, the point of view of the renegades (republican resistance) remains invisible, they always come out of nowhere and their whereabouts is a mystery, while the film follow the regular army (fascists) in their footsteps. Only the men in uniforms are evil and the homeless rebels are the freedom fighters. A reversal of cinematic values. Since Ofelia's mother married a fascist captain, our protagonist lives among the evil forces, and gives the film an original perspective on this war to denounces the cruelty of fascists from within their ranks.
Unlike André Malraux' L'Espoir (1945) about an earlier battle (circa 1937) of the same war filmed entirely from the perspective of the resistance, hidden in the mountains and organising commando operations against an impersonal army. Malraux's direction is incomparably more poetical and cinematic of course.
I don't understand Guillermo del Toro's experiment with the faux-transition to link 2 (cutaway) scenes in a seamless lateral travelling... it doesn't quite work and shows off virtuosity rather than bring a meaningful reading to the visual language.

The systematical mirroring of real-world adult activity and the re-enactment in the child's fantasy crypted by unconscious dreamwork might seem a little heavyhanded, but ultimately proves to carry a coherent symbolism (except for a few compromise to silly melodramatic cues).
Guillermo del Toro does a better job than Gilliam's desastrous Brothers Grimm (2004) to adapt the fairytale mythology and explore its function in children's personality construction, and its re-interpretation of a reality too overwhelming to comprehend. Here the special FX are seamless (except for the line of sight of the young actress) and original prostethics are very inventive.
Although this tale is too gruesome for kids and too naive for grown ups, which makes a weird combination that hurts both targeted audiences. The compromises to mix 2 incompatible genres ultimately result in an average movie without spirit. For instance, the labyrinth (borrowed to the Chartres cathedral) is too literal, too concrete. It wasn't necessary to prove its existence by the words of Mercedes, or to film the girl with adults there. The power of imagination to generate a wonderland out of nothing, in the girl's dream or pretend game with imaginary friends, leaves the doubt for the audience. It's a mistake to overstate its reality, since the film diegesis already show us it's there, while the image in a film carries a fruitful plurality of interpretations (past memory, dream, wishful thinking, fiction, illustration, metaphor). The Brazil inspired ending also commits a fatal error, by draging the captain, then the rebels, into the labyrinth, and showing the captain's viewpoint of Ofelia talking to an invisible Pan. Is it that only naive children can see magic creatures or is it that she's insane? This shot is too literal and breaks the suspension of disbelief like if the filmmaker estranged his protagonist 2 minutes before the end.
Ofelia slowly sinks into her fantasy world as she quits the world of livings to the tune of a lullaby, like in Gilliam's Brazil (1984), where it suited the schizophreniac demise of the adult protagonist (european cut), and fails completely the fantasy belief of childhood in Pan's Labyrinth. If there is a way to film the meeting of adult's and children's perception it was the wrong choice there. Gilliam's latest film, Tideland (2005), also strives to confront childhood fantasy and adult reality, and end up with this odd cross-genre with a gruesome puerile triffle...
The film also borrows from the imagery of Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland, exemplified by the pretty dress she wears in the forest, the descent in the pit, and her talking to imaginary friends.
The melo ending contradicts the active rhythm of the film. When Mercedes sees Ofelia shot on the ground, you'd think she would call for help, carry her in the house, try to save her life... but as if she instantly figures it's too late, she starts to sing a lullaby like if it was the only thing to do. Melodramatic cinema always has convenient ways to deal with the most effective dramatic situations, if not the most realistic. Sometimes they want us to care for the urgency, then we feel empathy for the protagonist's survival, but if it's a glorious ending, the urgency is immediately discarded to make us focus on the courage in death and the prospect of a shiny after-life.
There is a time to root for life and a time to enjoy death. This trick is also used with the stuttering guy's torture to illustrate how death is preferable to survival in certain cases (although he was a disposable secondary character anyway). The death of the main protagonist, an innocent child, was a bolder narrative move. But I still think it was filmed wrongly, even if her death is suggested in the very opening sequence of the film.

The archetypes aren't as manichaean as they seem. The ambiguity in each character makes the fable more interesting even if it was meant for suspense purpose.
Conversly the dramatic structure and the psychological situations aren't always one-sided. For instance the nazi-like captain is shown like an attentionate husband and father (forcing Carmen to use a wheelchair against her will for her health, and brave in defeat when he hands over his baby to the rebels when they execute him). Also the rebels are shown shooting dead at point blank the wounded soldiers, like the fascists did, no mercy, no prisonners. The magic creatures are also faillible (the fairies pick the wrong safe, the wicked Pan lies, changes his mind or plays deception game) which contrasts with the usual clearcut good/evil sides in fairytales where everyone's power is defined upfront and doesn't disappoint.

I wasn't impressed by the sound effects... there is a rich work (excesssive most of the time though) to create original sounds for the fantasy world, but contrary to the creative integration of visual special effects, sounds are triggered on cue to announce a character everytime they move whether they should make noise or not. I thought it was far too systematic, and lacked the moderation of an harmonious atmospherical soundtrack.

But what actually interested me most was the magic and the fantasy, structured by the symbolic (psychoanalitical dreamwork) tests Pan orders to Ofelia (which I will examine in the next posts : Pan's Fantasy & Pan's Tests)
(s) ++ (w) ++ (m) ++ (i) +++ (c) ++

10 novembre 2006

Consensual criteria for a good critic

Notes from La Critique de cinéma by René Prédal, 2004.
What defines film criticism is to talk about films and ponder over the nature of cinema. The existence of criticism implies the artistic characteristics of cinema : dissociation of the artistic value from the movie budget, ambitions and commercial success. The critic is meant to ignore the public reception and speculate on the film's meaning in art history (its value in duration and immanence).
4 main criteria :
  1. Love of Cinema : passion + curiosity (for discoveries and novelties). Watching a lot of movies.
  2. Culture : expert of cinema history (1000 or 2000 essential films to know to be able to relativize the creativity/skill of new movies against past production) + deep general culture (arts and real world, which is the source of cinema inspiration)
  3. Cinema technique knowledge
  4. Writing Quality : style, communicative enthousiasm, readable, clarity, pedagogy.
And also :
  • 5) Sensibility : emotion. To develop affectivity even for disliked movies.
  • 6) Stance without prejudice : Judgement rooted in critical theory trends without rigid ideology.
  • 7) Objectivity : no influence by the majority of opinions, nor by personal mood/instinct.
  • 8) Sense of hierarchy (values) : Being able to make pertinent comparisons. Freedom and independance of thinking, against the editorial line, other critics and social fads)
This is the theory, but unfortunately... "the reviews we read in newspapers don't talk about cinema, they only account for the topic, the situations and characters." F. Gévaudan (Cinéma 83, #300, déc. 1983)
-- The development of video with easy access to repeat viewing should help critics to develop a deeper analysis, but it only serves to scholars. Weekly reviewers write a critique after one viewing (or 2 at best).
-- National traditions : study of acting performance is almost never considered in France, while gesture analysis, eyes, voice intonations are largely developped in the USA.
-- Mentality imposed by the timeframe :
  • Political interpretation was the exclusive entry point during the cold war and witch hunt.
  • Then spiritualist and moral analysis, or taste, offer multiple readings (mise-en-scene, topic, genre, ambition) because everyone realized cinema cannot change the world. Informational criticism seeks the key-significance, raison d'être of the film, its humane value. (R. Guyonnet, Le métier de critique, Esprit, #6, juin 1960)
  • Feyredoun Hoveyda suggests the aesthetic value of film is the only viewpoint possible, opposed to the key-significance. "I like extreme opinions. Since each can only defend his/her own truth, it's vain to stay in the middle ground, because a film is only the combination of a limited number of elements skillfuly organized. Thus what is the point to balance good v. bad scenes, or form v. content? This comes down to decomposing the artwork and doesn't grasp its globality because the whole is different from the sum of its parts. The thought of a filmmaker is revealed through its mise-en-scene (Politique des Auteurs)" (Les tâches du soleil, Cahiers du Cinéma, #110, aug. 1960)

31 octobre 2006

DIGEST : Octobre 2006

Unreviewed screenings, current reading, links, recommendations, free talk, questions, thoughts, informal conversation, anything... comments welcome

>> updates below (sticky entry for a month)

23 octobre 2006

Climates (2006/Ceylan)

Iklimler / The Climates (2006/Nuri Bilge Ceylan/Turkey)

Shot analysis :

Isa and Bahar take a sunbathe on the beach, the sun is hot, their skin is greasy and sweaty. She wakes up from a bad dream (she imagined he smothered her head with sand), uncomfortable and lonelier than ever. I believe it's right after the argument they have at a friend's dinner and before the motorcycle ride.

The composition of this static shot is very classic, almost like a kitsch romantic postcard : the beach, the sea, the sky, a couple side by side on the beach cut out in backlite silhouettes. The woman in the distance, out of touch object of desire, and her "prince" in the foreground. They think about eachother and dream of love.

But since the opening sequence (then comfirmed with the bad dream) we know the romance is gone between them. The shot starts with Isa (him) lying down. I can't remember his dialogue (maybe he's still asleep), but I think she doesn't utter a word since the bad dream and just walks away to sit over there (photo above). They are still together at this point but cold and distant. So the dreamy look of this shot is contradicted by the inner conflict bubbling under.
We see a couple sitting away from eachothers, it's easy to understand something wrong is going on with this couple. Not quite the fusional passion of the early days. But the symbolic analysis tells us more about them. What makes this composition so important is there is no other camera angle (that I recall of) to show this part of the scene, no countershot to see her face, no shot of the boat alone, or her in the foreground. This is the end of the scene (long still take) that states, in stasis, the status quo of their relationship (which is not satisfying and shall be disengaged).

The screen is divided horizontaly in 3 strips (sky, sea, beach) with different colors and textures. The beach limit marks the middle, twice as thick as the "sea" and "sky" areas above the mediane. The unity of colors reinforces this grouping, sky and sea are light grey, bright, transparent, etheral, while the beach is rough, darker and textured.

Now the symbols. Each area has its figure that sits on the lower limit, as if stacked on top of the strip below.

  • (1) Beach + Man => Earth (materialism) / here / heat / Male
  • (2) Sea + Woman => Water (desire) / apart / cold / Female
  • (3) Sky + boat => "Heaven" (ideal) / faraway / dream / Love

This already establishes the partition of (symbolic) space and the clash between characters. Which has not been properly spelt out thus far by the film and announces their violent split up in the next scene, because he didn't see it coming in this scene and didn't hold her back when it was still time.

  • (1) The man lies alone, next to an empty space, where used to lie his partner, metaphor of a bed. The image of the broken couple : "she's gone".
    He's in the foreground, because the film always assumes his subjective viewpoint. Nuri Bilge Ceylan is the auteur-director-actor. So this mise-en-scene, here, puts the audience in his shoes.
    Then he sits up, and his body fills the beach area (photo above). His head emerging, reaches out just above to enter/overlap the sea area (2), in an attempt to get in touch with her, but without moving/speaking. He looks over at her in the sea space. So the composition illustrates his inner questioning/puzzlement and above all his inability to formulate/address the problem.
  • (2) The woman sits alone. Unlike for the man in (1), there is nothing next to her that could tell us she waits for someone, or that someone is absent. That's because she's already away, detached from him. We can see this, but does "He" understand it? She stands there like a single woman, a stranger, and looks away to (3), the horizon of brighter expectations.
  • (3) The sky and the white sails of a boat sitting on the horizon. Obviously a symbol of escapism, fantasy and idealism. That's what she wants inside, without saying (that's why she sits still in this composition). She needs something else that she doesn't have. She dreams of heavens. The boat cruises slowly between the two of them, marking a triangular figure between him, her and a symbol of ideal love that is gone.
    I could further argue the boat goes right-to-left, which means backward in time, towards the past (left = past / right = future), from her to him, and moving past them, away from what used to be this couple, a momentary hope to go back to how beautiful love once was.

Acquarello associates the motorcycle accident following this scene (when she blinds him with her hands to kill them both), with the symbolic blindness of him who couldn't see how unhappy she was, how their couple was going to an end.

"[Isa] deliberatively shoots a series of photographs of ancient ruins for possible use in a class lecture, oblivious to his traveling companion's noticeable discomfort and tedium over his latest distractive side trip (a figurative myopia that would subsequently be manifested in Bahar's reckless, symbolic act of blindness during a motorcycle ride), her sense of profound desolation and estrangement momentarily betrayed by the eruption of tears that also escape the self-absorbed Isa's regard."

Official Website
(s) ++ (w) +++ (m) ++++ (i) +++ (c) ++++

17 octobre 2006

DR9 - part quatre

Sorry for staling on this one, I'm not good at holding together this kind of wide study, it takes me time to re-focus on it. I will eventually get to the bottom of my notes, if there are still readers who care about it.

An art critic on a radio show about Art Brut, brought up an insightful taxonomy of art movements paralleled with certain mental disorder tendencies. The artist is always the lunatic among us... And it was interesting in correlation to Matthew Barney's Avant Garde, and the obsessions in his work we could easily qualify of symptoms.

History of Arts & Psychiatry
  • Mannerism (XVIth c.) <=> Obsessive Neurosis
  • Baroque <=> Hallucination
  • Siècle des Lumières Utopia <=> Rational Delirium
  • Symbolism <=> Melancholy
  • Art Nouveau <=> Hysteria
  • Cubism <=> Schizophrenia
  • Surrealism <=> Paranoia
  • Body Art <=> Perversion
  • Suicide Aesthetics (XXIst c.) <=> Death Pulsion
Matthew Barney's work could correspond to the last three, Surrealism (symbolism, free-association, subconscious inspiration), Body Art (physical performance, body choreography, prosthetics, mutation) and Suicide Aesthetics (fascination of death, decomposition, decay, destruction, mutilation)

Back to DR9, I wanted to describe the time line of the choreographed presence in the film of the Field Emblem sculpture, from beginning to end. Barney documents almost every state of its fabrication, because the making is part of the performance, and probably more important than the finished sculpture, which is in fact destroyed. Although the collapsed sculpture, solidified, is the artwork Barney sells as a "collectible" from a one-time performance. Thus perverting the idea of sculpture that means to produce the perfect replica from the mould, here Barney dismisses imitation and lets chance design the shape of his artwork. The artist only controls the process but cannot direct the final aspect. Actually he's more interested in the aesthetic of decomposition, a state when the object loses its contour. Like the compression of a Chrysler car in Cremaster 5. And the advantage of the petroleum jelly is it "petrifies" a semi-liquid state for ever once solidified. This petroleum cast is called Cetacea, and is obviously a metaphor of the live whale that is absent from the film. And the strange choreography around the mould, almost like a bee dance, contains all the significant subtext of the film. This symbolic message can be decoded however quite intuitively because the visual language is very simple. Actually I wonder what the crew of the Nishin-Maru thought of this "mascarade" and why they agreed to be part of it...

Phases of the Cetacea (Field Emblem)
The sculpture goes through a cycle of the 3 states of matter (gas, liquid, solid), from chemical/artificial (petroleum by-product, which is the result of decomposition of fossil organism) to organic (incorporation of ambergris, shrimp), almost symmetrical, rhythmically composed and marking the evolution/mutation at work on the lower deck between the Occidental Hosts (Barney and Björk), to mirror their "alchemical transmutation". The whole process could remind the slow and sophisticated operations necessary for alchemists to change lead into gold (the secret of the Philosopher's stone).
  1. AIR (empty) : Mould assemblage.
  2. LIQUID (chemical) : Fill up with hot petrolatum
  3. AMORPH (chemical) : Solidification of the petrolatum
  4. SOLID (chemical) : Bisection of the jelly block in 3 parts, insertion of the mid walls
  5. SOLID (chemical) : Removal of the petrolatum midsection, retrieval of the white spine
  6. SOLID (chemical) : Rotation 90° of the mould across the axis of the ship
  7. SOLID (organic) : Dragging of the ambergris log to fit in the gap
  8. SOLID (organic) : Rotation 90° back to initial position parallel to the ship axis
  9. SOLID (organic) : Reconstitution of the midsection around the ambergris log with shrimp and cement (allegory of the digestive restraint in the whale stomach leading to the formation of ambergris) by white clothed children.
  10. SOLID (organic) : Removal of the ambergris log, which melts down and infiltrates the ship, only remains the black spine
  11. SOLID (organic) : Midsection filled with more liquid petrolatum
  12. AMORPH (organic) : Disassemblage of the mould and collapse of the petrolatum into a shapeless cream
Read the rest of this analysis:

14 octobre 2006

Critical Fallacy 4 : Burden of Proof

Critical Fallacy 4 : BURDEN OF PROOF

Or lack thereof... the fallacy being to expect detractors to bring evidence you are wrong.

"Meanwhile, film magazines and free city weeklies promote that self-assured nonconformity which prizes jaunty wordplay and throwaway judgments. (...)
Academic writing, you might think, runs in the other direction, overdoing ideas and information. Actually, prestigious academic film talk is drenched in opinions. Theory is a matter of taste: you say Virilio, I say Deleuze. Most film academics don't critically examine the doctrines they applaud. Many dismiss requests for evidence as signs of 'empiricism' and when they cite evidence it's likely to be tenuous or tendentious. They too have a touching faith in zeitgeist explanations. And too many academics seem to illustrate Nietzsche's aphorism that to most readers muddy water looks deep. (...)
But what's an insight? Is it just a twitch or tingle? Or is it closer to a hunch--something that should be speculated on, investigated, analyzed, and tested? Intellectuals should turn insights into clear-cut ideas, reliable information, or nuanced opinions, but neither journalistic critics nor academic ones do this very often."
Against Insight by David Bordwell at Cinemascope

Any journalist knows they are responsible for what they write, and would only print something they double-checked with distinct and reliable sources. Giving one's opinion after watching a movie, anybody can do. Film criticism implies credibility and informed judgment. So as we developed precedently, making sure to avoid deception, manipulation and simplification, the burden of proof is on the critic, which precisely helps to prevent the aforementioned fallacies. Throwing the ball at the reader, or even at the filmmakers, is too easy a cope out to contradict everyone and expect them to disprove every assumption you formed.

Moreover, concerning the job of a film critic in particular, it's not only a journalistic ethic to carry the burden of proof, but also a facilitating way into the film for the reader who hasn't seen it. It's always more interesting to read a review illustrated by examples directly taken from the film, instead of a succession of universal opinions and evasive evaluations out of context that could apply to any other movie. When you read how good or bad was the performance, how good or bad was the story, how good or bad was the direction... in the end all you have is an impersonal list of appreciations that tell you what the critic felt but nothing about the film itself.
We should be able to read a review without agreeing with the writer's opinion, and find some substantial meat that is not censored preemptively by the partisanship of the critic. Otherwise readers would avoid contradictory reviews and that would defeat the purpose of constructing a critical assessment. If dissenting reviews are ignored for opinions out of context that cannot be evaluated by the reader in front of tangible filmic illustrations, then (in the mind of the readers) a "good critic" is a taste pleaser and a "bad critic" is one who disagrees with my anticipation.

By complying with the burden of proof, a critic allows the reader to compare reviews from a common analyzed material. It's interesting to know why this critic liked this scene and that critic didn't. Better even is to be able to confront and evaluate ourselves (as readers) which critic elaborates the impression closer to what I might most likely feel myself, not from his abstract generic qualificatives but thanks to a sensible empirical demonstration. At least part of the review should provide some evidence, description of the film, supported arguments, statements backed by their sources. Again, not only it makes criticism more credible, but it's an invitation to the reader to participate in the evaluation of the film step by step, instead of being delivered a definite conclusion coming out of the blue.


Speaking of evidence, I'm not pretending to give a patronizing lecture or a sentence on right and wrong, (And I'm certain many find it condescending) I'm not pointing finger to the bad apples like if I was a model myself... Quoting other critics and showing snipets of bad examples is meant to make the fallacy easier to understand and to prove I'm not the only one to think that way. I see my job here just to organize a list, cause nothing there is new. Who am I to go judgmental like that? I'm not a critic, journalist, writer or scholar... I'm just a wannabe on a learning curve. And this type of listing secures the obsessive in me. I mean it's easier to notice flaws than to write well. The reason why there are more critics than artists in the world!

I make mistakes all the time in my tentative reviews, and that's why I firmly believe in collegial discussions and online interaction to be able to confront opposing views, measure up to their equally sound arguments and reassess my assumptions. The point isn't to be ashamed of occasional fallacies, conscious or not, because one could argue and defend the rational and redeeming value of such fallacies. I mean it's an open debate! (Just read how pro's and con's Farber quarrel on a_film_by to justify with hindsight his arguable "mistakes")

Although I kinda expected to stir a debate around these issues that plague credibility of film criticism, either in the comments or by inspiring responding posts on other blogs... So now it sounds like I'm lecturing or even talking to myself. I wonder if it's an outrage to criticize critics, if I'm just overstating truisms, or if all this is just B.S. My intention wasn't to make new enemies or make my readers think I'm accusing anybody in particular because it's really just an theoretical overview of most frequently found errors, general principles, from my limited/biased/uneducated perspective. External contributions (which I'm trying hard to include with citations), references and comments would perhaps confirm or infirm these points brought up in the series.
If you practice criticism, just like me, you obviously have a conception of how it should operate and how you function everytime you write on a film, be it an academic rigor or an autodidact improvisation, and it's worth talking about it, and defending the various options and capabilities available to everyone of us.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do a remarkable job at debunking fallacies used by journalists and politicians in mediatic affairs, through irony and caricature. These comedians are more critical than actual journalists even though it's not their job to be relevant and educational. I would have never thought Politics (which is inherently boring and obscure) could feed successful punch lines, much less than comedy would provide check and balance to alienating moral controversies. Where are the Stewarts & Colberts of film criticism to use witty literary style to expose faulty reviews (without taking sides for a movie) and to defend standards of criticism?

I'd rather believe my posts are bullshit than that let readers be cautious against feedback without this little disclaimer. Anyway this is another ambitious project I don't see the end of, so bear with me and be patient if it's of any interest. Comments and support would help no doubt. Or else I'll take this series home, at snail pace, for what it's worth. ;)

In the meantime don't miss Andy Horbal's blogathon on film criticism at No More Marriage! (December 1-3)

Contributions, disputes, examples are encouraged as always.
Coming up, Critical Fallacy 5 : Complacency

11 octobre 2006

Contemplative Cinema blogathon (update)

The blogathon on contemplative cinema I called earlier will be re-scheduled to January 2007 (Monday 8th)because the hasty date I originally picked (Nov. 15th) was already taken by Hitchcock, and I didn't know. I didn't mean to overlap, and I want to participate to this one too.
So this gives you a couple months more to think about it, and hopefully to give more time for other vocations to join in. Sorry for the inconvenience this postponed date may cause. Please tell your friends about the blogathon and its new date.

Blogathons schedule :

See you all there!

01 octobre 2006

Unspoken Cinema

Let's talk about "boring art films"

I'd like to call for a blogathon on contemplative cinema, the kind that rejects conventional narration to develop almost essentially through minimalistic visual language and atmosphere, without the help of music, dialogue, melodrama, action-montage, and star system. Contributors are invited to pick a film or an auteur fitting this (undefined) profile, or to ponder over the general characteristics, roots, aesthetics, significance of this emerging trend in contemporean art films. Feel free to chime in and help define this nebulous "genre" in the comments. It requires a new form of criticism because a capsule summary is usually detrimental and misrepresentative of what the film has to offer. I often find myself at loss when confronted with the description of a film where nothing is happening. How could we best give justice to these films that defeat all codes of cinema history we've been conditionned to detect and connect with?

Without imposing a final exhaustive list before the discussion, a few names to illustrate the type of films in question and to help whoever is not familiar yet to draw correspondances :
  • Bela Tarr, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Pedro Costa, Saruna Bartas, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Carlos Reygadas, Tsai Ming-liang, Aktan Abdykalykov, Bruno Dumont, Elia Suleiman, Lisandro Alonso, Aleksandr Sokurov ... (wordless and plotless?)
  • Jia Zhang-ke, Aki Kaurismaki, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wong Kar-wai, Hong Sang-soo, Lucrecia Martel, Theo Angelopoulos, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Claire Denis, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Jim Jarmusch ... (contemplative narration?)
  • Marguerite Duras, Michael Snow (conceptual?)
  • And even documentarians : Wang Bing, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Chantal Akerman, Victor Erice, Raymond Depardon ...
These films catch the critical attention of festivals around the world, every year, but aren't given much exposition or theorized much... So if you feel strongly about "boring art films", positively or negatively, or particularly like one of them, please join this collegial effort to explore, decypher and understand better this cutting edge, marginal cinema.

Maybe we could answer some questions :
  • What is/isn't a Boring Art Film? What have they in common? Is it a coherent family? How should it be (re)named?
  • Why "boredom" is the new "great"? How to champion boredom against entertainment? How to "sell" a "boring film" to the general audience? When does it become actually boring in a bad way?
  • How are these auteurs different from eachother? Is it only a formal/superficial familiarity?
  • Where this trend comes from? Cinematic filiation? Artistic influences?
The last couple of years, I read and gathered some articles on the subject, but if you have more references to share, paper or online, drop it here and I'll add to the list for everyone to read.
Online :

Bibliography :

  • Des films Gueule de bois - notes sur le mutisme dans le cinéma contemporain (Antony Fiant in Trafic #50)
  • Vers une esthétique du vide au cinéma (José Moure, 1997)
  • "The destruction of plot and narrative" in Film as a Subversive Art (Amos Vogel)
  • Transcendental style in film : Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (Schrader, 1972)
  • Sculpting in Time (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1989)
  • Lanterna Magica (Ingmar Bergman, 1987)
  • Light Keeps Me Company (Sven Nykvist)
  • Devotional Cinema (Nathaniel Dorsky)
  • Visionary Film (P Adams Sitney, NY 1979)
  • Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (David Bordwell)
  • La Lenteur / Slowness (Milan Kundera, 1995)

On Boredom : (only tangential theme of the blogathon)

  • L'Ennui / La Noia / Boredom (Alberto Moravia, 1960)
  • The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (Martin Heidegger)
  • Essays and Aphorisms (Arthur Schopenhauer)
  • Anatomy of Melancholy (Robert Burton, 1621)
  • A Philosophy of Boredom (Lars Svendsen, 1999)

I'm not sure about the deadline, I'm thinking Monday the 13th. [UPDATE] New deadline : Monday, 8th January 2007.
I also would like to try an experiment to expand the blogathon experience, and open a collective event-blog (online now already) for the occasion, during the month of January. So participants will become member-administrator and be able to post new entries.
Either you stick to the classic blogathon rules and crosspost your entry on this collective blog on deadline, or you can visit the blog all month, ask questions, suggest themes to address, add references and comment on the ongoing discussions to collect and share the most critical material around "boring art films" available.
Crossposting all entries is not meant to "steal the thunder" (and comments) each individual bloggers could get on their own blog but hopefully to help focus a productive discussion in one place. Well if this sounds inacceptable, we could always go by the traditional blogathon standard.
* * *
New Contributions to the blogathon :

BLOGATHON (rules reminder) :
Every blogger is welcome to join this event and write a post on the topic proposed (here, "boring art films") on the deadline fixed by the organisator/host (HarryTuttle). Simple as that. Thus creating a wealth of articles by various writers focusing on the same idea on the same day, a blogosphere mindstorming, or a thematical special issue in electronic form. Every post participating to the blogathon will be listed and linked here. You may leave a comment to this post to show your interest, or just publish your post on deadline. Don't forget to send me a link to your contribution by email or in the comments. Happy blogathon everyone!