23 juillet 2006

Cinema is dead... on radio

Le cinéma l'après-midi, The rendez-vous of Filmmakers radio show, cancelled on France Culture!

listen here (available online for a week, in French)

France Culture is a public network, heavy on highbrow culture (philosophy, art, history, psychology, religion...), a haven for quality content, and yet put an end to 3 years of the best panel discussion on cinema... A radio show, hosted by Claire Vassé, I only discovered in 2005, and is not even archived online. It was my weekly fix for serious film talk, cinema reflexion, pertinent questioning, profound insights, and insider perspectives of certain filmmakers on the films of other filmmakers. I got more substance out of these informal verbal chattering between auteurs than from any formal print critics! Filmmakers aren't always very comfortable talking about their own films, but their passion shines when they reveal their vision of cinema through their commentary, the expression of their experience of films that are not theirs.
  • The discussion begins with a clip from Renoir's Une Partie de Campagne, selected by Marie Vermillard. The scene of the girl sharing with her mother about her blooming desir and her growing passion for grass, water, insects like an overwhelming sensation that makes her want to cry. Summarized in this scene, cinema is life.
  • Marie Vermillard cites Fernando Pessoa on the regard (Caeiro) : "I am at the size of what I see", a reflexion closely relevant to the experience of cinema, before the big screen, facing the dimension of the frames
  • Pascal Bonitzer cites Eisenstein : "The close up of a cockroach is more impressive than a wide shot of hundred elephants" traducing the plastic emotionality of filmic framing.
  • Brigitte Rouan is annoyed by the poor format of French cinema this year, trivial, she wants a more radical cinema like Desplechin. She regrets the disappearing of this space of resistance (the radio show) that championned obscur filmmakers like Stephen Dwoskin.
  • Catherine Breillat : Man is an animal with naked skin and speech. The body language, the language of silence, of regard, of flesh.
  • Philippe Le Guay cites Deleuze : "The decomposition of cristal, process of decomposition of the image by Visconti"
    Philosophers teach us how to read images we make. We believe we know our images, and they are re-interpretated by someone else.
    This radio broadcast was a place to re-invent images. Our opinion on a film doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if we like Visconti or not. Shift of appropriation. To change our point of view through speech is what makes cinema important, something to talk about.
  • Khalil Joreige : Cinema is a place of thought. It's not a matter of taste, but a field of exploration that has to do with our existence and our approach.
  • Catherine Breillat : Cinema is the place for the discovery of the world. Cinema is a metamorphosis of human thought becoming concrete. Place of work and human conscience.
  • Brigitte Roüan says the feedback of the audience who amplify a film through their own words, an perspective the filmmaker couldn't even imagine, is emotionaly moving her to tears sometimes.
  • Philippe Grandrieux proposes a clip from the opening of Dreyer's Ordet. The word can ressurect life, something becomes possible when the speech is pronounced and heard. The sound of the father calling his son, and the sound of the animals (reminder/vertigo of animality). The great question of cinema is its capacity to make us feel we are alive.
    This radio broadcast was important to put together filmmakers who are not meant to face eachother and talk about other films, and their own relationship to cinema.
  • Emmanuel Mouret : "Cinema does resurrect life. Cinema IS life, not aside of life. Often we say reality inspires cinema, but cinema is also there to inspires reality"
  • Dominique Cabrera cites "Pierre-Auguste Renoir, mon père" book by Jean Renoir. The paintor fought the motif, he painted nude bodies, and found himself in this nudity.
    The sexual desire to film a body, a face, weaving a life pulsion with the director's personal history.
  • Philippe Le Guay cites Ophüls "The greatest quality of cinema is vitality" because vitality cannot be enclosed in an idea.
  • Philippe Grandrieux : What matters is the nature and the origin of the "gesture" of the artist. A director doesn't frame his shots with the eyes, but from within, something inside, in order to see something, to mean something. Beauty for itself is grotesque, the quality of a merchandise.

Sad day for thought-provoking Film Discussion, as listening to filmmakers talking about their art is too rare and precious...

15 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

Michel Ciment's own radio broadcast Projection Privée (thanksfully this one isn't cancelled for the next season), takes a look at Godard's 2006 Exhibition at the Paris MoMA : Voyage en Utopie(s)

- Nicole Brenez (editor of Godard's comprehensive catalog)
- Michel Marie (author of "Comprendre Godard : travelling avant sur A bout de souffle et Le mépris")
- Bamchade Pourvali (young author of "Godard neuf zéro : les films des années 90 de Jean-Luc Godard")

Interesting debate around the myth of JLG and the arguable failure (self-destruction) of his lifetime exhibition. Ciment asks why there is nobody to dialogue with Godard, no critical feedback, only worship celebration...

listen here (available online for a week, in French)

Anonyme a dit…

There's nothing even remotely like this in the US. There was/is an IFC show called Dinner for Five, but basically, it was just five people from the industry (mostly actors, an occasional director or musician) talking nonesense about their Hollywood experience. The Actors Studio (shot from the New School) used to have some interesting guests talking about acting as a craft, but now, it's basically just a star vehicle for anyone who's trying to sell a movie, or wants to fawned over.

By the way, Harry, I've noticed that on Firefox (mac and pc), the background on your blog renders as white which makes the posts seem invisible (started appearing this way about a month ago). On IE, it shows up correctly (dark grey), so maybe there's an #fff designated style that doesn't belong and IE doesn't read it?

HarryTuttle a dit…

I checked a few american radio shows. The one on NPR with Edelstein is nice. Filmspotting podcast. But they are only review reading sessions.

Maybe their is a niche their to develop in the USA! ;)
I know American directors are more stars than French directors, so they wouldn't bother... but maybe some indie directors, young directors, web-friendly directors would agree to be on a penal discussion like that. Which would allow them to talk about topics they don't usually have the opportunity to discuss with the news journalists.
Someone with contacts should organize that.
Or a (online) critics panel if directors are not available...
Edelstein's Movie Club in audio would be awesome, wouldn't it?

re: blog template.
Thanks for letting me know.
I only use IE, and I thought Bloggers template were already cross-platform proof. Maybe I should stop tweaking this template, it's such a mess now that I can't find my way around. Especially since the main grey background is meant to be a picture, doubled by a #grey filling underneath.
I'll check it out.

HarryTuttle a dit…

btw, acquarello, I don't know why, but you're the only visitor I don't get notifications by email when you leave a comment... I wonder why. (Not that I have many other visitors)

Anonyme a dit…

Really? I wonder if that's a Firefox-related thing too. By the way, the post archive is readable again via Firefox. Sweet!

Yeah, the problem with the NPR archives and podcasts is that they're not interactive by nature (not just with respect to the audience). There's no extemporaneity, which is what makes that show sound so interesting. I think in general, art talk broadcasts are just a hard sell in the U.S. Even the long-running Breakfast with the Arts program on A&E (Arts and Entertainment channel on cable) was recently revamped to have a more photogenic host and more pop culture-type guests instead of their more highbrow and academic old format.

By the way, I know you meant "panel discussion", but I like the idea of emerging filmmakers having to do penal discussion, maybe as a kind of self-exorcism so that they don't fall into the trap of hype and fame and compromise their art. :)

HarryTuttle a dit…

"penal discussion" :)

I know it's not popular. But on a non-profit medium like the internet, it doesn't matter how few is the audience. Althought if it's a free podcast anybody can download i'm sure it could attract a sizeable group of cinephiles across the world.
The only thing is to get directors or critics to sit around a table, not for the money, just because they want to share their passion.

Caveh Zahedi, who runs a blog, would certainly be interested for example.

But they should consider it like a friendly meeting, not like a gig. Maybe i'm too naive to believe they would be happy to say something else than their formated speech. Talking about cinema, outside of commercial-oriented prospects should be enough an incentive...

There must be at least a few people who could pull this out in the USA.

p.s. ok i don't how I fixed the bug, but if it works i won't touch it anymore.

Adam a dit…

harrytuttle, how is Filmspotting a "review reading session"? We don't read anything except listener feedback and the intros to our reviews (first 1-2 minutes setting up the movie).

HarryTuttle a dit…

Hi Adam Kempenaar, nice to see you here. Don't take this the wrong way, I cited your link because I appreciate what Filmspotting is doing, I believe verbal criticism is a form of Ciné-club that should be developped wider all around.
Edelstein kinda improvizes too in a pseudo-dialogue with the host, but what I meant is this format is a unilateral delivery of critical take. Edelstein obviously sticks with whatever his written review contains, he's not going to change his opinion for the verbal version.

A radio show format I prefer (the cancelled French broadcast I described in this post), is a true panel confrontation. And these filmmakers happen not to have priorly published a written review. Actually they come in with few notes about their experience and first analysis (you can tell they read their bullet points), but the most interesting is they are more than 2 and they have to go beyond their own "theory" of the film to engage with the other guests, and instead of developping their take, they develop the collective debate (formal scrutiny, filmic analysis, critical aesthetics, broader scope about humanism and philosophy, cinema in its artistic practice, politics, film theory and history of arts...). And guests are changing every week which gives us an ever renewed perspective.

Both types of format are worth listening though.

Adam a dit…

That sounds like a really fascinating show. I guess I see Filmspotting as a much less rigorous version of that. I just didn't want Filmspotting lumped in with Edelstein's 'read' reviews. And I love Edelstein, probably my favorite critic... But the format calls for him to just read his written review, and our show is nothing like that. Thanks!

HarryTuttle a dit…

Sorry. I wouldn't have made this quick mischaracterisation if I wasn't making a broad generalisation about film criticism on radio. Here I opposed the ciné-club debate type to the reviews.

- 1 critic (host) feels patronizing. (true in written form too)
- 2 critics (host duet) feels like connivence.
- 3 critics (1 host + guests) feels like perspective. The odd number brings unbalance, and forces confrontation.

andyhorbal a dit…

These ciné club models could exist in the place of the newspaper film section as we know it. I think it jives with a lot of what Chris Lavin is saying here. Again, it's a question of intent: What do we wish to accomplish with our film section?

I think that the New York Times film section, the model for most of the journalistic print criticism in the United States, is about as disconnected as you can be from the process of actually making films.

You'd think a site like Slate might want to try this format on for size. They're (maybe) taking steps in that direction with their new "Spoiler Special" podcasts. At any rate, they're breaking with a number of conventions: the "no spoilers" convention, the print format convention, the scripted review format...

Threads like this simultaneously hearten and dishearten me, because I'm still not entirely sure what I'm doing on the internet, doing with my blog. I could start a program like this on a local basis (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) this weekend if I wanted to. I could find some local filmmakers, set up some audio equipment (or even a camera) and record a discussion of this sort. And then I could upload it onto YouTube, onto my blog. So why don't I, I wonder...

HarryTuttle a dit…

I don't think the length needed for a Ciné-Club discussion could suit the technical constraints of a newspaper, but the specialized cinema (monthly) magazine.

Look at the pitfall of looking at arts through numbers : Chris Lavin seems to justify his cause by opposing art/sport attendance, while ignoring the fact that there are more sport fans who don't need to be at the match to be a regular reader of the sport section. Lumping "arts" with movies, theatre, exhibition (which have distinct audience) is also a convenient trick to inflate the numbers in a dramatic way...
Comparing Cinema and Sports on marketing basis... gimme a break. If anything the Hollywood star-system is already too much of a sports franchise in my eyes.
This is exactly the type of mentality I'm opposing. And it sounds like an American/European barrier.
Story-telling is precisely the lose end Bordwell wants to cut out.

Thanks for the link to "Spoiler Special", I didn't know about this. There are only 2 hosts, but there seems to be a more critical approach, as it assumes talking to an audience who has seen the film already, instead of cooonvincing them to go or don't go watch it.
It's so funny that this is promoted like a subversive thing... while it is what critical analysis is meant to be!

Yeah you should run such a program on your blog ;) Maybe critics, producers, editors would be easier to invite on the mic, since it's your interest in film criticism. That would be interesting to hear their voices outside of a marketing campaign.

HarryTuttle a dit…

I've listenned to a couple of "Spoiler Special" snipets, and apaprently the host and/or the guest change each time, which is interesting, especially if it brings together critics from other publications.
Although the 7-10 minutes length is hardly enough for insights... unfortunately their focus is mainly around plotholes and script interpretations/preferences.

Critical analysis should begin beyond this line of gossips about whether the movie is enjoyable/plausible or not.

andyhorbal a dit…

And it sounds like an American/European barrier.

We Americans are a practical, business-minded people. :-)

Critical analysis should begin beyond this line of gossips about whether the movie is enjoyable/plausible or not.

Oh hell yes. But it is a (baby) step in the right direction.

HarryTuttle a dit…

I meant that the definition of a film critic in Europe (and maybe especially in France) is perceived differently. Here critics aren't much more popular, but at least I don't think their intellectual expertise is disputed by the audience like it is in the USA where everyone is a critic.

You're right, it's definitely an improvement on the no-spoiler policy.