22 décembre 2012

FC 2012 : Academic Matrix follow up

When you map the supposedly "Best Films of The Year" (according to Film Comment, and to whatever Hollywood distributors agreed to back up) on the Academic Matrix of the main aesthetic categories, you realise, first that they are almost all concentrated in one quadrant (much less diverse than the S&S 2012 Top50 of All Time Canon), and a very distinctive separation emerges between anglophone (indie) films and the non-anglophone films.
Firstly, this selection of "Best Films of the Year" aren't very far from the Academic core, the classical way of making movies. Hollywood's own center of gravity is located in the "Conformism" box, the mainstream, classical, conservative way of storytelling. The more state-of-the-art classicism is in the next box, the center of the matrix : "Academism" itself. Away from the center are more diluted version of this academism, and in the margins are the more stylized, formalist, realistic, or experimental. 
American cinema and more generally Anglophone movies usually conform to a very classical narration, stereotypical plots and tame form, even when they claim to be "indies". As you see, except for the handful of actual mainstream blockbusters (see the distribution numbers here), the American films ending up on a Year-End Best-Of, for American reviewers, are usually so-called "indies", because they are perceived to represent the more "artsy", less commercial, less profit-driven part of American cinema. That's the category celebrated at Sundance or Telluride, and the one nominated by the Academy to represent the "quality" side of American cinema. Although everyone knows they are made in Hollywood too, most of them funded by the same producers/studios (under different divisions and names), and the "indie" filmmakers themselves only dream of making an imitation of the traditional feel-good Hollywood movie to appeal to the masses but with "quality" and "feelings". On this map we can notice that they never stray off very far from the Hollywood formula.
The American films (even the Year's Best Of), is mainly classical, with a tendency toward "Mannerism" (i.e. the more stylised theatrics) and another one toward "Parody" (which is not solely the realm of pastiche but more generally the light (or lowbrow) genres, more geared for entertainment... These are not lower forms of filmmaking per se, as evidenced on the S&S Canon matrix, or La matrice des montages, where critically masterpieces and great masters operate and succeed. Notable exceptions : a couple films this year venture in surrealist territory to offer quite a disconcerting storytelling : Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

On the other hand, the films from World Cinema selected by American critics are not the "Best Of local indie production", they are generally high-profile productions, sometimes even mainstream in their local market, and most often, more than just the struggling artsy independents from their respective countries, they are the grand standing films that competed on a planetary level, with the best of what each country had to offer, within the elitist scene of (major) international film festivals. And the result, is farther away from classicism. What Americans (and Hollywoodophiles) name "festival films", or "slow films", mostly come from the bottom-left quadrant, centered around "Realism" and "Hyperrealism", the new trend of (actual) independent cinema in the world. They are more INDEPENDENT stylistically from the major production of mainstream studios.
And this might explain why the "Hollywood patriots" tend to complain about festivals that favour this hyperrealistic trend (and label it in the most possible pejorative manner) and neglect the more genre driven theatrics of American storytelling. Thus the divide between an American conception of how "indie" cinema should be, and how independent cinema is in the rest of the world.

Mini "roundtable" about Film Comment 2012 Top50 list by its editors
Dec 2012 (Gavin Smith, Kent Jones, Robert Koehler) 17'28"

Gavin Smith introduces (timidly) the results with a caveat about the "concensus" aspect of such poll (solely reserved to American reviewers) and also acknowledges the fact most of these titles premièred in Cannes and other major festivals! Flashback to January 2011 (see Without Festivals) and February 2012 (see Critical Fallacy #13 : Inconsistent Standards)... Did they wait for me to tell them that the job of film critic was to issue opinions that are consistent with one's own practice??? I hope not, yet, it's only in 2012 that they discover that, maybe, it isn't so smart (or productive) to lambast foreign festival all year long when you draw ALL YOUR BEST FILM CANDIDATES for your Year-End list... Sigh. At least, when we start on the right foot, by being intellectually honest and objective about the formation and the function of such polls, we can have a reasonable conversation about stylistic trends, quality, and taste, whatever the winning titles are.

Anyway, the chief editor continues by expressing his reluctant endorsement of this poll (as usual! see: Double-Standards) since he doesn't feel his taste is represented by this (undesirable) "consensus". Be sure that if his favourite picks were at the top of the list, he would find this poll the most awesome expression of democracy... Bias and double standard WIN! He's one of the reviewers who prefer fun and entertainment (Dan Kois, Mark Cousins anyone?) and still want to cheat their way into serious "artfilm" circles (they want adult cinema, political stories, historical documents... but not so damn depressing! with a bit of zaz and laughters between the bodycounts of human tragedies for fuck sake!), and lead a team of editors at Film Comment that contradict his taste. Nothing wrong with a mainstream taste, or for preferring plain entertainment (as an individual movie goer speaking for him/herself), but when you claim to give an educated opinion on the state of world cinema as a whole, on the achievements of the best filmmakers, on the important documents, you can't underestimate the standard difference between easy leisurely distraction and the more resourceful accomplishments made in a whole different level of filmmaking. Maybe the mass won't approve, and you won't have as much fun as watching bodies being dismembered in slasher flicks, but serious drama and documentaries take more efforts to make and critics are there to acclaim hardwork, not primary-instinct-based spectacles, however successful they are...

This said, and given the state of the artfilm niche and the moribund cinephilia in the USA, the results of this poll aren't so bad. Well, they do boost a lot of mediocre American spectacles (that are merely the best of the entertainment industry, or in other terms, well-made spectacle, which appear as masterpieces when compared to the majority of Hollywood approximate productions).
It is certainly unexpected and cause for congratulations that a UFO like Holy Motors tops the list of the American cinephile taste, accompanied by This Is Not A Film (#4), The Turin Horse (#6), Tabu (#11), Attenberg (#25), Two Years At Sea (#38) and Alps (#45). They are not totally useless (even if their "shut-in DVD complacency" gave up on artfilm theatrical projections), and they know when to stick their neck out, in spite of the threat of "elitist" namecalling from the mass of their readers, in support of challenging artfilms without commercial appeal and little narrative tradition to hold on to for the average moviegoer. Let's ignore the fact they list alongside, in the same breath, laughable spectacles such as Bernie, Argo, Looper, Skyfall,  Haywire, Compliance, Kill List, and The Dark Knight Rises... which would be enough to question their understanding of world-wide quality standards (maybe these are the best you've seen all year on your Hollywood-control market, but there are dozens of artfilms that popped up on the festival circuit this year that are ignored, even by the "undistributed list" addendum! For instance, Faust was on the unreleased list last year, and this year has been forgotten, both by voters and distributors...

Related :

19 décembre 2012

Film Comment Ranks Films Approved by Hollywood

Voting a non-American film at top spot (Holy Motors, France) is one thing, congratulation, but giving it the kind of distribution it deserves would be better, don't you think? Or else, what's the point of saying the BEST FILM OF THE YEAR only get 29 screens nationwide (150 times less than the blockbuster at #49!)? I know, Carax is an odd example, because it is definitely experimental and not for everybody's taste, thus will always get a slim market share. But in France (where it plays home-advantage) it was distributed on 116 max screens nationwide, even though we have 7 times less total available screens than in the USA. I don't think it was the amount of dialogue to be subtitled that made a major obstacle in the USA... And Tree of Life, last year, an equally puzzling experimental film (also at #1 on their list), got 237 screens nationwide in the USA, which is a dire distribution, but not as insulting as for Holy Motors.
Sorry number 1 film of the year, we love you, but it doesn't make us think twice before playing the Year-End Top list mania if your distribution treats you like dirt... 

It didn't improve since last year (see their chart for their 2011 Top50), there is also 8 blockbuster on their list, and still rather in the bottom half of the ranking, but what's worse is that gap increased between the plethoric distribution for blockbusters (The Dark Knight gets 11% of all screens available!) while the "niche" section has been entirely coopted by strictly American-made 'indie' films, leaving no room for imports but in the near invsible section. This year, there were a couple of imports above 100 max screens from the UK (The Deep Blue Sea) and France (De rouille et d'os, 659 max screens in France; Les adieux à la reine, 260 max screens in France), even Belgium (with Le gamin au vélo, 34 max screens in Belgium, 234 in France) and barely 1 from Israel (Footnote, 50 max screens in France)! This is dreadful... Do you think they would give a shit? Not really. They are not even aware of it, don't analyse the situation, don't mention it in their introductory text, don't open a serious debate on it, don't start a year-long grassroot campaign to bring back spectators in arthouses... THEY DO NOT GIVE A SHIT.

Film Comment is only another mouthpiece for the Hollywood P.R. You'd think that being an independent institution (a kind of cinémathèque), they wouldn't have to play along the mercantile game of weekly distribution and self-congratulatory acclaim for Hollywood-made products... 
Look at their addendum for the "Undistributed Films" (those not deemed profitable enough by American Hollywood distributors)... even the "self-distributed" end up on this list of rejects... because in America, and in Film Comment's mind, being self-distributed in a country that only screens entertainment for profit is not good enough to be included on the "Distributed Films" list! If it's not picked up by an official Hollywood distributor, we'll consider it as lowly as the undistributed ones. That's the mentality of the arthouse institution supposedly independent from the commercial circuit! What a shame.

If it's not Hollywood-made, it doesn't get 100 screens nationwide. 
If it's not American-made, it's not distributed at all! Direct-to-Video (if they're lucky)

If there were some cinéphiles, and a couple of critics, in the USA, they would give a shit and do something about it. But there is none. NONE. 
America didn't get its coming-of-age eureka moment yet... for their emancipation from the commercial industry. In France, "cinema is an art AND an industry", since 1946 (Malraux). In the USA, in 2012, 66 years later, is still ONLY an industry. Sad but true. Who would dare to dispute this fact??? Never before your cinephile marginal niche goes over the 1% threshold... would you get a chance to dispute it. 

N.B. if there is a "?" on the graph, I couldn't find any stats for that film distribution, but don't brace yourself, it probably means it's not on record because its paultry distribution went unoticed. However there are a couple of films due for release at the end of december.

Related :

18 décembre 2012

Où est le cinéma? (Dercon, Karmakar)

La vieille question d’André Bazin, « Qu’est-que le cinéma ? », doit aujourd’hui être remplacée par celle-ci : « Où est le cinéma ? » La réponse est bien entendu : partout, et une question cruciale est celle de la nouvelle circulation des films. Ces vingt dernières années, le musée a été une plateforme importante pour des films qui avaient très peu de chances d’êtres vus ailleurs, mais cela ne suffit pas. Il faut maintenant donner sa place au cinéma en tant que mode de vie. Chacun à sa manière, Steve McQueen, Pedro Costa et Romuald Karmakar, qui pratiquent une nouvelle forme de cinéma « réaliste », se montrent fascinés, au sein même de leurs films, par un tel objectif.

Voir aussi :

17 décembre 2012

High Frame Rate 3D catches up with 2D

Congratulations HFR (High Frame Rate) for bringing back 3D cinema up to speed with the old 2D cinema at 24 frames per second! 

Below 12 or 15 FPS, the human eye notices the frame switch, which results in a flicker effect. And the slower it gets, the closer to a slide show cinema gets. Early silent cinema started at around 15 or 18 FPS, thus was barely meeting the human vision threshold to achieve the illusion of movement from a succession of still images. Anything above 18 FPS rate looks perfectly smooth and in "live" motion, including the slight apparent "breathing" caused by the photochemical grains of a static shot of a perfectly still landscape. 

The standard projection rate of 24FPS made silent cinema (shot at a lower rate) look faster, which led to the "Benny Hill chase" effect of characters moving faster than usual. Not to mention that early cameras were operated manually. Operators spun the film stock with a hand crank, following a metronom or by singing a tune with a regular rhythm. So the footage was more or less captured at a reasonably constant speed, but not perfectly, while the projection was automated with a very regular engine. Thus the possible discrepency in actual recorded/projected speed.

There is nothing sacred, optimal, mythical about the 24FPS, no matter what Godard declares... (see When do Images Turn Into Cinema?) It was a rather random standard defined by the industry (for practical and economical reasons). And just like the film strip is not ontologically attached to the invention of cinema, the 24FPS is not any more defining "true cinema" than any other operative frame rate. The HFR is only another technology-based "look", like the transition from Black&White to colour caused much emotions amongst filmmakers as well as audience, or the drop of the Technicolor typical "look" for truer colours, or the more recent "TV-look" of the more perfect digital image. We're not used to sudden change, so we cling to familiar aesthetic, nurtured by nostalgia. If HFR looks different, it's mostly because it has been used to the maximum of its possibility, to show off a "life-like" image. But it would be easy to apply post-production effects and voluntarily "degrade" this perfection with the traditional filters in order to recreate the vintage "celluloid look". HFR will fix the problems inherent with camera capture at slow speed rate, like motion blur, and will offer a wider range of on screen aesthetics, from "reality-through-a-window" to "HDTV" to vintage "physical filmstrip", to primitive silent cinema...

When 3D cinema creates an illusion of depth with the projection technology of 2D cinema, at the same frame rate, it renders 3D films darker, obviously, because each eye receives twice as less light per second as a 2D film (whichever frame rate is used). Whether the 3D stereoscopic technology is based on anaglyph light (red/cyan, or green/magenta), polarized light or mechanically shuttered with synchronised glasses, the projected film is either dimmed by the colour/polarized filters, or by the occultation of each eye alternatively. Even the latest 3D technology cannot escape that effect because it needs to cram 2 dissociated films (the film viewed from the left eye vantage point, and the film viewed by the right eye vantage point) to restore the normal stereotypical human vision. Every other frame is whitened out (anaglyph), blackened out (polarized), blocked out (shuttered glasses) for a given eye so that it only sees the frames corresponding to its appropriate film. The rest of the time, that eye doesn't see anything (while the other eye is exposed to an image, however fast is that image exposition, or in-projector double(triple)-flashing). 

If you take off your 3D glasses during the projection of a 3D movie, all you see is a blurry combination of both Left and Rigth eye images merged at 24FPS, because the human eye is incapable to distinguish an alternation of 2 films 24 times a second. The brain perceives only one stream of visual input which dances left and right a few centimeters 24 times a second, which appears like an out-of-focus defect. The blur traduces the vision has exceeded the perceptual threshold, not only at the movies, but in real life too. If you wring your finger very fast in front of your eye, or if you look at a bicycle wheel, it becomes blurry (or jittery) when the motion exceeds the limits of human vision (the processing time of our brains).
If you close one eye, with the 3D glasses on, you only see 1 stream of images destined to the eye opened, and is blocked half the time, 12 times a second (or 24 times with HFR). Thus there is no blur due to the merger of both films. It only turns a stereoscopic cinema (3D) into a monoscopic cinema (2D), only reduced to 12FPS. At 24FPS, a 2D film switch frame 24 times per second, spending a minimal lapse (maybe less than 10% of 1/24th of a second) blocked out while the projector mechanism moves the next still image in place. But in a 3D movie, each eye sees a film that spends exactly 1/24th of a second blocked out (while the other eye is exposed to an image), and this 12 times per second. So if you close one eye, you will see a clear 2D movie (from only one of the 2 vantage points provided by a 3D movie), but darker than usual, because it spends half the time blocked out, even if at 12FPS, we can't really notice this swift occultation.

So overall, the brains adds up the visual input from both eyes and mix them into on single stereoscopic film, however, adding 2 unilateral films at 12FPS does not make a unified film at 24 FPS... it only drops the final frame rate to 12FPS even if the original film print is projected at 24FPS. 

The transition from physical film print (film reel) to digital projection (DCP) meet the exact same problem, because the technological leap does not affect this aspect. The "silver screen" is a metalic screen, more reflective than a simple white sheet, therefore reverberates more light (or more exactly, dissipates less incoming light upon rebound) for the spectator. This partially improves the darker images issue, but doesn't address the frame rate problem.

At such a low frame rate, the camerawork is highly sensitive to violent movements. Maybe the popularisation of the shaky cam is a way to familiarize the audience more with the blurry motion at 12FPS. The lateral panoramic camera movements especially result in a jittery image, discontinuous, blurry. This technical limitation (combined with the intensive use of CGI which also needs to hide the seams) might explain why the last decade has develop a cinema aesthetic based on less-than-perfect motion (shaky, blurry, explosive, contradictory), and accelerated editing (intensified continuity, chaos cinema, always shorter bursts of integral continuity), as well as less wide camera movements between cuts (no plan sequence, long takes, magestic tracking shots, panorama...). The flyover shot (airborne camera) is less troublesome because there is no foreground reference, all the image is in a distant background, were displacement within the frame is much slower. Only the foreground in a lateral pan, crossing the frame quickly (in a couple frames) will appear jittery.

It's not a coincidence if Peter Jackson wanted to shoot his 3D movie (The Hobbit) at 48FPS, it doubles the frame rate of a 24FPS 3D movie, thus restores the usual 24FPS rate for each eye, and will consequently make the experience brighter (or as bright as it was with a 24FPS 2D film). There is no problem with that (or eventually for the inexperienced digital projectionists).

And if James Cameron wants to impose a new standard at 60 FPS, it will match the old standard and raises it by 6FPS for each eye (corresponding to a 2D film at 30FPS instead of 24, an improvement of +25%). Same correction. No big deal.

Although, I'm not sure a higher frame rate will fix the luminosity issue, since as many frames you can project per second, there is always a blocked out screen for each eye, exactly half the time. But it will definitely improve the rendition of motion on screen.

If cinema projection was to attain 1000FPS, it wouldn't change the ontological identity of cinema, on a film strip or in digital projection. This process is only to restore a synthetized motion from still pictures (analytical motion), and could be achieved through many different mechanisms... The concept of cinema is only that : to retranscribe motion, to show one single image, "alive", moving seamlessly, to show as many perceptual changes we can notice in real life with the limitation of our biological eye. At 1000FPS, most of the gain in motion quality will not even register for a human eye, so it would be a waste (there is also an upper thresold above which the human eye cannot perceive more information per second), but it could possibly make the experience more comfortable, less tiring, and certainly less jittery in certain circumstances (like with the lateral pan foreground, whip-zoom, drive-by, foreground during tracking shots, and smoother rolling of onscreen credits (when text is moving rapidly in the plane of the screen).

An ACTUALLY high frame rate (more than 24FPS for either eye), will make the capture of motion more precise during shooting (by sampling more still images along the trajectory), and make the display smoother during the projection. So there is no rational reasons to oppose the natural evolution of the technology, even if this technological transition is abused by the wealthy studios to anihilate the niche markets that strive off of low-tech, retro-tech projection. 
Just like the CD killed the vinyl, the VHS killed the 16mm, the DVD killed the VHS, the BluRay is killing the DVD, the VoD is gonna kill the physical print, like the DCP will entirely replace all the local institutions based on lending/renting of physical film prints. The diversity of offering and the access to the available stock is the real concern, not the necessary improvements of a technology that has barely changed since 1894!

Related :

14 décembre 2012

Cinéma Numérique Français (France Culture)

Génération HD, ou l’explosion d’un cinéma urbain

1. Ça tourne à Aubervilliers (10 déc 2012) [MP3] 54'
Ce documentaire est une balade au coeur des quartiers d’Aubervilliers, en compagnie de Carine et Hakim sur leurs lieux de tournage, à la rencontre des comédiens Mourad Boudaoud, Tarek Aggoun, Caillot, Madani et du slameur Hocine Ben.
Carine May et Hakim Zouhani, tous deux originaires d’Aubervilliers, décident de tourner un long métrage de cinéma « Rue des Cités » sans argent avec la participation des habitants de leur ville. Après trois ans de tournage et de postproduction épiques, « Rue des Cités » voit enfin le jour et décroche une sélection au Festival de Cannes (ACID) en 2011.
L’originalité du film, outre son noir et blanc esthétique est son imbrication du documentaire dans un récit fictionnel. Ce film choral fait par et pour les habitants est une réussite et raconte la vie intime, quotidienne des Cités, loin de la représentation caricaturale et alarmiste des journaux télévisés.

2. Du cinéma Guérilla à l’Industrie (11 déc 2012) [MP3] 54'
Djinn Carrénard « Donoma », Jean Pascal Zadi « African Gangster » et Jérôme Maldhé « Vole comme un papillon » sont trois jeunes cinéastes qui ont comme point commun de réaliser des premiers longs métrages. Autoproduction, radicalité et débrouillardise collective : ils s’affranchissent des codes du cinéma dominant et osent, à la marge de la marge du 7ème Art, aborder des thèmes sulfureux, sociaux et politiquement incorrects. Cette intransigeance attire inévitablement « les professionnels de la profession » impressionnés par leur culot et leur modernité ; les sollicitations de l’industrie sont souvent nombreuses. Comment vivent-ils ce passage difficile de l’indépendance underground à la reconnaissance du système ? Comment vivent – ils leur professionnalisation ?
Avec la Participation d’Aïcha Belaïdi, programmatrice du Festival Les Pépites du cinéma à la Courneuve et à Saint-Ouen, accompagnatrice des premières heures.

3. Rachid Djaïdani, le cinéma uppercut (12 déc 2012) [MP3] 54'
Rachid Djaïdani, maçon, boxeur, écrivain, comédien, originaire de Carrière-sous-Poissy (dans les Yvelines) vient de réaliser un exploit : il réalise son premier long métrage de cinéma « Rengaine », sélectionné à la Quinzaine des Cannes en 2012, sans argent, tourné pendant neuf ans ! Homme orchestre déterminé, il se raconte entre la Banlieue et Paris, la Cité, l’enfance, sa double culture soudano-algérienne, la découverte des plateaux de cinéma, le souvenir des portes qui se referment. Contre vents et marées, comme un pied de nez au réalisme ambiant, il décide de partir sans équipe, sans argent ni scénario dans la fabrication improvisée d’un conte urbain qui ose aborder des thématiques tabous dans les communautés immigrées, à savoir le racisme viscéral et les formes de rejet entre noirs et arabes. Son Roméo et Juliette des temps modernes, en prise directe avec les palpitations du bitume parisien, esquisse un portrait générationnel des marginaux du cinéma français. « Rengaine » est une œuvre rare, intègre, Hip Hop, foutraque, qui transgresse les codes du film de Cité et impose une nouvelle manière de voir notre monde. Un cinéma coup de poing imposant un nouveau talent du 7ème art.

4. Esprit libre dans le cinéma Français (13 déc 2012) [MP3] 54'
Alice Fargier a deux amours : le cinéma et la radio ; pour ce qui leur est commun : l’enregistrement d’une pensée vivante, d’une pensée qui circule, se propage, se reçoit, s’assimile, se transforme. Un grand mouvement…Elle se revoit à quinze ans bouillonnant d’impatience, bouillonnant que le cinéma français change et trouve un esprit disparu, abandonné : un esprit de liberté. Cet esprit qui l’a tant fait l’aimer : transports extatiques de spectatrice en découvrant les films de Jean-Luc Godard et François Truffaut. Puis les autres, toute la bande de la Nouvelle Vague.
Céline Sciamma, Guillaume Brac, Sophie Letourneur, Justine Triet, Vincent Macaigne et Srinath Samarasinghe ont exaucé un souhait qui n’aurait en réalité pu se produire, il y a dix ans… La patience a payé et la technologie a du bon ! Le numérique a fait évoluer les mentalités. Aujourd’hui, il est possible de faire un film pour peu d’argent et de s’affranchir des diktats des chaînes de télé. Une nouvelle « Nouvelle Vague » ?
Ces objets cinématographiques (mis à part un dispositif semblable au niveau de la production) ont un point commun : s’emparer d’un sujet nouveau et intime. Le désir d’une petite fille de devenir un garçon dans « Tomboy », la solitude d’un homme qui ne sait pas s’y prendre avec les femmes dans « Un monde sans femmes » …Ces cinéastes partagent tous une audace, un goût du risque et une grande détermination. La liberté est leur maître mot, l’outil numérique souvent la clef.
Portrait d’une génération de jeunes cinéastes qui est en train de modifier le paysage cinématographique français.
Avec : Céline Sciamma, Guillaume Brac, Sophie Letourneur, Justine Triet, Vincent Macaigne, et Srinath Samarasinghe.

12 décembre 2012

John Cassavetes (Jousse)

Conférence sur John Cassavetes
27 novembre 2012 (Institut Lumière; Lyon; France) 1h13'
Thierry Jousse est venu à l'Institut Lumière pour nous parler du réalisateur John Cassavetes. A l'issu de la conférence, Thierry Jousse a présenté "Meutre d'un bookmaker chinois" de John Cassavetes

10 décembre 2012

Etat du Monde 2012 (Forum des Images)

Journalistes de la presse internationale et critiques de cinéma se rassemblent autour d’une table ronde pour revenir sur la production cinématographique de l’année 2012 et l’analyser avec une lecture spécifique. Quels films ont eu un impact social particulier et pourquoi ? Quelle attente avons-nous d’un film mexicain, saoudien, français ou américain ?
Table ronde animée par Marc Saghié, chef du service Moyen-Orient de Courrier International
Avec Béatrice Giblin (géographe, Institut français de géopolitique), Pierre Haski (journaliste, cofondateur de Rue 89), Charles Tesson (délégué général de la Semaine de la critique, journaliste aux Cahiers du cinéma).

08 décembre 2012

Dogville spoof (ironic)

Korean Hip Hop solo artist 프라이머리(Primary) in the music video : "?" [sic] (물음표) Nov 2012

pays homage to (or steals from) Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier's experimental stage piece :

Dogville (2003/Lars von Trier/Denmark)

Related :

07 décembre 2012

Cultural Censorship : Hungary, Romania, USA (ironic)

Making Waves: "Sequences" and Romanian Cinema Panel
Dec 2012 (Film Society Lincoln Center) 1h04"48'
Director of photography Florin Mihăilescu introduces Alexandru Tatos' classic 1986 film, "Sequences," screening in our Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema series.
Following the screening, Making Waves Artistic Director Mihai Chirilov sits down with visual artist Dan Perjovschi, producer Ada Solomon, director Mona Nicoara, and essayist Eszter Babarczy to discuss the context and current state of Romanian cinema.

* * *

Making Waves: Hungarian Cinema Panel
Dec 2012 (Film Society Lincoln Center) 50'07"
Film Society's Associate Director of Programming sits down with essayist Eszter Babarczy, arts curator György Szabó, and film director Mona Nicoară to discuss recent changes in Hungary and their impact on Hungarian cinema.

Related :

03 décembre 2012

01 décembre 2012

Cinema Aesthetic Matrix (Paintings edition)

Cinema Aesthetics Matrix (Painting analogy guide edition)

The history of art paintings is much older than the one of cinema, it is often more familiar and intuitive too because the affinities/contrasts/ruptures between art periods, art movements, stylistic schools are defined by rather clear visual differences, at least on an primary intuitive level. That's why it is a helpful visual aid to better grasp the more subtle, complex differences between film styles. A map of plastic styles would not look exactly as this, because the names of aesthetic styles in cinema don't quite overlap the ones in paintings, because the continuity and transition between each "step" work on particular planes : plastic representation and thematics for paintings, and for cinema we have to put into consideration not only the visuals (cinematographic style, lighting style, set style, costume style) but the visuals on the 4th dimension (editing style), the performance style, the dialogue style, the soundscape style (music score style, audio capture style) and the thematics.

The matrix historically initiate on the bottom left corner (Primitive style), but the current standard today is located in the center (Academism).
The matrix expands radially, in a centrifuge way, in all directions at the same time.

Pay attention to the ARTISTIC REPRESENTATION of the human face/body in these paintings, and how it differs from the ones right next to them, and even more from the ones further away. Some go for versimilitude, or strive to attain it at least, others never try to go near it and instead propose a very personal INTERPRETAION of the anthropomorphic representation, more personal, more simplified/stereotypical, or on the contrary a more complexified/transmuted version of a human figure. Same goes with the art of Mise en scène in cinema, and we see the same affinities and contrasts between various branches of cinema history, the realists, the verbose, the minimalists or the abstracts... (to cite only a few of them possibilities discovered by filmmakers over the years).

Related :

26 novembre 2012

Years and Countries favoured by S&S2012 Poll

That's 100 global nominees in total for an individual Top10 entry, and only 18 countries are represented (and 6 countries get everything but 18 of them 100)...

Guess which countries voted in majority at the 2012 Sight & Sound All Time Greatest Films Poll?
Or more exactly, the right question is : What is are country of origin of all films seen by the voters? (not just masterpieces, but all there film culture). It's easy to assume that most of the voters are only familiar with the select few "top cinema nations", which have a larger number of potential masterpieces (historically), no question about it. But candidates for a canon are not limited to the major cinema nations, it's a matter of artworks proposed by individuals, not by countries, and a timeless masterpiece may originate from any part of the world, even countries where the cinema industry is suppressed, censored or generally mediocre...

Related :

24 novembre 2012

Gilles Deleuze Notre Contemporain (France Culture)

Deleuze : notre contemporain
Hors Champ (Laure Adler; France Culture; Nov 2012)
Deleuze, c'est un style, une manière de penser le tout du monde, un démineur, une personne qui, quand on la lit, nous rend plus éveillés, plus aux aguets sans doute, parce qu'il ne donne jamais de réponses, mais continue à questionner.
Deleuze donc en 2012 notre contemporain.
Pourquoi, en le relisant, provoque-t-il encore de l'étonnement ? Comment les concepts qu'il invente - rhizome, machine désirante, ligne de fuite et bien d'autres - restent-ils opératoires aujourd'hui ?
Existe-t-il plusieurs Deleuze ? Peut-être celui qui, très jeune, nous a permis de relire Bergson, Hume, Spinoza autrement ne s'est jamais cantonné dans l'histoire de la philosophie et a pensé à la transformer en possibilité d'interrogation du monde - ce qui l'intéresse, ce n'est pas l'harmonie mais le symptôme, tout ce qui peut introduire du désordre.
Aujourd'hui plus connu par son Abécédaire que par Différence et répétition, Le Pli, Proust et les signes, son travail avec Félix Guattari avec L'Anti-Oedipe et Mille Plateaux nous ont permis de mieux comprendre les lignes de tension du capitalisme. Les relectures de Kafka, Beckett, Lewis Caroll demeurent toujours éclairantes ainsi que ses deux opus sur le cinéma
Deleuze aujourd'hui nous donne de l'énergie, du courage et de la jubilation.
Deleuze ou la philosophie exemplaire.
Deleuze ou la boîte à outils du XXIe siècle.
1. Gilles Deleuze et les enjeux philosophiques (19 Nov 2012) 45' [MP3]
avec Jean Clesmartin (Philosophe)

2. Gilles Deleuze relit l'histoire de la philosophie (20 Nov 2012) 45' [MP3]
avec René Schérer (Philosophe)

3. Gilles Deleuze et la vie (21 Nov 2012) 45' [MP3]
avec Gérard Fromanger (peintre) et Jean-Jacques Lebel (Plasticien)

4. Gilles Deleuze : Cinéma 1&2 (22 Nov 2012) 45' [MP3]
avec Raymond Bellour (écrivain, théoricien)

5. Gilles Deleuze (23 Nov 2012) 45' [MP3]
avec David Lapoujade (Philosophe)

Voir aussi :

23 novembre 2012

Masterclass Cristian Mungiu (2012)

La Master class de Cristian Mungiu par forumdesimages

Ecoutez aussi :

  • Projection Privée (Michel Ciment; France Culture; 24 Nov 2012) 59' [MP3]
    Entretien avec Cristian Mungiu 

15 novembre 2012

Police de Pialat (Desbarats)

19 Oct 2012 (Forum des Images) 1h16'
L’un des rares films de genre de Pialat. Quand il en parle, le réalisateur évoque le climat des Carné, de Quai des brumes. Pialat y retrouve probablement le pessimisme douloureux qui marque son oeuvre. “Le fond de toute chose est pourri”, dit Gérard Depardieu, flic apparemment conventionnel. Ce serait sans compter avec l’étonnante capacité de Pialat à s’intéresser à ses personnages, sans concession, et donc à fouiller les blessures douloureuses. 
Directrice de la communication et de la diffusion des savoirs à l’ENS, Carole Desbarats anime le groupe de réflexion des Enfants de cinéma. Son dernier essai : “Conte d’été, Éric Rohmer” (Éd. Scérén-Cndp, 2012).

Ce cours de cinéma a eu lieu 19 octobre 2012, au Forum des images, Paris, dans le cadre du cycle "Que fait la police ?" [PDF]

09 novembre 2012

Change the frame to make us forget the picture... (festivals)

Mark Cousins believes that the pretty fun framing is what makes film art better for the audience

Film Festival Form: A Manifesto (Mark Cousins; Film Festival Academy; 22 Septembre 2012) [PDF]

Is this what a seasoned "festival critic" comes up with? What a self-indulgent prick! If film culture is in crisis it's because of douche-bags like these, not because the carpet on the floor of festivals is red... 

What is tragic is that there are more and more spoiled brats like this clown who share such demented ideas around a few beers while they wait outside the VIP room, bitter, whining for being rejected from special events of no importance to serious film critics... They text each-others grandiloquent theories about what festivals should be like and muster the courage to publish it for the world to see, even after sobering up... Why aren't festivals built around ME, MY TASTE, MY FANCY, MY WHIMS, MY NEED FOR ENTERTAINMENT? Why are actors and directors the stars of festivals and not movie reviewers? Why do they get VIP rooms, red carpet, galas and we don't? Basically, this smart-ass doesn't care to provide a better service for filmmakers, their film, or cinema itself, in general. NO. What he wants is to change the format of ALL FESTIVALS to serve his need for ADDITIONAL distractions. Films aren't enough in and of themselves... he wants more action going on around their screenings, to make the event more memorable to superficial douche-bags who only remember the packaging. If Kiarostami comes with a "boring" film, let the curator spice it up to his liking, so that the repetitive job of a movie reviewer becomes more exciting. Yeah right! 
You really don't understand anything about art, dude! You don't know what is the role of a festival, and you don't know how to stay in your place, the place of a reviewer subaltern and complementary to the art exhibition, not as a substitution for it. 
If you want to make general recommendations about the format of a cultural event, you need to accommodate most everyone, not to impose an incredibly narrow-format that obviously only suit your idiosyncratic fancy and that most everyone else will definitely not enjoy or desire...

If cinema is art, then a festival is its art gallery, thus MUST remain the most neutral showcase to present each work without influencing the audience in one way or another, and let the film speaks for itself and seize the audience attention any which way its creator chose.
If Maurice Lemaître, wants the projection of his film to become an event-performance in itself, this is HIS prerogative and he will CONCEIVE his work to be projected in a very specific (unconventional) way (instructions included). But if a festival curator decides to screen a given film to his own fancy, without consulting the auteur, it is a crime against the art, not a celebration of whatever the filmmakers wants to show. This lost soul (Mark Cousins) confuses festival screening with art happening, détournement, hi-jacking, defacing, vandalism... 
If you want your documentary on the history of cinema to be screened in one theatre for the first half, then send everybody home where they can download on a cellphone the next 30 minutes... this is your choice, the choice of the maker, and it means you didn't put much thoughts into your editing process if the projection continuity can be interrupted and disrupted in such careless manner. But if you do that to a Bresson film, you're a douche, not a genius curator.

Did you see how your peers react to anti-conformist formats? How they booed Bresson, Pialat, Antonioni, Gallo, Lars Von Trier, Carax... What makes you think that these morons who get offended by the content and form of films themselves, would welcome your proposed performance art around screenings??? Are you dreaming or just high? Did you see what your bored colleague Nick James writes about festivals at Sight & Sound when they aren't mainstream enough? Did you see how Americans think that the choice at the Oscars is too elitist??? You're out of your mind if you think that there are a lot of people who await for a more transgressive festival format.  

If you think filmmakers aren't capable enough to come up with their own creative screenings, and festival curators are too timid, why don't you get off your ass and go MAKE YOUR OWN deconstructive festival, and deface films all you want??? See how many filmmakers will accept your invitation... LMAO. 
And I'm not saying "Do It Yourself" to challenge you to achieve the task you criticize (like idiots demand critics to become filmmakers before being able to judge a movie)... You need to carry out this project yourself because this is YOUR INDIVIDUAL AGENDA. This is not the business of the festival circuit to create a value-added container for films lacking self-worth. If you can find filmmakers interested by your proposition, if people enjoy your sacrilegious event, all dandy. But YOUR prototype has no chance to become THE only standard (which your manifesto kinda wants to impose on everyone), and even if the a-cultured audience makes your thing viral because they prefer trashing art, than integer art itself, there will always be a role in society, in culture, in the film industry, for the "traditional format" of film festival that you hate : to introduce premières to world critics in a formal yet neutral way.
Even an experimental artist would rather come up with their own built-in screening conditions (however wacky and improvised) than let a random curator with no artistic training temper with they way they designed their work to be interacted with... They wouldn't even let another (trained, experienced, famous) artist alter the projection ritual with an artistic sensibility that might contradict the intention of the film (unless it was part of an agreed upon collaborative project)!

Sorry Orson Welles, we can't screen your cut of The Magnificent Ambersons, we'll let James Cameron recut it for you and screen its 5 new chapters in 5 different theatres simultaneously. FUN!
Sorry Stanley Kubrick, we can't screen Barry Lyndon the way you intended it, it will be re-cut by Godard, and screened on an iPod as a 5 minute accelerated trailer. FUN!
Sorry Tarr Béla, we can't screen The Turin Horse as a normal film, it will be recolourized by Disney and screened in digital format on a 60 inches TV set. FUN!
Yay, finally someone is there to improve upon whatever these "incapable" filmmakers could achieve on their own. (saracasm intended; sometimes I have to state it for the dummies who still read my blog targeted at an educated readership who already knows I'm defending auteurs and their sacred right to final cut)

"the world of film festivals is, in fact, in crisis"
Mark Cousins can't get in the VIP room, is bounced out at the private party on Tom Cruise's yacht  has to wait in line like everyone else because the colour of his badge doesn't match the colour of his credit card... Weep. Weep. Let's all cry and empatise, because there is a WORLDWIDE CRISIS of UNPRECEDENTED PROPORTIONS raging the GALAXY OF THE FILM FESTIVAL CIRCUIT : Mark Cousins doesn't get what he wants!!!!! OMG! The end of the world is near. TELL EVERYONE!!! We must change the format of festivals for EVERYONE, because Mark Cousins and 3 of his frustrated beer buddies dream of an entertainment park where reviewers are treated like the center of the world. 
Do you see filmmakers complain about festivals? Do they refuse en mass to attend them? Is there a generalized boycott? Do the curators complain? Do the audience complain? No. Not really, it's mostly frustrated movie reviewers who want apples to be oranges, just because.

"There are too many of them chasing world premieres and film celebrities"
Yeah, well... that's kind of the point, you know. That's your way to look at it, the half-empty glass. But then again, when you look at it another way, maybe festivals are different from your local multiplex because they only screen the best. And maybe film celebrities are sought after because they are the best at what they do. So if you expect festivals to pick second-hand films and unknown artists, maybe just maybe, they won't be "festivals" anymore and become another local community center that nobody cares about and where great masterpieces will never be discovered. 

"we should think of them as authored, just as films are authored. We should think of them as narratives – stories lasting ten days or two weeks, just as films are narratives"
Do you think so poorly of festival curators? Don't you think their selection is in itself a very personal touch? Some even suggest they are being way too idiosyncratic... Don't you realise that the films are programmed with a certain event narrative in mind? Like it or not, but there is a narrative (while respecting the singularity and neutrality for each film). They don't queue films one after the other in a random order. And every decision taken will piss of at least one of the nominees, because they wanted their film to be screened at another time slot... 

"There should, therefore, be no red carpets at film festivals. No limos. No VIP rooms"
... because art films don't deserve the celebrity treatment! We should embrace the fact that art cinema is an invisible niche, dull and austere, and get together in a dark moldy basement, because deference and ceremony is only appropriate for superficial stars in Hollywood who make big business. Why make low-key artists feel like they are the celebrities of the art world? Why waste a red carpet at an art festival if its BO can't afford it? Why shine a spotlight on art cinema once a year, if they should remain invisible all year?

"they are poetry not prose"
They are neither. Festivals are not literature (art), they are the book cover, the marketing packaging (showcase)!

"The people who run film festivals must think of themselves as storytellers and stylists. They must ask themselves what the narrative structure of their event is, and its aesthetic."
Yeah. And that's exactly what Mussolini wanted to do with Venice... impose his own fascist narrative onto world cinema, and highlight a very particular agenda that supersedes the art of individual films themselves. You can do that when you're a dictator, when you believe that YOUR OWN IDEA OF AESTHETIC is the only right one, and everyone else (guest filmmakers, critics and audience) must submit to your narrative, your choices, your ideology. That's when you don't think that artists should be allowed to speak for themselves and be presented to the public on equal footing, in a neutral context that doesn't favor one aesthetic or the other. A respectful festival makes rooms and lets shine each and every artist and film, each tendency, each form, each ideas, without tempering, without favouritism, without decorative mannerism. The glamour aspect you don't like (which is an unfortunate, but inevitable, collateral ritual of our over-mediated era) is only an exterior mannerism, it is the same packaging for every award nominee, it doesn't interfere with the own presentation filmmakers already decided for their film, BY SCRIPTING THEM, CASTING THEM, STAGING THEM, DIRECTING THEM, EDITING THEM, MIXING THEM!!!! This is what is called a cinema narrative and filmmakers do it by themselves, they don't need someone at the door to make last minute changes... 

"And there’s the whole issue of festivity itself to restore to the centre of the world of film festivals."
Yeah, cause if films can't be fun in and of themselves, we need an event-planner to make them more fabulous than they are, so that the audience who came to watch movies will leave with the satisfaction of spending a day at the entertainment park! LOL
So you're saying that the current format of film festivals is not "festive" or "communal"? What festival do you go to? Do you realise there is more communal experience (like at an actual screening in a commercial theatre open to the public) at a festival screening than at your weekly press screening in a tiny luxury screening rooms reserved for professional critics, among themselves, in leather seats twice the size of one in a normal commercial multiplex, sharing the same press kit material, exchanging the same talking points the press will agree to run its columns on, making spoiled brat faces, petty, disgusted, overfed, bored with themselves)

"[..]to counter this [fascist Venice at its inception], two alternative festivals were launched, one in a former fishing town, Cannes, and one in the ‘Athens of the North’, a centre of the Enlightenment, Edinburgh."
LMAO. Bias at its best! The Enlightenment was born in the UK? We'll have to correct all our books in Paris then... Cannes is a posh spa resort for rich Russian mafia tycoons, like most towns on the Riviera. But let's paint it as a noble proletarian village of hardworking fishermen to best serve Cousins's artificial narrative... He's complaining about fascism and marketing and he's doing exactly like them, only that when he deceives to serve his ideology it's not lying it's "printing the legend"... Hilarious, if it wasn't terribly sad.

"Toronto International Film Festival’s Piers Handling called this counter-market an ‘alternative distribution network’"
Then he's an idiot. See: Artfilm Visibility (festivals)

"Festivals should be radically about joy, about countering alienation, about telling the world of money and commodity that – ha ha – it doesn't know the secrets of the human heart or the inexpressible, stupendous need to be with other human beings."
LOL. Cause the world of profitable movies isn't already about "joy" and "countering alienation" with escapism. Yeah I see the totally different format you propose to counter the BO hits... Right. Comedy doesn't do well in the mainstream masses, so let's throw away the "serious film" and give their place in the sun to MORE FUCKING COMEDIES!!!! More Fun!!! Cause we're babies and we cannot live without FUN, FUN, FUN. Don't make us think, don't feed us vegetables, don't talk about depressing stuff. Let's live in Willy Wonka's colourful chocolate factory. 

"Film festivals should be more sceptical about business and industry. They should be the conscience of the film world. [..] A film festival is a shape, a response to the lay of the land and light of a city, or to a flood in Pakistan, or the threat to bomb Iran."
Sure. Mark Cousins wants festivals to be more political, more involved with tragic stories... OF COURSE. But not with depressing films, only with JOY, FUN, ENTERTAINMENT. Let's be the conscience of the world while having a bit of fun, right? Let's talk gleefully about bombing! Let's show the joyful side of a flood! He's so far up his own ass, he doesn't care about contradicting himself, about wanting one thing and its opposite and voicing out his disagreement with both options alternatively, a few sentences apart. Does he read himself before publishing what he writes? Does he think a bit before writing? 

"The people who run film festivals [..] challenge themselves to do things differently."
Let's put it bluntly, your counter-proposition to the current state of the festival circuit is not an improvement, no matter how bad you think it is. In fact, it is an heresy of a festival that you call for. So if you really want THAT to happen, you need to label it as something else. It doesn't walk like a duck, it doesn't quack like a duck... You're offering a new event where films aren't shown in their intended form, you're mutating their image, like Warhol transform the Campbell soup... however, Warhol was an artist (i.e. a producer of his own content), he didn't sell tomato soup, he sold his image of can. A curator is NOT an artist, who could produce new content with old content. If you transform existing films, you don't show these, you show DIFFERENT FILMS that didn't exist before.

Berlin showed A Separation, and the UK only screened it on 30 screens nationwide... As far as I'm concerned, the Berlinale is doing its political duty, and UK critics are failing to carrying on the job until the public can also see that film!!! Cannes is showing This Is Not A Film (Iranian censorship), After the battle and 18 Days (Egyptian revolution), Plus Jamais Peur (Tunisian revolution) Duch, le maître des forges de l'enfer (Cambodian genocide)... and critics pan them because they are too anti-conformist! If something is wrong at festival it's the narrow-minded mentality of movie reviewers!!! Change the critics, not the festival format!

What political films aren't showing at festivals? You name drop a lot of pop culture references in your manifesto... you could at least give us a few examples of your superior taste in cinema that apparently all festivals on the planet have ignored so far... Where are these films that nobody is talking about? Find them! Show them! Surprise me, let's see if they rival in quality the ones that end up on the Year-End Lists (which are mostly drawn from major festival line up, because these festival do their job, collectively, of bringing the best)... Complaining about a shortage of quality in hypothetical terms is quite easy. But being specific and relevant requires a little more legwork, and thinking. 

P.S. Oh by the way, Mark, the diacritic accent on the "e" of "mise en scène" goes the other way... Nobody cares anyway. Spell it however you want, create your own narrative! If the language doesn't suit you, make it fit YOU! That's the way of the navel-gazing individualist. MY FUN ABOVE ALL. ;) 


22 octobre 2012

Artfilm Visibility (Festivals)

Mistaking the festival circuit (pre-commercial showroom for professionals) with the regular commercial distribution (in arthouses or multiplexes with several shows a day, 7 days a week)

There are too many movie reviewer smartasses who believe that the festival circuit has become the viable alternative to artfilm distribution... (especially in the pages of Sight & SoundFilm Comment or the NYT! But Kristin Thompson also professes such agenda). They are in total denial about the derelict state of the arthouse circuit in their respective country, fatalistic about the immuable situation (the arthouse circuit represents less than 1% of all ticket sales and it is humanly impossible to do any better than that, ever), and imagine that with the sprawling development of more and more mini second-hand festivals the future of artfilms is brighter than ever. Well I'm sorry to say, but this is demented!

The above chart shows the number of seats made available for a given film, according to the size of its distribution, and compared with the equivalent in festival screenings.

A few remarks first. These numbers indicate the maximal number of seats offered to the public (in normal commercial exhibition) for one film projected in theatre on an invariant number of screen(s), which implies that the theatre(s) function at full capacity on a period of 2 months. They are compared with an hypothetical run of the same film on the festival circuit, assuming that film gets picked up by a new festival every week of that period (which is wishful thinking).
I used rough numbers, just to get a ballpark idea of the huge gap that widens every week depending on the range of distribution proposed. 
Thus for a festival screening I used an average of 500 seats per screening, counting 2 screenings per festivals (the major festivals may give certain films an auditorium of up to 3000 seats twice, but smaller festivals will only open a 100 seaters once). Festivals are attended by an avid crowd so we may assume that every screening is fully booked (which is not the case for every title though).
For the arthouse circuit I opted for a typical arthouse with an average of 200 seats (which may vary depending on the location in a megapole or in low density urban area), and an average of 5 shows a day, 7 days a week. Assuming that the title runs for 8 weeks in a row (which is extremely rare for an artfilm, which is usually dropped after the second week). When a film takes a long time to be picked up by a distributor, and only opens on a handful of theatres, the potential audience is anticiating and rushes in, knowing the occassion to see it on the big screen will not happen again soon, so we may assume a fully booked theatre for the first week at least. Then the attendance dwindles down over the 2 months period (and few films manage to stay on that long in the real world!). This is just a rough simulation. The average filling of seats is usually 15% in France, maybe a little more in the USA, scarcity of screenings making potential viewers more eager, and the general attendance rate per capita (5 films per year per inhabitant, however less than 1% of the screens nationwide are arthouses, so the rate is mostly inflated by the high attendance of multiplex goers) is also higher than in France (3 films per year per inhabitant).
As a comparative, I've also added the typical distribution in multiplexes for a mainstream movie, from 1000 screens for commercial movie with low expectations and up to 4000 screens for a tentpole blockbuster. A multiplex offers bigger auditorium, so I counted an average of 300 seats, and more shows per day (6). The attendance in a multiplex is expected to be fully booked for the opening weekend (4 days) even with such a plethoric number of venues, and shall dwindle down also, but probably at a slower rate than in the arthouse circuit. So the average filling of seats over 2 months is higher (around 30% I believe).

This distribution system corresponds to a market like the USA, with a commercial exhibition that ranges from 1 screening once for an unpopular artfilm, up to 4000 screens nationwide (10% of all screens available) per week for a blockbuster. In France the scale is somewhere between 5 or 7 times smaller, the blockbuster status starts at 800 screens nationwide.

You can see that a small arthouse (1 screen/200 seats/5 shows a day) can match a festival venue (1 screen/500 seats) in only 1 day, in one week that single arthouse shows that film to as many spectators as 7 festivals, while a film can hardly show in more than 1 festival per week. In 2 weeks, before being ousted out by an impatient theatre programmer, it matches up to a run in 14 festivals, and this is a shameful distribution to open a film on only 1 screen nationwide, it should never happen (unless it is an extremely inaccessible piece of experimental cinema only targeted at gallery visitors). In an hypothetical run of 2 months, this dreadful distribution corresponds to a run in 56 festivals, which is more than what the average artfilm would hope to be invited to (excepting the few festival darlings that every festival wants to line up).
Only 1 miserable screen for an entire country (be it Luxembourg or the USA) is absolutely dreadful and an insult to cinema, no matter how bad the film is, every film should be given a decent chance to meet an audience, and this is obviously not the way.

With a release on 6 screens nationwide (still a dreary distribution, even for a bad artfilm), at the end of a 2 months run, it would have offered as many seats as 300 festivals!!! How could the festival circuit ever replace a commercial distribution??? Not a single film gets lined up 300 times in the same country, provided the country has that many festivals willing to arbor it (many local festivals are genre or format exclusive). Here we need to balance out the higher attendance rate of a festival screenings (once or twice per city) and the much lower attendance in arthouses for a simultaneous nationwide release. Even with this consideration in mind, any decent arthouse circuit distribution (at least 30 screens) would offer a wider audience than the maximum number of festivals a film could get! 
In France a low artfilm distribution is between 15 and 30 screens, a good distribution is at least 90 screens, and a very popular artfilm may get up to 400 screens, half of the blockbuster level a mass-appeal mainstream genre film gets. In the USA, very few artfilms get more than 30 screens nationwide... and most of what they consider "artfilms" are actually mainstream foreign titles. A once in a blue moon success such as The Artist, supported by the Oscars, reached 1500 screens (a 1/3rd of the blockbuster level) after 15 weeks of struggling "limited release"! This is an exception that doesn't happen every year. Even the so-called American-made "indies" (quite conventional and mainstream in taste) are often restricted to the "limited release" too... There is a stronghold of the 6 major studios on what gets shown to the American public, making constraining deals with exhibitors, in spite of the anti-trust law.

Pretending that it's OK to show any film on only 1 screen (and in this case, it's never for a 2 months period, more like only 1 week and ciao) is an irresponsible thought for a movie reviewer, worse if that reviewer is holding a statement in prints! Every sensible critic, even any mere journalist, should feel outraged by it, and see it as big enough an anomaly to mention it in the review! or better to fucking COMPLAIN about it (in print) to the lazy distributor, the mercantile exhibitors, or more generally to a flawed system... until such recriminations become a public debate at the national level and things start to be taken into consideration for changes and improvements!!!
Why none of this happen in countries where artfilm distribution is struggling? Do they not care at all about how many of their fellow countrymen will get the option to see that film?
Even the great artfilms do not raise such legit concerns... Look at the underexposition of masterpieces (featured in the S&S top10 poll of all time), best films of the year, films awarded at major festivals, critically acclaimed films, or even films nominated at the fucking Oscars! If it's not PG-13, it DOES NOT GET a normal wide distribution. Period. This is bullshit! The USA is a society where culture for the masses is regulated by the moral limitations of a 13 yold. And when I say "masses", I mean the ENTIRE POPULATION minus the happy few living in a megapole where the film was shown for a week... This is a serious concern. Don't you think the press should make it its duty to report this injustice, and campaign actively until something change in the fabric of this corrput system? 
Yeah, it happens when there are actual cinephiles working in the press, as distributors and exhibitors, instead of fucking individualist bastards who would rather make money on a trite half-baked flick than to give its chance in the sun to precious little gems that everybody should and must see. But, what do you expect from selfish reviewers who work for the promotion of the officially approved slate of weekly titles, and don't care about the visibility of the films for everyone else once they saw it themselves (on a free DVD screener delivered to them on a silver platter). Complacency breeds hegemony of the lowest common denominator, and the momentum is too heavy to overturn when nobody stands up against it.

How many national festivals will it take for an artfilm to be accessible to 1% of the population? How many years will it take for a film to screen in that many festivals?
With 50 screens during 2 months (a limited release in selected cities) a film could offer 3 million seats, which would be an accessibility to only 1% of the USA population with theatres running at full capacity! Any less than that and we fall under the symbolic 1%. And most artfilms in the USA, especially foreign imports (which includes mainstream genre movies that get near blockbuster status in their country of origin), never get even 50 screens for 2 months...
A blockbuster takes less than 2 months with fully booked theatres to become accessible to 100% of the USA population (in numbers, not necessarily in proximity and affordability)!
I'm not contesting the difference of scale between a blockbuster distribution and an "elitist" artfilm distribution... But why must the gap be so tragically huge? This is the question that never keeps movie reviewers awake at night, because they never wonder why, they don't care wherever the wind blows as long as they are paid to promote the standard marketing talking points. 
There is no mystery, if the arthouse system is in dire straits, it's because NOBODY fights for it. You can't always blame the bad taste of the American population, sometimes, when you don't make challenging films AVAILABLE at all, the population doesn't even get the opportunity to reject or adopt them... 

Festivals play a key role in the life of an underexposed artfilm. Obviously. To signal its presence to reviewers who only ever watch foreign films (for example) or debut films at festivals, because they never go out of their way to hunt for these themselves (they stay at home and complain about how bad a job festival curators do). To generate a buzz among journalists. To give directors a pristine screening, and a platform for interviews, connection to distributors and even network for future films. 
But we can't ask festivals to do more than what they are meant for. A festival circuit, however vast and numerous, will never be able to replace a NORMAL COMMERCIAL DISTRIBUTION (not even the "limited release" of a niche "arthouse film")!!! And they only reach out to the same type of population : professional critics, filmmakers, curators and festival goers. Their opening to the more general public, and especially in rural areas and remote cities is very very limited. The general public is not concerned by the slates of film festivals.

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"[..] What Two Years At Sea suggests is that there is a chasm between a festival screening and a screening in a commercial cinema setting. Rivers' films failed to come...... when it was released into a competitive market festival a few months after the 2011 London film Festival. Various factors can be called into mitigation, including the increasingly saturated market place, weak scheduling and the non-conventional narrative [..]
When it comes to Two Years At Sea, The Arbor, Las Acasias, Snowtown, Samson & Delilah, and other titles that constitute a commercial risk - but whose festival success suggests that they have a currency - surely there's room for an initiative that allows films to screen without exposing them to rigorous commercial expectations that many of them cannot possibly hope to fulfill? Where festivals do differ from standard exhibition practice is that films are pretty much presented on a relatively even keel. Once a 'niche' title readers the general marketplace, however, it cannot hope to compete with the mainstream in terms of advertising spend and publicity, yet it will be judged over the same three-days box-office performance. [..]"
A Haven for Art Films (David Locke; Sight&Sound; Nov 2012)
There is already a sheltered alternative to "standard exhibition practice" with "commercial risk"... it's called the "arthouse circuit" ! This is where "artfilms", films will small-audience-appeal and low commercial potential can be projected for longer than an opening weekend, or 2 weeks at best. They can stay on for weeks, where the cinéphile crowd can discover them on the long run, without the costly marketing brainwashing. But when you let your arthouse circuit die out... obviously, you believe that there is only festivals left standing to fulfill the commercial role of an arthouse. And this is bullshit! First it's misjudging the situation and the economy of the system, secondly it's proposing a bandaid for a wooden leg...
Why should "artfilms" be relegated to roaming aimlessly from festival to festival, like free-samples at an agriculture fair, just because expensive mainstream crap holds a monopoly of ALL screens available?

Two Years at Sea is labeled "experimental", although its only a realistic documentary (since when people need a special effort to look at life as it exists in the real world???), the other titles mentionned are merely "artfilms", they are not mass-appeal by any means, but anybody could watch them provided they are the least open-minded, and not totally conditionned by the pre-digested blockbuster culture... These films could and should get easily 50 screens in a country the size of the UK, 200 in the USA, because they are beautiful, worth discovering and most importantly a prime alternative choice to the monotonous offering of mass-appeal entertainment.
We do not expect art films to get a blockbuster treatment anytime soon! Although an import like A Separation reached 1 million spectators in France last year!!! But on the other hand, there is a VITAL MINIMUM of screens that any films must get in order to enter public conversation. 

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