28 mars 2011

Ad Hominem in Critical Debate (Adrian Martin)

Here is the infamous email I mentioned in a previous post (Alert: Australia is censoring the internet!). Adrian Martin didn't even bother to send a reply to my reply. And he was not able to appreciate the fact I didn't post it on my blog right away (because such low blow isn't even worth giving it attention), it didn't give him enough time (almost 1 year) to reflect on the silliness of his ill-informed and anti-critical reaction. He didn't once try to apologize either...
Well, hoping the private resolution of a conflict is not a mistake I'll repeat again with disrespectful and hypocritical individuals who blame others of (imagined) libel after resorting to Ad Hominem themselves.
[Title : Ahem !! / Date : 2nd April 2010 / Sender : Adrian Martin]
Hey, I was very moved by your blog confession [he refers to this post : Cinéma d'auteur blasé (1)] that you begged the INDIAN AUTEUR editors to remove my recent (and in fact longstanding and long-expressed in public) thoughts on auteurism !! [he refers to his interview in INDIAN AUTEUR #7]
You yourself are turning auteurism 'European style' into a kind of dogma in your recent blog entries !! We fully agree on this: that making good films is the goal - or at least the goal of filmmaking itself !! When I talk about 'auteurism' (rather than filmmaking practice) I am talking about critical writing, critical method: and, from THAT angle, concentrating on the author is not always the most illuminating or best way to go. It can be a reduction, as as has been proved many times !!!
Also, you are wrong in thinking that the 'a film by' syndrome has no industrial/legal ramifications: it is the very basis of the studio contract of the 'director's cut' !!! [apparently he didn't read this post: Parallel evolutions of auteurism]
Back to the creativity of filmmaking practice: is the best way to arrive at a good film for the director to assume total or major control over the elements of a production? Probably so: I would agree with you there. But there are many 'strong' directors (in TV too) in this sense who have no 'auteur' personality or discernible signature: they just get their job done, and do it well !! Your 'art vs industry' polarisation is not making a lot of persuasive sense to me here.
And as for the 'danger' you imply in exposing our Indian friends to any criticism of the holy dogma of the auteur: come on, that is just a little bit racist of you, in its implication if not its intention !!!!!!
I will now retire to sleep and continue pondering the fickleness of critical fortune ...
Ahem !!
and my (ignored) reply :
[Date: 6 April 2010 / Sender: HarryTuttle]
Bonjour Adrian,
ça faisait longtemps que je n'ai pas reçu de vos nouvelles. Je vais bien, merci. Et vous-même?
"Ahem !!" ? C'est comme ça que vous accueillez la discussion critique?
Si vous souhaitez un droit de réponse, je me ferai un plaisir de publier ce présent email sur mon blog et d'y répondre pour justifier mes positions, le cas échéant.
Si cette interview s'était déroulée normalement, sans intermédiaire, je vous aurai retourné mes commentaires directement avant la publication. Il y a quelques questions auxquelles vous avez choisi de ne pas répondre aussi...
En résumé, notre désaccord repose, il me semble, sur votre généralisation des clichés issus de la mauvaise, superficielle critique dite "auteuriste" et de rejeter dans le même mouvement toute approche auteuriste quelle qu'elle soit...
Chacun ses goûts.
Bonne journée,
My contentious post was an objective critical reading of his off-kilter (anti-auteurist) response in a interview given to an auteurist journal. It was posted 5 months later, precisely to avoid an intentional muddy distraction around the date of publication of a journal I participated in. But he didn't even understand my own precaution, and even though he subscribes to Filmkrant's so-called "slow criticism" every year, he still starts his email by reproaching me my "late" after-the-fact response... 

He says I "begged" to remove a paragraph in his long interview. In my post I said I "suggested" (I asked once, they didn't reply, I gave up). Critical minds like precision.

My suggestion was sent out in private to the editor. This is a totally legit (pre-publication) debate around the modalities of publication of any article. EVERY newspapers and magazines edit their interviews!!! EVERYBODY knows (I would hope that an ex-journalist like Adrian Martin would know about it). Page space is expensive in the paper Press, and they make decisions to cut out the fat, which makes the published content all the more snappy and to the point. This is not covert censorship. Interviewee agree to being edited by accepting an interview. This is precisely why people usually complain about their words being taken out of context or truncated. In this case, I only wanted 1 question and 1 response out, which had a separate subject and would not compromise the reading of the rest of the interview.

Why? Because he misunderstood the question, and rambled off-topic. Honestly I was doing him a favor by sorting this out before the publication. My question was asking about the limitation of auteurism, knowing that Adrian was an auteurist himself (as I am myself). I expected him to identify my question as the expression of the usual detractor argument opposed to auteurism, to give him the chance to acknowledge in his answer the point of view of detractors and take this opportunity to defend auteurism and explain in a pedagogical way why the anti-auteurist position was wrong-headed... He failed. He thought that an auteurist journal cared about giving more exposition to anti-auteurist arguments. We can't use his answer in a journal which goal is to implant auteurism deeper in the land of Bollywood. If the editors did their job, and stuck to the manifesto they publish in every issue, they would have asked Adrian Martin, who couldn't possibly refuse unless he was a megalomaniac retard [EDIT: people with difability] who thought that the integrity of his unedited interview was more important for his career than to help this amateurish journal to realise its alleged mission. 
Excerpt from the Indian Auteur manifesto (1st Jan 2009):
"[..] We reject a system that encourages the above, despite its realization, and seek: [..] To work towards a film love which adopts a middle ground, to reinstate the cinema director to his deserved position, to celebrate Indian cinema of the past and the present, to examine its potential, we propose “The Delhi manifesto.”
If Adrian Martin wanted to promote anti-auterism, maybe it wasn't the right time or the right venue to do so... especially since he doesn't know how to review a film without using the auteurist jargon (see the comments in this post for a telling example). Obviously, his irrational attachment to a position that isn't his, was completely unexpected and inappropriate.

A year and a half after this interview, he writes his first non-auteurist article in Filmkrant (Jan 2011) and declares [a piece from a series on "Out of the Comfort Zone"]: 
"Film criticism (slow or fast, it's all the same) has to give up its abundant fantasies of judgement, discernment, purity [..] To do that, it will need to discard some of its hard-won habits and rituals, and open itself to first-time surprises. [..] ...And this is a first for me, for example: I have managed to write an entire article without mentioning a single film director's name." 
If it was "out of his comfort zone" to write an auteur-less article in 2011, maybe he wasn't really challenging the auteurist ways back in 2009! Hard to tell with guys who flash a disclaimer at any skeptics : "One thing I truly believe is that real critics and real cinephiles should have absolutely no track with common sense". Yeah, we can't really fault someone who warns you they are not going to make sense ahead of time...

Now about Adrian Martin's understanding of racism, and its trivialization to avoid having to justify his clumsy interview.

Basically our point of disagreement was whether it was pertinent to talk about "anti-auteurism" in this time and place. He frames it as if I was against discussing the limitations of auteurism (while I was the one who wrote in that question in his interview!!!), or against exposing Indian Auteur's readers to non-auteurist scholarship. 
Nitesh, editor of Indian Auteur, could testify that I tried to dissuade his idea that there was no Indian-Indie-friendly scholars in all India (or I could post my emails). 
Apparently, Adrian Martin (head of Film and Television Studies at Monash University) cannot comprehend the idea that defending an editorial line (established by the Indian Auteur team, not me!) might justify selecting the content that will be part of the journal, in order to increase supporters to their cause (auteurist criticism in India), rather than growing the ranks of detractors infatuated with the Bollywood star-system. How is that anti-Indian or "a bit racist in its implications" (as he puts it) on my part????? Philosopher my ass!
The simple fact that I'm not Indian, according to him, makes the formulation of any criticism against the content of such or such Film department of an Indian university automatically "racist". NON FUCKING SEQUITUR DUDE!

This is so underhanded and shameful to "poison the well" with the racist card, just to bail out of the debate (the fact he didn't reply to my reply, wherein I spared him the Ad Hominem notification, says it all about his intention to engage with the disagreement on an intellectually honest level!)
And this hypocrite dares to patronise me : "You don't know anything about me or my life or my work" before insulting someone. I doubt he knows enough "about me, my life, my work" to chance an insult of "racism"! 

Racism is a serious matter and very dangerous (especially in the wake of recent elections in France where the far-right FN unfortunately gained in popularity... which soiled the honor of my country!), and nobody should use this fallacious trump card to get out of a purely INTELLECTUAL argument. Abuse of (irrelevant) calls to racism attack will only undermine the actual meaning of this threat, and dull up the attention of readers for REAL racism!
*IF* the Indian scholars sucked (which is not my position as stated above), and *IF* I said so, it would NOT be a racist comment, but a purely intellectual evaluation of the CONTENT of their writing. Yes it is possible to disagree with scholars from a different country! It is part of the CRITICAL DISCOURSE, if you respect cross-examination and the right to criticism. And if my critical evaluation turned out to be wrong, it would disprove my point, it wouldn't make me a racist!

N.B. There is such a thing as "racist discriminations", sadly. But there is only ONE SINGLE race of human beings on Earth, there is no distinction needed on a racial level between populations or countries. We are all the same. Racism is ALWAYS a flawed form of exclusion. (See if critics cared about ethics...)

How ironic, the guy who calls Apichatpong, "Joe", in a print article, calls me a "racist" !

This is the guy who lectures me about collaborating with our "Indian friends" :
[Film-Philosophy mailing-list / 1 Oct 2009]
Would everyone who - like me - is thoroughly sick and tired of receiving the UNSOLICITED and utterly fatuous emails of INDRA KARAN please let this annoying person know in no uncertain terms that you are mad as hell and will not take it anymore! Since IK appears to be using the FILM-PHILOSOPHY mailing list as their personal mail-out line, it would be good for us to put our foot down on this collectively - OVER HALF A DOZEN REQUESTS from me to this person have not yet stopped the email abuse.
in swolidarity with everybody but Indra Karan, ADRIAN
Read the following messages to learn that this angry Adrian Martin was the only one receiving these unsolicited emails and that most respectable members defended this sympathetic Indian fellow (newly member), attacked by a bunch of intolerant and English-spelling control freaks on the list. 
I was shocked when I read this uncalled-for intervention in my in-box, coming from a "doctor in philosophy" (I guess they don't teach philoxeny and politeness in his philosophy curriculum), on a forum destined to strictly intellectual discussions (i.e. philosophical discussions!) 

A shame for any human being in general. And someone who calls himself a "film critic" MUST know better, by the very NATURE of his discipline!!!! The probity of Film Criticism isn't fixed soon...



25 mars 2011

Exploding traditional narrative structure (Kubrick)

Entretien de Michel Ciment avec Stanley Kubrick, 1987, Childwickbury, UK
(webcast France Culture, 24 March 2011) 29'
Ciment: "Comment un cinéaste aujourd'hui peut affronter le fait que les spectateurs sont constament abreuvés d'images de la guerre, particulièrement à la TV? Comment créer des images nouvelles pour que le public voie différement?"

Kubrick: "Well, since I have always found it easy to make the visual side of movies I've never really worried about it. I think the problem with audience is story. Movies are not disappointing because they are disappointing visually. They are disappointing because they are just boring. And there is nothing about them that really moves you or gets your imagination. So I would say the problem is more where do good stories come from? Is there ever gonna be a way to combine the structure of the silent movies with the quick presentation of an idea in a TV commercial? Maybe a poet has to do it. I don't know. A novelist will never do it. A playwright will never do it. And if you're not a [filmmaker-]writer, you'll probably never do it. So somewhere, somebody has to tie the wonderful economical structural possibilities of a silent movie with the tremendous power a good TV commercial can generate on a topic in 30 seconds. I still think this will be the most exciting thing that happened since whoever was that cut the two first films together and realised you could have editing. You really need a sort of editing of the mind, which hasn't happened. Somewhere somebody has to bring this together, just tell a story in a different way." 


24 mars 2011

Naissance et dévelopement du parlant (Verscheure)

1. Les premiers systèmes sonores - Naissance et dévelopement du parlant (Jean-Pierre Verscheure) 1h47'
12 novembre 2010 - La Cinémathèque Française, Paris.

L’histoire du cinéma sonore débute véritablement avec les premiers films dialogués qui marquent une transformation fondamentale du langage filmique. Une nouvelle forme de narration naît avec Le Chanteur de Jazz, et d’une manière plus significative encore avec L’Ange bleu ou Lights of New-York. A partir des équipements Vitaphone de la Western Electric de 1927 (le projecteur à disque, le premier haut-parleur de l’histoire du cinéma), jusqu’au système RCA Photophone mis au point pour Orson Welles en 1940, les sons du cinéma parlant seront présentés et diffusés dans leur forme originelle lors de cette conférence, ce qui permettra une comparaison inédite et spectaculaire des différents systèmes. Des premiers balbutiements des années Vingt à la Seconde Guerre mondiale, nous retracerons à travers ces projections la révolution sonore des techniques, ses implications pour l’industrie du cinéma et l’évolution des standards qui découlèrent de ces nouveaux procédés. Des appareils anciens et rarissimes seront exposés.
  • 1ère partie : La mise au point du cinéma sonore et les trusts américains.
  • 2ème partie (à partir de la 44ème minute) : L’évolution du son du Chanteur de jazz à la Seconde Guerre mondiale.
Jean-Pierre Verscheure est professeur à l’Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS) de Bruxelles. Collectionneur d’appareils cinématographiques, il est à l’origine d’un centre d’études sur les techniques cinématographiques, Cinévolution, dans lequel plus d’une quarantaine d’installations sonores ou visuelles d’époque ont pu être restituées permettant de présenter les films dans leurs conditions de projection d’origine.

Historique général :
  • avant 1895 : Préhistoire du cinéma
    • 1894 : Premier film sonore (Edison)
  • 1895-1927 : Période muette
  • 1927-1952 : Période Academy
    • 1930 : Fin des monopoles de breuvets industriels (Western electric/RCA)
    • 1947 : Standardisation des normes de diffusion sonore dans les salles
  • 1952/57-aujourd'hui : Période de l'écran large et de la stéréophonie
    • 1977 : Dolby A - SR / Ultra Stéréo / DTS analog
    • 1990 : CDS / Dolby SR-D / SDDS / DTS

September 1894 to April 2, 1895, in Edison's Black Maria studio.
Cameraman: William Heise. Library of Congress, USA
Experimental sound film made for Edison's kinetophone -- a combination of the kinetoscope and phonograph -- but apparently never distributed. The LC copy is silent. Features two men [W.K.L. Dickson or Charles D'Almaine] dancing to a violinist.

22 mars 2011

Alert: Australia is censoring the internet!

"That's why his online journal, Rouge (where most of the articles are his) didn't publish anything in 2 years. That's why he promised since 2006 and never made an online archive site for all his articles... That's how much he believes in the internet (the instantaneousness of internet). I believe what I see. I'm not moved whatsoever by political pandering."
I give you 24 hours to remove these sorts of libellous statements from your blog site. You don't have a clue what you are talking about in these regards. You don't know anything about me or my life or my work. Just recall, if you can, that I was someone who encouraged you and and published you.
ADRIAN MARTIN (email 22 March 2011)
OMG I'm gonna change my FB status to "threatened".
A "real critic" would retort, rebut, refute, rebuff, confound, confute, debunk, disconfirm... You know, sticking with verbal engagement, and rational reasoning. But he chose CENSORSHIP. That's not very "open-minded", or "critical". Maybe he knows more about "fascistic methods" than I gave him credit for after all. That's very interesting. He believes he has the right to be the editor of my own personal blog!

Quick reality check : when you publish in a well known institutional newspaper, or when you speak out on a mass media like TV, or when you speak in the name of an entire profession, say, at an international festival... you don't just speak for yourself, you commit the reputation of your host, and your responsibility for what you say is proportional to the size of the readership/audience.
On the other hand, when you write in a personal diary, such as a blog, you only engage yourself (whoever that is). Try be Justin Bieber for a day, you will swiftly give up the hope that you can control the way individual people in the world talk about you on their blogs... Control freak!

Why the hurry? I think he watches way too many American TV series...
Since he kindly refers to my article published in Rouge, "CNN's election night hologram", I asked for a correction after publication, because I credited an eight-way split screen to CNN instead of CNBC. It took him over 2 weeks (the "instantaneousness of the internet" he told me when he asked me to translate this article from French to English within 1 or 2 weeks! last minute call for a magazine that barely publishes once a year!!! plus another film review, which I didn't do cause I'm not working a full-time job for him)  to copy/paste the sentence I emailed him to correct a HTML page on his website! I can tell he's got double standards when it comes to right a wrong, especially when it's about HIM.
Libel : "a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression"
Apparently he thinks that stating facts is defamatory to him... Rouge didn't publish since 2009 (fact). His filmcritic.com.au personal archive grand opening is still pending (fact). 
The only inaccuracy would be "most of the articles are his", which is clearly a sarcastic hyperbole (good luck taking that to court!), just like he wrote in Filmkrant (March 2011) : "More usually, minimalist/contemplative films end with murders by shooting or knifing" which is demonstrably false, but it doesn't stop him from stating it, not as a personal opinion on his own blog, but in an official magazine! Will he correct it within 24h?? He's giving bad publicity to "contemplative cinema"... Nobody is going to sue him for it.

Headline : "Humorless film critic declares war on sarcasm"... you have a chance to earn a segment on theonion.com !

When more than 2 of the articles (per issue) in a magazine are yours, the editor's, you're dangerously slipping in self-promotion and auto-publication. Nothing prohibited here, unless you have journalistic ethics... I'm merely pointing at the obvious, is it defamatory to suggest he publishes more of his own articles than any other single contributor in his magazine?
The rest of my quote is only me sharing my opinion, which doesn't have to be true, since I only speak for myself. If the opinion police was effective, all of this Rotterdam roundtable would have been censored. 
Am I still allowed to declare : "I believe what I see. I'm not moved whatsoever by political pandering." or is it defamatory to Mister Adrian Martin? We're not under the Soviet regime, you know. People are allowed to express opinions in the free world.

Who cares about Mister Adrian Martin's personal life? Is that his excuse to cop out of a legitimate criticism of his declarations? More than anybody else, a critic should respect and defend the freedom of expression and critical scrutiny. "Criticism" isn't only about things you agree with, you gotta accept and defend criticism that is unfavorable to you too (especially when the statements criticized are a lot of B.S.), like Voltaire. Your life has nothing to do with this. As soon as you make the choice to jump on your soapbox and make public declarations, you should be aware of the consequences, and prepare to be accountable for everything you say. That's the price of celebrity. Deal with it, or stick to your personal life away from public criticism.

Parting reminder : he insinuates that since he published one article for me, I "owe" him. Does he actually imply that granting exposition to my article (in a publication celebrating critical values) somehow strips me of my right to criticize anything concerning him, like if I was his vassal? He's got a disturbing perception of the duty and privileges of an editor. 
If I had to balance, upfront, the publication of an article with my future liberty to speak up on anything he writes or says, there is no doubt in my mind I would have declined the offer, clearly and definitely, for its dodgy bargain, if not out of critical principles.
I published one new article of his, Chantal Akerman : Walking Woman, unedited, at Unspoken Cinema too... Apparently it doesn't mean anything to him. He didn't even notify me when he re-published it in a Chilean edition ( in ¿Qué es el cine moderno?), didn't even credit the Unspoken Cinema blog for first publishing it... (that's how much he supports the internet over the Press!) But who cares? Double standards all the way! Did he pay me respect because of it? No. He insulted me by email, calling me "racist" (ME a racist? Are you fucking kidding me???), just because I expressed my disagreement about an arguable theoretical point in an interview of him I happened to have prepared (for Indian Auteur)!  Is that how you deal with adversity and dissent, you just play the "racist card"? (see : Ad Hominem in Critical Debate (Adrian Martin)) You should be ashamed. Obviously, this is a man who is very cautious about libel and knowing people's personal lives before calling them names... How I hate hypocrites!!!

Of all the critical points I raised about this Rotterdam roundtable, he takes offence for this harmless quote??? 
If he wasn't against "common sense" he would have gone for the easier angle... 
I misquoted his Sight and Sound article, but I already corrected by myself (before his threatening email), because I had a doubt about my recollection and double-checked at the library. He cited Wong kar-wai and Tsai Ming-liang (not Haneke, which probably comes from elsewhere).
The "We created Apichatpong's celebrity into existence" speech doesn't come from this particular article as well, I read it somewhere else apparently. 
He could also take exception about me not listing Raul Ruiz (one entire issue dedicated to him) in my Rouge survey, since it is a named mentioned on the roundtable. But he's the only one namedropping Ruiz. The names of contention repeated by almost everyone, were Tarr, Diaz, Alonso... who embody for the British press the "slow festival film" decadence that caused so much noise this past year. Ruiz wasn't part of it at any point.
My point was that Rouge is mostly about older films and filmmaker (and this is verifiable), not really about very recent cinema (post-2000) like he claimed.
He could also complain that he mentioned an Australian name, his newspaper co-worker, which disproves the 100% American namedrop. Although, no offence, his colleague is not a referential figure like Ebert or Rosenbaum.

Instead of welcoming a critical debate, with a new point of view and some legit objections, people who call themselves critics resort to censorship to shut down any possible debate. I think it's sad. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of attitude that will improve the climate of film discourse... Don't you dare qualify my rational arguments of typical unsubstantiated blogosphere drivel. I took the time to engage with your reflexion and I respected your quotes, which context is freely verifiable at the links I respectfully provided. 

Please contact my lawyers for further negotiations. ;)
Oh by the way, I'm still interested in your articles on Apichatpong, Costa, Diaz, Tarr that you mentioned on the roundtable and that I'm not aware of. 

P.S. I post this here, cause he only replies to emails when he wants. And I just do not email people who don't email back.


19 mars 2011

Table ronde : critique et internet (2008)

La critique de cinéma et le défi d'internet: de la revue au blog

Roundtable organised at La Cinémathèque Française (2008-07-06) in Paris.
MP3 and Video available at Canal U (FRENCH, 2h)

Guests (only one blogger among representatives of the paper press institution, TV, university and La Cinémathèque) :

My notes from the collective debate :


Drop of interest by paper readers, and drop of sales, shrinking of the space allocated to cinema in newspapers... the cinema discourse online has built up and solidified in the last 10 years, from the online forums, to the websites of paper publications, to the blogs.

Blog : Impressions intuitive, subjective, intimate and fetishistic, like a collector album of cinema memories. Cross-references, confrontations, extrapolations... dialogue of cinema with architecture, urbanism, songs, football...
Multimedia content, using sound and image, a form that is impossible on paper.

There is the death of something (institutional criticism) and the birth of something else (multimedia criticism), which is very chaotic. Revolution of the "function critic". To break the stream of weekly professional criticism.
Internet is "the place of diffraction of the critical speech" against the professionalism of the formatted critic profession.


Freedom of the internet opposed to constraint of TV production. Notably the proverbial "fair use" of film clip citations on a blog, which is vetoed by Copyrights bureaucracy on TV programs, or film documentaries (expensive fees!). It opens a liberty of creation, montage, collage and détournement on the web, at least for a few more months until the studios enforce some kind of regulation.
Possibility to develop a certain film criticism without a voice-over commentary, by means of images alone, with a dialogue of films themselves (e.g. Matthias Muller), home-movies, vlog, as a form of visual criticism.
Unlimited length. No censor. No editor.

Links cited during the debate :

Revue en ligne : Critikat; Ecran Large; Objectif Cinéma; cinema-take;
Forums : Dvd Classik; DVDrama;
Blogs : Serge Toubiana; alapoursuiteduvent; La Lanterne; Zohiloff; Matière Focale; Bertrand Tavernier; Compagnon Geek; Ce qui nous regarde;
Educational sites :
Lumière!; Quai des images; télédoc; Zéro de conduite;

Related link:

18 mars 2011

Le cinéma par ses praticiens

Série d'entretiens sur les évolutions du cinéma durant la décennie 2000-2009
Avec : Lionel Baier (cinéaste, exploitant), Nicolas Klotz (cinéaste), Olivier Lorelle (scénariste), Christie Molia (productrice), Luc Moullet (cinéaste, acteur, critique), Javier Packer-Comyn (directeur artistique 'Cinéma du Réel'), Frédéric Ramade (cinéaste), Claire Simon (cinéaste)

Par Critikat (Vincent Avenel, Sarah Elkaïm, Laurine Estrade, Arnaud Hée, Alexandre Labarussiat, Mathieu Macheret, Marion Pasquier, Camille Pollas) Montage : Raphaël Lefèvre. Habillage : Alexandre Labarussiat. (27 Janvier 2010)

Première partie : Voir - Regarder : les films remarquables/représentatifs de la décennie ; l'évolution dans la manière de voir les films (24'12") :

Deuxième partie : Raconter, représenter : les évolutions/tendances narratives et esthétiques ; les rapports du cinéma à son époque (23'34") :

Troisième partie : Technologies, écrans : subir/se servir des nouvelles technologies ; la révolution DV ; extension du domaine du cinéma (24'48") :

Quatrième partie : Economie(s) du cinéma : monter un projet ; les "films du milieu" ; vie des films ; droits d'auteur (28'48") :

Cinquième partie : Critique et avenir : la critique de cinéma ; géographie du cinéma ; état du cinéma ; le cinéma dans dix ans (25'53") :

07 mars 2011

Contra-contrarianism (IFFR) 3

This is supposedly an international panel, set in Rotterdam (Netherlands), and Adrian Martin (Australian), expert on world film criticism history, and his American colleagues, could only namedrop American names as referential figures (either as positive or negative examples) : Armond White, Roger Ebert, Manny Farber, Pauline Kael, John Simon, Stanley Cavell, Jonathan Rosenbaum... So that's all there is to Worldwide Film Culture (to them!) for the past 50 years. They think that in a festival like Rotterdam, the Film Discourse ought to be exclusively about the American writers... (that proves a partial understanding of the weight of American contributions to Film literature!) At least Cristina Nord mentions Raymond Bellour (French) and a book on Alain Resnais.
If you talk to an all-American audience (captive and insular) you might entertain the belief that American culture is the center of the world... but don't expect a foreign audience to buy it. When you hold such a panel in an international festival, you should try, at least out of curtsy, if not out of admiration, to vary the origin of your references to show you care for the rest of the world. 
So can you tell me now if the culture delimited by the English language is a comfort zone? This is something that worries me a lot more than the existence of a few contrarian-mavericks within film discourse. To each his own priorities... (see English Fail)

Adrian Martin : "Farber who was a painter as well as a film critic, he basically approached all films with the same eye [..] And for him there was no difference. [..] He never said 'oh this is a low-brow Hollywood film and now we're looking at a severe minimalist whatever film'. He just talked about them in the same sentence, literaly."
I think that film criticism is using intertextuality for quite some time now. Filmmakers do it, scholars do it, insightful critics do it, bad reviewers do it, even the mainstream audience is doing it now. So what's the big deal?  
Are you encouraging Robert Koehler to namedrop "Adam Sandler" in the middle of a review of Tarr Béla's Turin Horse? Does it bring anything insightful to the conversation?  That's the kind of syncretic equivalence  used as an excuse by the bad reviewers to turn film criticism into stream of consciousness. Textbook Cultural Studies.
There is no problem using trans-genre references, when you have a solid point... but it looks stupid if you namedrop pop culture icons just to look cool. Would it occur to any painting critic to mention the name "Snoopy" in an analysis of Van Gogh's Les Tournesols? Nothing prohibits it, but is it PERTINENT? This is trash criticism, if "criticism" it is.

Adrian Martin: "It's been 10-15 years now, critics like most of us here, and some of you here. We've been fighting like hell all these years for these films [Pedro Costa, Lav Diaz, Tarr Béla...] to be recognized, to be seen, to make a  noise about these films. To the point when Apichatpong won the prize in Cannes, it was like our victory, like our birthday, it was like : 'WE WON! THE GUY, HE GOT THE PRIZE, AND HE GOT THE PRIZE BECAUSE OF US! WE WROTE HIM INTO EXISTENCE! WE YELLED ENOUGH, WE SCREAMED ENOUGH, WE WERE AGITATED ENOUGH, THAT SOMEBODY FINALLY, A BUNCH OF PEOPLE ON A JURY KNEW THAT THEY HAD TO GIVE THAT PRIZE TO APICHATPONG CAUSE HE'S GREAT.'"
Self-quote [EDIT: see correction here], again, from his Uncle Boonmee review (Sight and Sound, Dec 2010, long after Cannes 2010!) A review where he says Wong Kar-wai, Haneke [EDIT: Tsai Ming-liang]... are overrated and done for. Maybe that's his idea of baroque references across cinema genres in film writing : use the excuse to review one film to bash other filmmakers you dislike on the side.
A round of applause to Adrian Martin without whom Cannes wouldn't know about Apichatpong!!!
So the fact that Mysterious Object at Noon was selected in Vancouver 2000, that Blissfully Yours was selected in Cannes 2002 (and won the Un Certain Regard award!), that The Adventure of the Iron Pussy was selected in Berlinale 2003, that Tropical Malady was selected in Cannes 2004 (and won the Jury prize!), that Syndromes and a century was selected in Venice 2006, that Uncle Boonmee was selected in Cannes 2010 (before Adrian got a chance to write about it)... none of that shows that festivals were aware of Apichatpong's talent before 2010?
I'm very concerned that he's no longer on Americanized-firstname terms, him and "Joe"... I hope they aren't cross or anything.
I wish I could read Adrian's hypothetical articles on Apichatpong, Costa, Diaz, Tarr... He never notified me of any of them to help complete the Unspoken Cinema database. I wish I could find Cristina Nord's celebration of Lav Diaz too. 

Adrian Martin : "But there is a whole kickback now because of this position and we get all the Roger Ebert of the world saying : 'Oh, the emperor's new clothes, Apichatpong, Kiarostami this is not the great old days of Ingmar Bergman. Something is lost now in modern cinema, the heart, the soul, the human nature, where is it?' And this is the point where we've got to do some new work. It's not enough to say 'hey you've got to pay attention to Apichatpong'.
Yeah, and to the anti-slow cinema last year, he refused to take side, and published in Filmkrant (July 2010) that everyone should calm down. And now he pretends he was on the frontline.
"New work"? Really? What then? Please explain more. You're not implying that your strictly journalistic review of Boonmee was that "new work" you're talking about, right? It wouldn't occur to me to compare Apichatpong's Contemporary Art experiments to the worst period of urbanisation in human history : post-WW2 reconstruction of concrete blocks and sprawling suburbia... Lyotard or not.

Adrian Martin : "The newspaper is truly a dying form. I believe this. And particularly Arts coverage. That is not the main forum. [..] But newspapers have never been friendly to serious film criticism. They're just an extension of the movie industry."
That's why his online journal, Rouge (where most of the articles are his) didn't publish anything in 2 years. That's why he promised since 2006 and never made an online archive site for all his articles... That's how much he believes in the internet (the instantaneousness of internet). I believe what I see. I'm not moved whatsoever by political pandering.
Let's see Rouge's records (2003-2009, 13 issues) on contemporary cinema (from the names cited on the panel) :
  • Pedro Costa = 2 articles
  • Abbas Kiarostami = 2 
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul = 0
  • Lav Diaz = 0
  • Tarr Béla = 0
  • Lisandro Alonso = 0
  • Lucrecia Martel = 0
"Fighting like hell for these films" he said. I wouldn't call that an oversaturated coverage of these auteurs... yet.
I personally do not consider it revolutionary, let alone "contemporary", to publish books today, in the XXIst century, on Hitchcock, Lang, Keaton, Rossellini, Tourneur, Blake Edwards, Lewis, De Palma, Mad Max... as if these had been "overlooked" by anterior Film Literature. There is a kind of comfort zone indulgence in sticking with the tried and true "masters" whose battles for recognition have been fought and won before you were born! It requires a lot more work to defend TODAY's filmmakers, who lack book recognition, than to bash "festival films" from the comfort of your press-screening armchair where you just wait for things to come to you effortlessly on a silver platter. I think there is even a bit of douchebaggery in that attitude, hypo-critical douchebaggery.

Adrian Martin : "It's the internet where the interesting kind of publishing is happening. Not just individuals, but also groups... You [Fujiwara] mentioned the Cahiers collective group - which is a little bit fascistic the way they do that - Groups of like-minded critics who got to pool their interests and put together their sensibility, their interest in a certain kind of cinema. That's where the future is. It's groups on the internet. It's not individuals in newspapers anymore."     
"Fascist"? If he knew the meaning of this word he wouldn't use it lightly for flare. It's not funny, you're not on Facebook, you're on "TV" at Rotterdam!
And I prefer Cahiers' praxis to the cheerleaders clique. They try to work as a team to show a united front to the readers, and focus their collective efforts on the kind of cinema they defined is most needing their support. When you read Cahiers, you know there is a solid concerted editorial line behind it. Like it or not (and I don't like Delorme's mandate) they defend a certain conception of cinema, like they always did since the Cahiers jaunes, albeit the changing editors changes the line along the way when appropriate. It's a much better method, than to let writers pick random movies without any long-term group coherence.
In every newspaper, articles are chosen by the editor anyway, who decides if it fits their marketing strategy all the same. Or writers are hired based on their identified taste, which defines the same kind of editorial control...

Groups, internet, comfort zone... a whole new bag of worms. Where to start? The idea is interesting in itself, but the application never accomplished anything out of the ordinary, as far as I could witness. Internet SHOULD be the most appropriate place for unlimited collective incentive, and it's not. Internet groups, and especially on Facebook or Twitter do exactly what Adrian Martin opposed earlier : obsessive compulsion of niche interests. Isolationism, self-confirmation, unilateral authority, averse to peer criticism... 

Neil Young : "One of the job of a film critic is to keep film festivals honest, and to really keep an eye on festival programming. Because I think that if festivals show consistently interest in good films [..] Too many festivals get away with showing films that aren't to the level you'd want them to be at. [..] We gotta be tough friends of film festivals. We gotta call it as we see it."
Well, mister critic feels all snobbish and picky. Somehow I don't think a guy whose high standards are Dude, Where's My Car? or Foxes, should be entrusted with an International Festival programing.
Unfortunately, whatever is selected in festivals rarely meets a consensual approval by the film critic community, or the festival audience. And most importantly, they seldom get picked up for distribution in your country, even the critically-acclaimed ones! 
So, you need to realise there are two separate worlds out there. The professional circuit and the public circuit.   If the commercial distribution system doesn't SHOW the best festival films to a public, and that all you write about in the press are titles from the weekly batch the industry has selected as fit for commercialisation... I see no point in festivals making an effort to please critics. If you want to deserve a right to quality control in festival programming, you will need to prove you do your part of the job, downstream, between the audience and the distributors! 

Chris Fujiwara : "If somebody who is supposed to be a film critics is worried about how can I improve the festival, how can I help the audience... [..] it's probably gonna be to the detriment of their writing as a film critic. Cause the film critic is really doing something else in my opinion. To put everything out of his/her mind, except the film and perhaps some relevant things about its context."   
Whaaaaaaa? This guy confuses everything! 

Reviewing a film, which is what they do in the weekly press that follows the commercial distribution, means giving the spotlight to that particular film, and not wasting space on other unrelated topics, like a recount of what happened to you in the theatre, or last week, or some political rant, or digressing on another film. Because this is unfair to the film in question, which deserves your full attention. 
But this isn't the exemplary form of film criticism. It's one formated by the industry of cinema who wants publicity, and by the newspaper routine, who fills the entertainment pages. 
Now if you talk about The Film Critic, how this practice should be ideally... you need to be more ambitious and aim higher. There are better things to do in film criticism than to advertise whatever titles finally come out in a theatre near you... however well you write about them. 
Putting people in theatre seats, selling admissions, is a materialist consideration, that mainly concerns exhibitors, distributors and producers. Everyone else is paid all the same, whether the film bombs or not. 
To give an idea of the best way to produce film criticism, you don't need to refer to the assembly line job of a reviewer! In this case, "putting everything out of the mind" is total bullshit. Think outside the prefab mold the movie industry has prepared for you. Film critics are NOT the film press
It is possible to write about cinema outside of the queued distribution, assembling several films together in the same article, playing on comparisons, or not talking about the film-object at all, but about sub-elements : images, landscapes, gestures,    situations, plot structures, aesthetic ideologies, character traits, background inspiration, influences... or about trends, aesthetic forms, technique evolutions...

Adrian Martin : "And for me the way forward is like Chris said : good writing, but good writing in a new mode. Which is the mode that the internet allows. Words and images. Words and moving images. Words and sounds and music. Trying to get all the resources of the internet to create new ways of speaking about film." 
First, he concurs with Fujiwara's mindless statement, without questioning it at all. They just have to mention "good writing" and they can immediately read eachother's mind!
Second, I'd like to see Adrian Martin's own multimedia attempts he proposes here. He always cites his one all-photos issue of Rouge, years ago. But if it's only photo, it's not multimedia. And I have no idea why my article he published there in 2009 was stripped of most of the photos I illustrated it with. So much for caring about mixed-media! 
Thumbing up the movie The Social Network on Facebook is herd mentality or out of the comfort zone?
Only 200-400 views for the videos of this panel on YouTube? Apparently his 700 Facebook "friends" are not attentive followers???

Adrian Martin : "One thing I truly believe is that real critics and real cinephiles should have absolutely no track with common sense"
I hope they won't take back his tenure when they hear about this anti-intellectual statement... Was it the guy who defined ethics by the word "intuition" and now declares "common sense" is not part of his vocabulary?
Note that he's not afraid to insist "truly", "absolutely", leaving "no" room for nuance.

I don't have a doctorate in epistemology but I will assume he meant "conventional wisdom" or "crowd-wisdom". Contrarians oppose conventional wisdom while still using common sense. Only illuminated gurus discard common sense, to install a new fallacious logic. If we don't have a common sense basis to share with the audience/readers, writers would have to explain every word they use, demonstrate every concept they mention... I doubt you're prepared to walk that high-wire without safety net, where you invent into existence the next meter of wire that will support your weight. Until you become a genius, stick to the tried and true concepts developed by the history of Mankind. 
Actually, "common sense" is insufficient for the discourse of a film critic, of course. But if a critical analysis superceeds "common sense" (with technical knowledge, cultural erudition, aesthetic history, rational judgment...), it does NOT contradict it. I see no reason why critics should NEVER approach common sense... It's just a random posture, without any particular advantages, and evidently a lot of disavantages.
Again, I think there is a confusion between the role of a critic and one of an artist. The latter could perfectly decide to avoid making sense (like Surrealists did), while producing an interesting body of work, which could very well be articulated by sensical critics. But critics rebeling against rationality are coping out of reality, and failing the humility of their mission.

What if these guys were teaching at the university? Oh wait, they do. Poor students inheriting the confusion of their professors... This won't help the future generations in film culture. Anybody can become a film teacher apparently... no need to have a clue or to have didactic skills. Pedagogy is another dying English word.
What's more embarassing? An underexposed blogger "making a name for himself" out of a contrarian posture (OMG stealing fame from the institutional celebrities!) or an institutional celebrity "making a name for herself" educating film students with fallacies? I know the answer. Do you?

02 mars 2011

Contra-contrarianism (IFFR) 2

Is there such a thing as critical courage in this world anymore? You can't sell weapons and ammunitions to both sides of a war, and sit back in your neutral seat, enjoying your stable job of weekly synopsiser. That's the difference between the weekly reviewers who are just there to watch movies for free (mindless cog without accountability in the system), and the film critics who consider their choices, their battles, their involvements have a certain responsibility in the direction this industry goes, what it allows and what it disallows.
There are intelligent ways to deal with the Oscars. Don't tell me you MUST cover the ceremony if you want to keep your platform of expression... because it means that job you hold on to so dearly is corrupt. Think outside the box! Sometimes you have to realize that the way the industry wants you to work is NOT the only possible way, that there are alternate channels of communication, and when there aren't, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to create them.
If you consider yourself a more serious film critic than the reviewers who report on the event, leave the easy job to the untalented, and show you can put your Lav Diaz skills to use on the state of the industry epitomized by the Oscars. Especially when you're sitting on a panel organised by "Filmkrant's SLOW CRITICISM", maybe you should experiment with slow coverage of the MPAA's ego-fest... with a tangential angle and outside of the timely window of their promotional campaign.
A critic with self-respect does not HAVE to stay on the Hollywood rail-tracks.

How many people in the room believe they are actively resisting the appeal of their own comfort zone? It's well and dandy to say it, to publicize the idea, but leading the way by example would be even better.
I'm not sure people who organize a panel entitled "out of the comfort zone" truly welcome the criticism of their lectures as they spent most of time trying to make the critical scrutiny part of film writing sound "conformist"...

Chris Fujiwara : "Reject the audience. Blame the audience [Manny Farber]. [..] I think the critic should oppose something. And I think what the critic should oppose these days is the audience. The audience needs to be opposed."
WTF? As much as I would enjoy to watch this happen (critics stopping to pander to their readership, stopping to indulge the emotional dependency of the regular movie-goers)... I have no idea what this odd incitation is going to accomplish. I'm never this radical myself. Maybe he took a page from Albert Serra's book...
Before all, define this generic "audience" (anybody? everybody? no matter their taste and reaction to the film?), define the level this opposition will be applied to (the box office choice? their taste? their engagement? their appropriation? their interpretation? their culture?). 
So if you're opposing the audience systematically, before knowing what they watch, what they think... you're being contrarian, the perverse kind. Without any specifics, this gratuitous radicalization yields little promise to improve the level of film discourse. This pseudo-provocative advice is pointless. I'm pretty sure Farber wasn't this vague and all-encompassing, without specific examples. 
The critical thinking opposition, if you call film criticism's responsibility that, is not directed at the consumers themselves, but at the resulting culture. The admissions are like ballots in an election, you don't randomly oppose voters... This is a poll of their needs and demands. You would want to oppose the conjuncture that influences their choice.

Within the "Out of the Comfort Zone" framework, maybe he meant to oppose the audience that goes to "Comfort Movies". That's different. The mainstream audience is shallow, self-indulgent, safe, conservative and impatient. Yes. That is the fact we can gather from the scores at the box office, and the blockbusters they support. We may oppose reality, but the function of a critic goes beyond a simple constatation.
The function of film criticism is not to make the audience feel guilty, it's to propose a higher cultural environment that maintains quality control at the production end as well as the offering end. Educate the audience. Expose the audience to a more varied choice. Organize cross-cultural exchanges.

Should critics "oppose something"? This is the statement I would most likely accept here. But not in reference to the audience. Like they briefly mentioned before all jumped on the "skeptical of skepticism" bandwagon, being contrarian means keeping a critical distance with received ideas, whether they come from the filmmakers or from the culture that inspired them. So unlike the audience who grants unconditional trust to the film experience, the film critic shall question the narrative process in the film and its implications every step of the way. Film critics shall oppose the film, meaning they always need to be suspicious, inquisitive, analytical, even if their final review will only present a vulgarized, yet educated, opinion (without the theoretical /aesthetic investigation/demonstration).
This is how we should understand this relation between the film, the audience, and the critic.

Chris Fujiwara : "Why is it so important that YOU should be entertained, instructed, sent a message to, stimulated. Or me. What is so important about YOU that the film should do this for you? We have to reverse this implied hierarchy and we have to go to the film, and do what the film wants us to do."
Last year, he wrote (badly) about ethics, and said exactly the contrary... He said that the reader was part of the urgent responsibilities of the critic, and that Myself (the writer, one audience member in particular) was the first "ethical urgency". Nice flip-flop! I guess he is learning.
Of course what this above quote says is right. I just wish he meant it. And he is wrong about attributing this moral discipline to the everyday spectator... this intellectual rigor only applies to the exceptional viewer who intends to comment and judge a film : the film critic. There is no reason to deprive the entire movie going population of the wonders of identification and suspension of disbelief. They knowingly, willingly abandon themselves to the manipulative narrative put in place by the storyteller (be it a commercial product or a masterpiece, the primal purpose of a movie, like a book, is to capture an audience and transport it). This is the whole point of buying entertainment. And THEY have the right to react to the film subjectively, selfishly, unfairly.
Regular spectators do what the film wants them to do, they wonder "whodunnit?" because the story requires suspense, they believe images of a flashback even if it is the lie of a character, they feel tensed when the music orders them to, they jump when a blast surprises them... This is being a slave of the narrative put in place on purpose by the film. And they do it naturally. 
The position of a film critic is slightly different. This is why a film critic is NOT a random spectator, therefore cannot claim the self-indulgent prerogatives reserved to the general audience. The discourse of a critic shouldn't be self-concerned, or else his voice does not deserve to elevate his personal opinion above the noise of the mass. 
If you're saying this to film students, OK. But make sure you're not suggesting every spectator must turn into a film critic to watch cinema. Because it's bullshit. In fact, most filmmakers hate critics, and prefer the innocence and candor of the regular audience.

"Going towards the film" means something else entirely. It means not being a self-centric consumer who demands the film to deliver our expectations. That is entertainment. What art in cinema is, can only come from the road map the auteur designed, and we are invited to visit HIS world, whether we like it or not. We make the humble choice to give the artist a chance and let him do whatever he has decided to do. We watch a film, like we visit a museum, to learn what the artist wants to say, not to find the confirmation of our own preconceptions about what his art might or should be. Once you've let the artist deploy the fullness of his vision, the way he meant it, the critic steps in and criticize the wonders and shortcomings of the film's vision (not dictated by the critic's own personal taste).

Chris Fujiwara : "I want the viewer to have less agency, and less control. I want to viewer to sit and watch the fucking film, in the dark, in a theatre, and not fuck around. I believe in this old-school belief of the passive spectator. Someone who has to seat through the film as an ordeal. Even as a torture."
Wow, what a pathetic view of cinema... is he allergic to nuance? No need to be so radical and make "challenging cinema" sound like "torture". If you're an idiot who asks for easy entertainment, maybe it's torture to you. But there are people who seek unsettling artworks opening the mind, for the intellectual challenge it promises. There are experiences in your life that are enlightening, even if you never asked for it, even if it doesn't fit your preferences, even if it shakes your belief. Leaving your comfort zone shall not be torture!
To be a humble guest invited to receive a filmic object? Yes. To sit until the film closes? Yes. To be passive? No. To consider a challenging work an ordeal? No. To torture yourself to watch films you hate? No.
And then he cites Rivette... WTF? Now we understand why he wanted to randomly "oppose the audience". A filmmaker may choose to torture his audience, playfully, or perversely. And the audience will play along, or accept the challenge willingly.
But this is a tacit contract between an artist and an audience. Not between a critic and his/her readers, or between a critic a filmmaker's audience. They relate on different levels and for different purposes.

Chris Fujiwara : "We should give the audience the tools to quit their jobs so they can devote their life to cinema."
It's with sentences like these you can tell he has no clue what he's talking about. Not even as a contorted metaphor does this have any poetical moral. For once, someone (Neil Young) stands up and opposes his silly anecdote with the common sense he lacks.

Like in the case of the Rivette quote, he mixes up the distinct societal roles of filmmaker, critic and audience. 
That a filmmaker leaves everything behind to dedicate his/her life to the development of a cinematographic vision makes sense, not only that but it's noble and even recommanded. Some of the best films have been made that way, thanks to the sacrifice of few people who believed in the final result despite the economical bankruptcy, the social alienation and the intellectual disapproval. There is a sense of mystical calling, devotion, radical commitment in the pursuit of an artistic career at the highest level. Not for a critic or a spectator.
That a critic quits his/her commercial employers that prevents the publication of anything insightful, seems to be self-evident, unless authoring poster quotes doesn't keep you awake at night... If you can't do your job, by staying in this job, why try to complacently justify yourself? Either you are exercizing critical thinking or you don't, there is no middle where you are honest on tuesdays and you lie the rest of the week.
That a spectator quits a job in order to dedicate more time to cinema is absurd. When the Young Turks did this, to squatt La Cinémathèque, they intended to become critics first, and then filmmakers. It works for any career, you start to obsess with a certain discipline to become an expert and leave the life of civilian amateur to go professional. 
But in the filmmaker-audience relationship, there is no ambition to turn all spectators into filmmakers, let alone compulsive viewers. And the raison d'être of a critic is NOT to turn readers into addicts. Unless you plan to found an occult sect... You're out of your mind. You're mistaking Art with Religion.
Even in an ideal world, I can not conceive the necessity for the generalisation of this individual case. No masterpiece, of the greatest arts, calls for such a devout following. Not even Mozart, Michelangelo, Shakespeare or Orson Welles.

If you hop on a soapbox to make public declarations, in the name of "film criticism" (in the hope to fix film culture!), you can't just say whatever bullshit goes through your head... it would be embarassing at a dinner with friends, it is insulting at an international film festival. Seeing film culture so misrepresented drives me mad!

Chris Fujiwara : "The tools that critics can give to readers and viewers is just the text, good writing on film, we don't have to be ambitious in a theoretical way, you know, the high-faluting concepts that we are devoted to. [..] [Q: How to maintain your trust with the readers?] By writing as well as you can, being as interesting as you can. And constructing interesting ways to view films and putting it on paper. And if people like that, then that's good."
Wow. So your advice to be good at your job is to write good writing. Thanks for the nondescript adjective and the tautological definition of "being good at what you do". Thank you so much for revealing that GOOD writing is better for film culture than BAD writing... who would have thought? Define "good"! And then get into details and how-to.  (see Good critic, bad critic

Neil Young : "There is always someone worse off than you. Watching starving peasants, or people in terrible dire straits, you leave the cinema and you think ' Well maybe things aren't so bad' In a way that's confirming you in your comfort zone"
Turning the argument on its head. So according to his fallacious logic, watching a story "out of your comfort zone" (because it is worse than your own situation) is what keeps you in YOUR comfort zone. So there is no possible way out of it. According to him, even the exposition to alterity reinforces your conformism. I feel like I'm listening to doublethink from Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. What has a chance to extract you from your comfort zone then??? Are you trying to dissuade any attempt, and comfort people in thinking that escaping our own comfort zone is a futile endeavour anyway?  (see: Seeds for wider diversity in American Culture?)
Let's parse this with a little more intellectual honesty. The proverbial "Comfort Zone" depends on two factors. The active participation of the person and the passive context that sustains it. If spectators do all they can to leave the comfort zone, but cannot find any film providing an alternative vision, then filmmakers are to blame. If the choices are limited to a selection of safe and conformist films, then the system is to blame. If filmmakers go out of their way and film alterity, they did their part of the job. If the person still refuses to open up when given the choice, they are victim of their own apathy. Neither the artists nor the system are responsible for the perpetuation of this state of isolationism if spectators build a wall around their self-indulgent ego. Let's be clear about that before extending the "comfort zone" boundaries ad infinitum... That's why defining the conditions of a "comfort zone" prior to the debate was obligatory.

Related read:

Serge Gainsbourg