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 :
- Love of Cinema : passion + curiosity (for discoveries and novelties). Watching a lot of movies.
- 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)
- Cinema technique knowledge
- Writing Quality : style, communicative enthousiasm, readable, clarity, pedagogy.
- 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)
-- 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)