10 mai 2009

Peary on American-centric criticism

In the latest issue of Undercurrent #5 (sporadic publication!) Chris Fujiwara Interviews Gerald Peary, who made a documentary on American Film Criticism (on the poster are ugly caricatures, including Harry Knowles of all reviewers...!)

See comments on this film by David Bordwell and Jonathan Rosenbaum

PEARY : Film criticism = "a profession under siege"
Sieged by who exactly? Readers don't care to read articles... that's not a war, it's free market baby. You might want to rephrase that in order to appropriately address the core of the crisis.

PEARY : "Mine is the first documentary ever to attempt a filmic history of film criticism of one country. May critics in other countries be inspired to make movies detailing their histories.."
If this 1h10 long documentary is the full history of American Film Criticism... then Le Fantôme d'Henri Langlois (2004/Richard/France) is as little comprehensive an overview of French Film Criticism in 3h30, from WW2 till very recently, interviewing most major figures alive.

FUJIWARA : "The question of what qualifies a film critic is a nagging one throughout the film. The rationale that seems to emerge most powerfully is that of John Powers ("getting paid") and Harlan Jacobson ("I got the job"). Such a response of course answers the question, "By what right do you call yourself a film critic?" But it doesn't answer the more important questions, which are, "What is a good film critic? What should a film critic be?"
"getting paid" and "i got the job" qualify any job you can think of! and it's not a pertinent answer to the question "By what right do you call yourself a film critic?" either!
If we're playing Jeopardy, the correct question was "What makes you an employee of film review pages?"
If you think getting paid to write on movies makes you a (rightful) film critic, you took the problem from the wrong end, the bureaucratic end. If we are talking about "right", a moral credential, a peer recognition, an achievement test, an intellectual authority in the domain of cinema... salary and employers have nothing to do with that. And the point of this "crisis" was precisely that employers replaced all critics and editors by unqualified reviewers!

PEARY : "Sarris was an overt auteurist, Kael a covert one, but between them they changed cinema into what is now widely regarded as a director's art."
Sure, and you call the French chauvinist? I know it's a documentary on AMERICAN film criticism... but when Cahiers made American critics rediscover their own American directors, it's ungrateful to so boldly overlook the role of Bazin, Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Rivette, etc. in establishing the status of the auteur, and American auteurs in particular!

PEARY : "the most appropriately valued American critics around the globe are people like Jonathan Rosenbaum, Jim Hoberman, who themselves have global perspectives about cinema."

FUJIWARA : "Knowles's remark might suggest that there is some underground of young rebel film critics who are occupying a similar position now to that which Sarris occupied in the 1960s, defending contemporary films that were despised by traditionalist critics because they were commercial films, genre films."
In principle, maybe. But that doesn't mean that any blogosphere pundit like Harry Knowles should be taken seriously just because their taste is somewhat subversive or anti-establishment... There is a lot of stuff outside the enshrined pantheon of acclaimed cinema... and most of it is deservedly rubbish. The underdog Truffaut challenged was a genius. There aren't many Hitchcocks in today's overlooked mainstream directors!

2 commentaires:

chutry a dit…

I like your reading of this interview. An I think Peary misspeaks when he suggests that film criticism is "under siege," or even that people are no longer reading film criticism. In fact, the opposite is true. It's just that newspapers are losing money (for a variety of reasons) and that film reviewers are seen as an expensive luxury at many papers.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Hi, thanks for visiting.
I agree with you that the newspaper crisis is much larger than the problem of film pages. It's a matter of competition with free internet content and the shift of advertising budget online.

Though I don't know how expensive is a movie reviewer. All their expenses are paid for by distributors' junkets...

Art pages are not meant to be profit-driven material in a newspaper... it's a mandatory cultural content for public service. It's preformatted in size and regularity. It's the lesser hassle of an editor.

And the movie going population is not going down, despite the insignificant seasonal fluctuations.

It's a political crisis (conflict of influence with sponsors and freedom of criticism), not a structural one that would justify budget cuts.