16 juin 2011

Mandarins vs Philistines 2

Fujiwara: "I have no desire to enter into a battle with Bordwell and no intention of raising larger issues about his work in general. I want only to use the opportunity afforded by this particular text of his to set forth, by contrast, my own views on the current situation of film criticism, cinephilia, and academic film studies."
More solipsist drivel, disguised as academic grandiloquent jargon: Chris Fujiwara's take on Bordwell's article. That explains the lax standards in English language film literature... Mediocrity is encouraged, condoned by the establishment and published! Stealing ideas (often misusing them too), disrespecting intertextual conversations and intellectual honesty. 

F: "[..] humanities departments across the USA (Bordwell’s tacit scope of reference throughout the piece) [..] The ramifications of “Grand Theory,” together with other parts of Bordwell’s argument here, were developed at more length in his “Contemporary Film Studies and the Vicissitudes of Grand Theory,” an essay included in the 1996 Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies" 
Don't you feel smart now? (What was his apologetic introduction already, quoted at the top of my post?)

Farber: "It’s practically worthless for a critic. The last thing I want to know is whether you like it or not; the problems of writing are after that. I don’t think it has any importance; it’s one of those derelict appendages of criticism. Criticism has nothing to do with hierarchies."
Then he cites Farber, without any critical reading. Farber falsely equated that proverbial "like it/like not" of the fully-subjective AUDIENCE, with the educated aesthetic evaluation of the CRITIC. Evaluation IS about hierarchies, and that is what differentiates their works from those of scholars. 
Fujiwara: "I’ve had more than one exchange with film-studies professors or grad students [..]"
Anecdotal fallacy.

F: " “textual analysis.” If I have difficulty accepting this label, it’s because I’m not sure that what’s in front of me on the screen, much less what I remember and contemplate later, is a text. A text is (1) a body of language [..]; (2) a body of language [..], determinable and anatomizable; but what mainly draws cinephiles to cinema may be the instability and evanescence of its forms, rather than anything that ever becomes solid; (3) something objective [..]"
He oversimplifies and butchers the age-long scholar debate around text/language. Besides it is not what explains the "close analysis" nature of criticism... A responsible editor would have cut this part out.
He switches between what "cinephiles" or "critics" want from movies, to justify what defines film criticism.  

F: "Not an object, but a process, and not the process as an object, but the process as what the critic, too, is inside. This is neither “textual analysis” nor “evaluation.”"
Is this what you call "good writing"??? Is it the best you can do to prove film criticism is a literary art?

F: "Auteurism, after spending much of the 1980s and 1990s in disrepute [..] As for cinephilia, its recent emergence as a legitimate object of academic study [..]"

F: "Moreover, it’s not at all clear that cinephilia is necessary to film criticism."
LOL. So funny. You're shameless and funny: the royal road to populist success with uneducated crowds. 
Just above, I noted he tried to mix up "cinephiles" with "critics" in order to define criticism. In the next paragraph he rejects the cinephile side of critics (using Kael as an evidence! lol) 

F: "are we missing something valuable, in the absence of non-cinephile criticism?" 
Read non-American criticism. I mean something else than weekly movie synopsizing, and you'll find out.

F: "If academia represents the professionalization of film culture, the Internet has become the site of the deprofessionalization of film culture"
Editors, reviewers, curators, essayists, screenwriters... are also professionals!
Why the only online writers repeatedly acclaimed by the various "let me tell you about what I know of the interwebs" articles are ex-professionals? Either retired academics with a blog, or fired film pages employees, or ex-paid-critics... and all the rest is lumped up in the unreadable "noise". If these guys developed a "professional" technique, writing style in professional jobs, they maintain this acquired education in their "personal" blog, obviously. Lack of salary (although some of them are actually paid!) does not mean lack of professional standards. Film culture is still in the hand of the establishment, paid or not.

F: "this very professionalization of film appreciation, the obligation to specialize"
Critics don't need to reject academe as a model, since the model of criticism is elsewhere! The conflict with academia is not that critics need to do everything as academics do it, or else we wouldn't have 2 words for the same job! The conflict between critics and academics is around the reading/acknowledgement of their respective work, the sharing of their ideas and the incompatible concepts they use. 
Specialization is the identity of scholars. Generality is the superficial overview of weekly reviewers. That's why their jobs have different names!
And yes specialization is what could improve basic movie synopsizing, because believing that you can trust the same (generalist) person to write well about a Disney cartoon, a chick flick, a war movie, a Sci-Fi movie, an intellectual drama, a philosophical essay... is a huge delusion! And we can read every week in the press why, it's full of generalisations and stereotypes. Precisely because reviewers are shallow generalists who would write about ANYTHING they are tasked to, even if they are not qualified to, even if they are not inspired by the work, even if they have no ideas. I wish reviewers would only write about films that fall under their field of expertise... What we witness happening in the film section of the media is far from exemplary! You need to aim higher to define ideal criticism. Formatted blurbs are a poor, corrupt, lackluster aspect of film discourse. The illusion of generalist writers is a big problem of ground level film culture! 
Richard Brody: "At newspapers and magazines, as here at The New Yorker, classical-music critics and pop-music critics are usually different people. With movies, things are different: David Denby and Anthony Lane write about “The Dilemma,” “Source Code,” and “Toy Story 3”; about “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” and “Meek’s Cutoff”; and about the life work of Robert Bresson and Abbas Kiarostami." (New Yorker, 3 May 2011)

F: "Criticism can only be writing: it may be writing in images and sounds, but it must be conscious of itself as writing — as being responsible (as Barthes said) to a symbolic dimension, as being capable of irony, and as being based on a certain insecurity, such that it is always coming out of and going toward a place that it knows can’t be filled. Not all critics are good writers; but at least the critic has to want to write and has to love writing. This love is more definitive for film criticism than the love of cinema."
WTH? Wishful thinking maybe? 
Molière disait: "Il faut manger pour vivre et non vivre pour manger." When you write to make a living, instead of living to write criticism, you're more interested in the social statute of a writer, and in writing for the sake of style, than to be in it to traffic in cinema ideas. People who love writing more than cinema indulge in hollow stylistic and sophistic parlance without insights, absolutely interchangeable with the next review, with one written the previous year, with one written by someone else. Words. Words. Words.
Emmanuel Burdeau: "Insofar as concerns Cahiers, writing might be just as important as cinema. that is not to say that we consider ourselves writers, in the sense of genuine literary authors." (in "Writing on the Screen": An Interview with Emmanuel Burdeau by Andrew, Dudley; Framework, 2009)
And the literary quality, the insights we find in Cahiers are far superior than what Fujiwara and the others who dream themselves as literary artists are able to think up and to write up! At least the "good writers" have the humility not to compare themselves to actual literature.

F: "Now there is probably no professional sphere in which the lack of desire to write and the lack of interest in writing are more endemic than academia."
Baseless assumption for show (empty sophistic style).

F: "The system of “publish or perish”"
In academia just like for movie synopsizers (for different reasons and different intellectual ambitions).

F: "abundance of terrible academic writing, and though I can’t say for sure that, as a group, film-studies professors are worse writers than professors of art history or comparative literature, I suspect this may be the case"
Oh the irony. From what I've read of your musings, somehow I will not trust your judgement on this. 

F: "I know it’s time to lay down my cards about what good critical writing is, so here’s a list of some texts that I’ve read many times with pleasure: Bazin on Renoir; Rivette on Rossellini, Preminger, and Lang; V. F. Perkins’s Film as Film; Robin Wood on Hitchcock; Manny Farber and Patricia Patterson’s pieces from the 1970s; Serge Daney’s Persévérance; Hasumi on Japanese cinema."
See Contra-contrarianism (IFFR) 2/Good critic-Bad critic. The best a "writer" can do to explain his understanding of the literary art is... a mere series of namedropping. Shouldn't a writer be able to evoke with poetic and insightful prose the beauty of literature in non-uncertain terms? That's what I'd expect from people who claim to be "writers".

F: "What may be missing in academic film studies is a recognition of aesthetics as a category worthy of scholarship."
You've never read academic studies on film aesthetics? Historical research is not all there is to academic studies.
See my comment : "I see Cultural Studies as being a subset of Sociology, using movies as a statistical sample, on the other hand I see Aesthetics as the only academic studies dealing with what makes cinema an art, treating films as artistic statements." (Mandarins vs Philistines)

F: "The goals of criticism are different: to respond to what is open, troubling, or self-contradictory in a film, to show why things in it that may not even be immediately noticeable are deeply interesting, to reinvent it, create new metaphors for it, to find more and more of the endlessness of the film (its refusal to finish), to follow it where it leads (with or without its own knowledge and regardless of the intentions of the filmmakers) and take it where it can go, perhaps to what it can open up and invent in other films (including those that may have preceded it)."
First, this is NOT great literature. I expect someone who claims that criticism is a literary art to feature admirable style and mastery. The art of words is something else... at least to me.
Second, these are not the goals of criticism. This is your pragmatic observation of what you like to read.

F: "Bordwell makes no acknowledgment of the underlying economic reality of the situation"
Impossible to discuss critical principles without its business model... Hopeless materialists. The media industry has been paying navel-gazing spectators to write blurbs of the weekly batch of movies selected by the studios for a century now! And when this model collapses, all you want is to preserve the undeserved privileges this corrupt position offered? When Bordwell talks about a rapprochement of academics and critics, it is a cultural consideration, not a mere economic solution, where fucking reviewers could tap into the tax-payer money dedicated to post-graduate researches! WTF? If all you care about is money, there is plenty to go around if you sold out to Hollywood and pander to your readership. Go ahead. Leave critics with integrity out of this circus though.

Source: Criticism and Film Studies: A Response to David Bordwell (23/05/2011)


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