26 février 2010

Hollywood System Auteurs?

[Chart edited]
The selection of major auteurs is from Truffaut's 1954 "Une certaine tendance du cinéma français" and Cahiers' 1950ies top10 lists; and from Cahiers/Positif/Sight&Sound/VillageVoice/Film Comment top10 of the "decade" in 2009.
Their evaluative ranking in the arbitrary categories "classics", "greats" and "masters" is my choice : the general consensus from their mentions in lists with my own appreciation weighing in. My entirely subjective choice would drag Hollywood much lower than non-Hollywood auteurs across the board, as I disagree with this consensus. The outdated classicism of Eastwood and Gray don't match as high as the achievements of 50ies Hollywood auteurs, who, in turn, are outclassed by today's World auteurs standards!

Conclusion : it's not the Hollywood system that makes great auteurs, it wasn't back then, it's even less true today. It was just a coincidence if these artists happened to be there (World War II helped to attract "European brains refugees" in Hollywood!) and if there is a higher density of filmmaker population working in Hollywood, statistical chances to find great people among them are higher than anywhere else... especially back then, when the idea that making films outside the studio system was only marginal and unpopular.
Even if MY ranking is partial... I doubt anyone would suggest that the best people working today within the Hollywood system are as good as the auteurs cherry-picked by Cahiers in the 50ies!

Please stop confusing auteurs with the industrial conglomerates funding them.

See also : Hollywood or not Hollywood (Cahiers)?

20 février 2010

EU Admissions - World Cinema Stats (13)

EU27 total admissions 2008 (1 single year) = 924.2 millions

note: EU27 members (since 2007) = EU27: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,  Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK (EU25 + Bulgaria + Romania)

EU25 total admissions 1999-2004 (6 years survey!) = 5430 millions
EU25 total films distributed 1999-2004 = 9892 films

Note: EU25 (since 2004, retrospective survey including new members who only joined in 2004): Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,  Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK (EU15 +  Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary)

Note: EU15 (since 1995): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy,  Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK (EU12 + Austria, Finland, Sweden)

See : World Cinema Stats index

Source :

17 février 2010

Dominant Culture and not-so-popular cinema

"On agit sur la réalité en agissant sur sa représentation"
Michel Foucault, Les Mots et Les Choses, Une archéologie des sciences humaines, 1966
"The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them"
Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism, 1994
"The most effective method of government control over popular cinema isn't the censor's office, it is the tax office"
Suketu Metha, Maximum City, Bombay Lost & Found, 2004
"Le cinéma n'est pas fatalement voué à son usage dominant [..]
Il se peut que, parmi les films les plus dignes du cinéma, les plus fragiles et les plus importants, ceux qu'on oublie toujours, hormis quelques historiens, sont des films qui se délestent de toute métaphore de la mise en scène et foncent dans le réel.
Et foncer dans le réel ça veut dire quoi?
Ça veut dire extraire directement les films des choses. Bien entendu, matériellement, se passer de production, échapper aux circuits de la censure, aux institutions, à l'industrie, à l'ordre social établi."
Nicole Brenez, Cahiers du cinéma, 24 mars 2000, n° hors série "Aux frontières du cinéma"
citations tirées du livre : Christophe Germann, Diversité culturelle et libre-échange à la lumière du cinéma, 2008

11 février 2010

unslow criticism

[..] Sometimes it's hard to figure out the times we're living in. Are they the analogous times of hand written letters and mail coaches and ink-smudged fingers? Or the digital ones of the instantaneous here and now? And what does it mean when the entire spacetime continuum is compressed into that one ecstatic momentum presenting itself as an everlasting present? Is it nirvana or stasis?
And how do we measure the weight of words or the velocity of thoughts? Do they occupy space while travelling?
Last year de Filmkrant launched the Slow Criticism Project with a collection of essays and texts that looked beyond the latest craze. It was a way to encourage film critics to reclaim the field of reflection and ambiguity.
Over the year the Slow Criticism Project has become a counterbalance to the commodification of film journalism, and antidote to the haste and the hype, a speedy poison for a panicked recycle industry in which most media recycle each others opinions, announcing yet another record breaking box office wonder.
Slow Criticism, for us, is a refuge for rebellious and imaginative thinking, which is too often considered to be too personal, philosophical, poetic or simply not appropriate for day-to-day journalism. [..]

Dana Linssen (Filmkrant #318)

There is an interesting critical commentary of this above article (from the dutch online film journal Filmkrant's February 2010 special issue on "Slow Criticism"); read it here : "Slow Criticism: Overcooked Ideas in an Aptly Named Crock Pot" by Vadim Rizov (GreenCine Daily, 9 Feb 2010) :
What "Slow Criticism" would logically lead to is the assumption that the movies will find their champions somehow and float to the top, which is not how the world works. Yes, we need thoughtful, long-form considerations produced at the pace needed to get them right—often arriving at moments when they're "irrelevant" to the trend-obsessed many—but we need this other stuff too to even start the conversation. There's a snobbishness here towards pragmatism, both for the films and the careers of those writing about them, that baffles me. I'm inclined to blame people who have the liberty of being safely ensconced in academia and/or in periodicals: not the most lucrative market, certainly, but a more stable one, where the terms of the conversation are already set.

Vadim Rizov (GreenCine Daily)
I appreciate your pertinent scepticism (because it's important to reflect on what we read in the intellectual press before swallowing it whole and re-twitting it mindlessly) and astute remarks (though mainly superficial and without the necessary big picture perspective) about this Filmkrant project, maybe more rhetorical (noble intentions) than effective (not the best inspirational illustration to sell the concept).

No. The existence of a Slow Criticism, does NOT imply that films will "take care of themselves".

Critics, or reviewers, or people who happen to write about movies, often forget that their position as impartial judge of the film production is meant to be entirely independent from the studios marketing branch. Critics are NOT responsible for the commercial success/failure of any given film. Even if everyone would like to believe it.

Unfortunately, because of the inadequate media, because of the general poor taste of uneducated crowds, because of the expeditive distribution strategies, because of the hollow unsustainable profit-driven movie formats... filmmakers and studio executives rely too much on film journalists to drag the audience in. And critics see themselves as moviefans who have the power to "save" their favourite movies and "drive to bankruptcy" the movies that didn't match their individual expectations... Is the cultural landscape always defined by how much money is made???

With this mentality, it's so easy for the industry to manipulate film journalists into "doing their duty" and participating actively in the commercial career of every movie (which was predetermined by standardized test panels and tasteless economists). There are other professions responsible for this job : publicists, marketing agents, distributors, exhibitors, studio executives, the award shows... even gossip-journalists who help create a buzz around movie-release-related events. They all have (mutual) interests in keeping the star-system alive to benefit from the popularity of the movie business as a whole (disregarding the occasional individual flops, too bad for them neglected, misunderstood artists left behind).

And this self-alimenting circle can live on without critics, don't worry about it, don't worry about movies. Movies live and die by marketing decisions way ahead of time, before critics get to see them, before filmmakers get a chance to start shooting them. Even the smaller movies who need special attention from the media to reach out to their own niche audience, need more than good reviews by intellectual critics when they are released on one screen amidst 5 blockbusters that share the rest of the available screens... A favorable word-of-mouth can only do so much to help an isolated movie. [see my comment below this post]

If you want to help them you need to modify the system at its root. To improve the situation, you need to restore a film culture of higher quality! And for that you have to stop playing their game. How naive can one be to imagine the faith of a movie can change in one week on a handful of screens? Great cinema will not win in the long run if all critics give up their actual role in film culture. A role meant to scrutinizes the system that recycles these marketing methods over and over.

Obviously, slow criticism IS an improvement for counter mainstream culture, in principle. There is no need to bury this constructive idea because you didn't like one of its occurrence.
Look where you're talking from... Hasn't GreenCine Daily changed from fast-food linkage to "slow criticism" since the last editor left?

The Auteurs, for example and contrary to what it says on the tin, is the counter example of "niche cinephilia", or the idea American cinephiles have of an "auteurist counter-culture" in the land of mainstream mainstreamism. Sure it looks good when compared to the worst... the across-the-board Infotainment of mass media. So we are happily surprised to see unfamiliar film titles being trumpetted, the 24h news cycle remains identical to the traditional press methods however.
But is it world-class independent criticism for meaningful auteurs and important issues, or is it a marketing branch of what America affectionately nicknames "arthouse cinema" for Bobos looking for an excuse to their Hollywood guilty pleasures? Like a sanctuary for endangered species... the very species drove to extinction by the Hollywood system these reviewers continualy support by turning a blind eye on its shortcomings!
The new movie reviewers learn to expediate mileages of formated apparaisal, in festival-goer dialect for the film snubs, just like the film students learn to shoot mileages of formated scripts all year long. A coincidence more disturbing than curious if you think about it...

Their headlines galore is thrown out there to spoon-feed with quantity rather than quality, more than any reader can swallow per day or per year... as if cinema enthusiasts required this much information, as if they dedicated all their free time to ONE single website. There is something for everyone. Satisfaction guaranteed : in the multitude, there will always be at least one item catching your eye. Pure marketing tactics of industrials who are less confident in the quality of one than in the please-everyone-offend-none kind of carpet bombing. Let's keep them busy reading and twitting, they will have less time to pause and reflect upon it all.
If you put out more than it is humanly possible to digest, you don't really care for your content to be digested... and you don't mind if each single piece gets less individual exposure in the continuous noise published.

In the distribution business they have the "take the money and run" policy... in the film news business they do exactly the same : "fire and forget". Post away in the hope that the force-feeding of tomorrow will distract the quality control of today.

We really needed the liberty of internet, the non-cost-based structure of electronic writing, to end up in the same constraints the antic media conglomerates have established until now. Obsessed with readership escalation, non-stop abundance, exclusivity races, elusive coverage completude, illusion of authority, deluded uniqueness...

Let the binge begin, get drunk together! If everyone forgets what was said yesterday everything will be fine...

10 février 2010

Forgotten Obsolete English Words #2 : Critic

From Latin criticus, from Ancient Greek κριτικός (kritikos), “of or for judging, able to DISCERN”) from κρίνω (krinō), “I judge”) (wikitionary)
  • One who expresses a REASONED opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its VALUE, TRUTH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, BEAUTY, or TECHNIQUE.
  • One who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances. (Merriam-Webster)

Le mot critique provient du grec κρίσις krisis, « crise », ce qui ne signifie pas pour autant que le critique doit se mettre en opposition avec l’œuvre, mais plutôt à l’écart de celle-ci, il doit avoir une PRISE DE RECUL sur l’œuvre. (wikipedia FR)

L'esprit critique consiste en une attitude méthodique du sujet, qui n’accepte aucune assertion sans mettre à l'épreuve sa valeur, qui ne tient une proposition pour vraie que si elle a été établie comme telle selon des procédures RATIONNELLES et RIGOUREUSES. (wikipedia FR)

Citations sur la critique

"Craignez-vous pour vos vers la censure publique, Soyez-vous à vous-même un sévère critique". [Boileau] in L'art poétique

"La critique est un parasite de la société qui n'a aucune influence ! Les critiques sont de vieux imbéciles, incapables de faire un autre métier alors que la majorité des artistes sur le retour pourraient très bien devenir critiques !" [Coluche] Extrait du journal France-Soir - 1977

"Le critique insulte l'auteur : on appelle cela de la critique. L'auteur insulte le critique : on appelle cela de l'insulte." [Henry de Montherlant] Extrait de Carnets

"C'est quelquefois la critique d'un critique que nous n'aimons pas qui nous fait aimer le livre critiqué." [Jules Renard] Extrait de son Journal 1887-1892

"Je connais un critique qui est en même temps auteur... ce qui le met en tant qu'auteur dans une situation critique !" [Raymond Devos] Extrait du sketch L'auteur critique ou un cas de dédoublement

"Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, etc., if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics." [Samuel Taylor Coleridge] in Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton (1811-1812)

"Ne fais pas attention à ce que dit la critique : on n'a jamais élevé une statue à un critique." [Jean Sibelius]

"La critique a toujours eu mauvaise presse ; le critique, bonne conscience."
[Pierre Descaves] Extrait de Le Théâtre

"La critique est aisée et le critique dans l'aisance." [Jules Renard] Extrait de son Journal

"C'est avec un oeil critique qu'il faut lire les critiques." [Jean-Yves Soucy] Extrait de L'étranger au ballon rouge

"Vous pouvez voir le mauvais critique à ce qu'il commence par parler du poète et non du poème." [Ezra Pound] Extrait de L’ABC de la lecture

"Il ne faut pas demander à l'artiste plus qu'il ne peut donner, ni au critique plus qu'il ne peut voir." [Georges Braque] Extrait de Le Jour et la nuit

"Qui critique les autres travaille à son propre amendement." [Arthur Schopenhauer] Extrait des Aphorismes sur la sagesse dans la vie

"Peu de gens sont assez sages pour préférer le blâme qui leur est utile à la louange qui les trahit." [François de La Rochefoucauld] Extrait des Maximes

"La critique est un impôt que l'envie perçoit sur le mérite." [Duc de Lévis] Extrait de Maximes et réflexions

"La critique est aisée et l'art est difficile. C'est là ce qui produit ce peuple de censeurs, et ce qui rétrécit les talents des auteurs." [Destouches] Extrait de Le Glorieux

"Exiger simplement et strictement des choses les qualités qu'elles ont la prétention d'avoir : tout le sens critique tient là-dedans." [Georges Courteline] Extrait de La Philosophie de Georges Courteline

"Un sage scepticisme est le premier attribut d'un bon critique." [James Russell Lowell]

"La critique est une chose bien commode : on attaque avec un mot, il faut des pages pour se défendre." [Jean-Jacques Rousseau]
See also : Defining a critic

09 février 2010

Anti-Curriculum Vitae

A film critic is NOT :
  1. a "common people", an average viewer, a random audience member (see The root of anti-intellectualism)
  2. a fanboy, a fetishist, a partisan, a demagogue, a populist, a follower (see Prejudice)
  3. a peer, a friend, a kissass (see Complacency)
  4. an autobiographer (see Egocentrism)
  5. a writer, a novelist, an artist (see Mannerism)
  6. a "journalist", a newscaster, a pundit (see The Daily Show)
  7. a tastemaker, a trendsetter, a role model, a signpost (see trade publications)
  8. a publicist, a marketer, a travelling salesman, a salaryman (direct or indirect) of the movie industry (see Conflict of interests)
  9. a censor, a cultural arbitrer, a political arbitrer, a moral arbitrer (see Branding Abu Dhabi)
  10. a speculator, a gambler, a prophet (see festival post-mortem coverages)
  11. a dictator, God almighty (see ivory tower)
... sometimes it's important to keep this in mind to stay grounded, humble and honest with this discipline.

05 février 2010

Forgotten Obsolete English Words #1 : Dialectics

From Ancient Greek διαλεκτική (dialektike), “‘the art of argument through interactive questioning and answering’”), from διαλεκτικός (dialektikos), “‘competent debater’”), from διαλέγομαι (dialegomai), “‘to participate in a dialogue’”), from διά (dia), “‘inter, through’”) + λέγειν (legein), “‘to speak’”).
  • A systematic method of argument that attempts to resolve the contradictions in opposing views or ideas.
Dialectic is rooted in the ordinary practice of a dialogue between two or more people who hold different ideas and wish to persuade each other. The presupposition of a dialectical argument is that the participants, even if they do not agree, SHARE AT LEAST SOME MEANINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF INFERENCE.

The aim of the dialectical method is resolution of the disagreement through rational discussion, and ultimately the search for truth. One way to proceed — the Socratic method — is to show that a given hypothesis (with other admissions) leads to a contradiction; thus, forcing the withdrawal of the hypothesis as a candidate for truth. Another way of trying to resolve a disagreement is by denying some presupposition of both the contending thesis and antithesis; thereby moving to a third (syn)thesis or "sublation". (See Socrates)
It is generally thought dialectics has become central to "Continental" philosophy, while it plays no part in "Anglo-American" philosophy. In other words, on the continent of Europe, dialectics has entered intellectual culture (or at least its counter-culture) as what might be called a legitimate part of thought and philosophy, whereas in America and Britain, THE DIALECTIC PLAYS NO DISCERNIBLE PART IN THE INTELLECTUAL CULTURE, which instead tends toward positivism.

03 février 2010

Typologie des montages

  1. MONTAGE NARRATIF : actualisation du récit (iconique/connotation)
  2. MONTAGE SUPRANARRATIF : Composition paramétrique => discours idéologique surajouté au récit (ex: Eisenstein) montage harmonique/vertical
  3. MONTAGE DYSNARRATIF : procédure paramétrique avec les éléments de la diégèse (signifiant/signifié) => mouvement dialectique de contradiction de l'histoire + construction d'un réseau thématique sous-jacent (ex: Robbe-Grillet)

    * * *

  4. Montage hypernarratif : excès de durée sur des moments anecdotiques (sans récit) comme l'hyperréalisme surenchérit sur l'iconicité du réel qu'il figure (ex: Warhol)
  5. Montage anti-narratif : le statut de pertinence du plan n'est pas un morceau de "premier choix" (ex: expérimental, underground)
tiré de "Méthodologie pour des films improbables" in Dominique Chateau, "Cinéma de la Modernité. films, théories, colloque de Cerisy, 1981"

Cinéma Classique :
  • Montage organico-actif, empirique/empiriste (cinéma américain)
  • Montage dialectique, organique/materiel (cinéma soviétique)
  • Montage quantitatif psychique, rupture avec l'organique (école française)
  • Montage intensif-spirituel, noue vie non-organique à une vie non-psychique (expressionisme allemand)
in Cinéma et narrativité, 2005; André Parente

  1. Montage Rythmique
    1. "musique visuelle" (Dulac, Gance)
    2. "théorie des intervalles" (Vertov)
  2. Montage Emotionel
    1. "montage des attractions" (Eisenstein)
    2. "montage polyphonique" (Eisenstein)
  3. Montage Idéologique
    1. "principe épique" (Koulechov, Poudovkine)
    2. "principe dynamique" (Eisenstein)

  • VERTOV :  Kino-Glass (cinéma qui épie)
    1. Ciné-poing (cinéma qui explique)
    2. Principe dynamique ("collision" des plans)
  • KOULECHOV + POUDOVKINE : Principe "épique" (plans comme maillons)

Vincent Amiel (Esthétique du montage, 2001) :
  1. Montage narratif
  2. Montage discurcif
  3. Montage des correspondances