27 décembre 2011

Inception (Kyle Johnson)

Authors@Google: Kyle Johnson 'Inception and Philosophy'
16 Dec 2011 (video) 43'

 Inception and Philosophy : Ideas to die For


21 décembre 2011

Quote Whores Fail

Best adjectival reviewing of 2011. 
This really translates what the documentary is about. 
Thanks movie marketing and movie reviewers! 
(cynicism intended)

14 décembre 2011

Doc filmmakers vs. Doc critics (CIFF)

Shamans · Animals

A response to the Film Symposium "Ethics and Documentary Cinema" (31st October 2011) held at the China Independent Film Festival Documentary (Nanjin)
Signed by several documentary filmmakers who participated and also who did not participate in the festival
  1. Demand that film critics buy their own DVDs (Xue Jianqiang)
    Reject how film critics have become the definers and arbiters of the morals and ethics of documentary film. Rather than simply passing judgement on documentary ethics, film critics should foster a film critique based on artistic intuition that, rooted in intrinsic film language itself, inquires into ethics.
    Reject a film critical perspective that is remote from common people, one that abuses a concept like “the lower strata of society.” Do you like this concept because you feel that you are in a position of superiority?
    Can an intellectual-style round table discussion have any possible constructive nature?
  2. Reject the way intellectuals use conventional concepts and actions to turn fresh and lively documentary experience into something uninteresting. (Cong Feng)
  3. If we see cinema as a private garden, is the critic the owner of the garden or only the gardener? (Zhang Chacha)
  4. The rigid theorizing of intellectuals turns the flow of discussion into something oppressive and boring. (Gui Shuzhong)
  5. For the past few years, it seems that we’ve abandoned discussing film language. It’s more fun discussing the ethics of social differentiation. (Jin Jie)
  6. Shoot films like an animal.
    Criticize (films) like an animal.
    Animals of a different species. (Qiu Jiongjiong)
  7. Critics cannot dictate history.
    Critics should learn from filmmakers, and not pretend to be their mentors.
    Artists teach themselves in the course of shooting their films; they establish their own ethical principles.(Cong Feng)
  8. Making documentary cinema reproduces the feeling of making love. The climaxes can’t be judged by the critics.(Song Chuan)
  9. Respect the diversity of and multiple approaches to creative artistic research.
  10. We’re not trying to start a revolution. We’re trying to shake people awake (while we get drunk).(Ji Dan)
  11. Revolutions are caused by arrogance, nothing more.(Ji Dan)
  12. Fortunately documentary filmmakers pay no heed to unreliable theory.(Gui Shuzhong)
  13. Theory is inflexible.
    Are fresh and lively. (Gui Shuzhong)
  14. Filmmakers speak through their works
    Viewers ponder what’s on the screen
    Here come the critics, squawking and quacking a language of their own. (Jin Jie, Zhang Chacha)
  15. If theorists are the ones who can speak, and critics are the ones who can write, then the real thinkers are precisely those who neither speak nor write. (Bai Budan)
  16. When ethics are at issue, law is the criterion. (Feng Yu)
  17. Where is the moral introspection of certain critics and scholars? Enough with leaders’ speeches, already. (Cong Feng)
  18. Theory is related to reality. Theory also must keep up with the times. If critics stray from the works of art themselves while discussing theory, then their discussion will become like fog in the wind, vapid and uninteresting. (Gui Shuzhong)
  19. [missing]
  20. Talk too much about theory, and you sound pretentious. Overemphasize theory and you sound authoritarian. Life is not a two-sided coin: you have no right to force it to be either one way or the other. Of course, you can use theory to impress the kids. The motivation for documentary comes from a shame of one’s own ignorance. There’s no place for any talk of an avant garde or of theory. (Hu Xinyu)
  21. At present, the critics tend to a kind of literary writing style. Documentary films are treated as literature, as works of art. The critics seem to think they alone have the right to define a rational discursive interpretation of society. But this is in fact an act of cultural despotism, an act that is neither rational with respect to social reality nor with respect to art. Because of this, the rational discourse of the critics is a kind of observation at one remove. (Mao Chenyu)
  22. So-called theory is all for self-gratification. Independent film should not be restricted to the society’s lowest classes telling stories about each other. It should be diverse and multiple.
    Uninteresting, boring, useless.
    When you say you’re aligned with the lowest levels of society, you are in fact looking with disdain and contempt at the low from on high.
    Please use the word “intellectual” correctly and carefully. And please don’t use that word at this kind of independent film festival. It is not a term of praise, but rather a pretext to occupy a position high above the ordinary people. Is it really so hard to be modest and put yourself in someone else’s position? (Wang Shu)
  23. If possible, watch more movies. If you ever have the opportunity, then try to shoot a film. If you’ve never shot a gun yourself, how can you teach someone else to shoot? (Gui Shuzhong, Cong Feng)
  24. Yesterday’s forum took place at the Nanjing University’s News and Media Institute. Is it the job of our professors and scholars to teach students how make false statements sound like true ones? If those who teach students to lie boast that they are intellectuals, can there still be any filmmakers willing to label themselves “intellectuals?” (Beifang Lao =web alias)
Translated by Shelly Kraicer. Co-translator: Isabella Ho. With thanks to Yang Yishu, J.P. Sniadecki, Zhang Xianmin, and Cong Feng (cinemascope; 25 Nov 2011)

* * *

Some comments :

This is very sad actually to see that the new generation of Chinese indie filmmakers could not MEET eye-to-eye with the Chinese film scholars... it's like if an important rendez-vous of History was missed. I don't know which side was the most self-indulgent, which one was wrong... but surely, given the difficult state of cinema in China, being dominated by Hollywood blockbusters on one side, and by State-approved conformity on the other side, there must have been a strategic move to support the independent scene (critically acclaimed around the world), regardless for any shortcomings, in a country where artistic freedom has been repressed for so long! If filmmakers come to your table to discuss their artistic creation, the basic curtsy would be to LISTEN to them, and to walk half-way through to a neutral middle ground. For the sake of cinema!

I would usually take the defense of the Film Criticism profession, against the anti-intellectual sentiment that denies critics the right to scrutinize, with complete independence and no pressure, the production of art. Because it is easy to blame critics when they don't like your film, and reject film criticism altogether just because you're in denial about the shortcomings of your own work... That's not how it works. We have to accept and protect the existence of Criticism, no matter what, in times of praise like in times of harsh judgement. This said, critics ought to be held to the highest standards of evaluation as well! Too many reviewers pass judgements they aren't qualified to emit in the first place. This is why individual reviewers should be held accountable for the sustainability of the whole profession. And in this case, even though I'm not very familiar with the Chinese indie scene, I tend to agree with the plaintifs (for the most part). But some details need to be clarified...

  1. I agree. But this is a thorny subject.
    Free access to ALL production for critics is the only guarantee for an independent opinion. Charging critics to watch films put them in a position to reconsider whether certain film is WORTH paying BEFORE they even got to see it, thus establishing an a priori rating based on assumptions (not to mention segregating the number of possible reviews a critic can publish based on how many DVDs they can afford). One way to circumvent this issue, is to charge the media company employing the critics (they surely can afford to buy the DVDs).
    The reason I agree, even though it is against the fundamental liberty of criticism, is because the situation has changed with the digital age, especially for the smallest niches of art cinema. There are more people than ever reviewing films in the world, while the gap between the hegemony of blockbusters and the slim niche of artfilms widens. And, considering that the main demographic interested in artfilms today are active cinephiles who happen to be also festival-goers and film reviewers... not charging the critics community amputates a sizeable chunk of expected revenue from their potential audience! This is one reason why the artfilm niche shrunks... most people who would watch these films, have already seen advance screenings, festival screenings or DVD screeners.
  2. I've seen a couple of Chinese indie documentaries, and they haven't been as masterful as Wang Bing's West of Track or Jia Zhangke's Dong. They pride themselves in being amateurs and don't care about formalist correctness or political correctness. So it is very hard to compare them to "academic documentaries". But this is where the critic should use fairness and understand where this particular production comes from. Sometimes a new film form emerges from the destruction of certain established standards and conventions (1920's Avant Garde, Surrealism, German Expressionism, Film Noir, Soviet Montage, Cinéma Vérité, Direct Cinema, New American Cinema (1970's NYC experimental scene), New Hollywood...) When they arose they were dismissed for looking "rough", "failed", "imperfect", "unfinished", "amateurish"... but the test of time proved otherwise. So critics need a long term perspective and bet on the future potentials. Maybe they shouldn't be judged on the form, but on the content, the slice of life (and the era) they are witness of, the experience. It's hard to convince the critical establishment that celebrates the photo-realist formalism of the XIXth century to welcome the arrival of a new "unprofessional" style such as Impressionism... but in this case, the establishment was wrong.
  3. Good image to keep critics in their place and remind them to be humble in front of ART. Too often critics believe they have a say in deciding what the future of art should look like, while they are merely there to attest the current production, and make sure to not miss anything. The future of the art form itself is for artists to give it a go (and sometimes fail too).
  4. Here I cannot support the use of polarizing, anti-intellectual and subjective clashes such as "rigid", "oppressive" and "boring". You already lost the argument there. That's what criticism appears to people being criticized unfavorably... but criticism is judgmental, conceptual, intellectual, theoretician and "arrogant", by definition, because it implies the authority to value the work of someone else. Criticism is not evil, there are only faulty film writers. Demand highest rigor from people who practice criticism, yes. But don't direct your anger and frustration toward the critical institution itself. Film Criticism is there to help artists, not to battle against them.
  5. I don't know the background of this controversy around the question of "social ethics" that seems to be the main issue against this group of documentarists. 
  6. Probably the language barrier doesn't translate the full innuendo of this analogy. There is animality in the artist indeed. But critics should never think of themselves as equal to the artist in this domain. I get the point that critics are asked to put themselves in the artist's shoes to understand the condition of an "animal-creator", and produce a more organic, tolerant, adaptable, empathetic judgement. Yes, definitely. But the critic doesn't have the privilege, prerogative, excuse to resort to animality. 
  7. Exactly. See my comment #2 and 3. 
  8. Agreed. Funny way to put it, but that's the spirit, as far as passing moral judgement on how other people make love, or I would rather say how other people choose their significant other. Being in love is an inter-personal affair, with idiosyncratic taste and expectations. Nobody can judge what is somebody else's object of election, desire, life partner. But that doesn't mean the critic is forbidden to judge at all. The critic has no say in WHAT the artist wants to do, but it's the critics job to investigate where the artist is coming from and what (s)he is trying to achieve, and judge the results given the process.
  9. Definitely.
Then there are unfair comments against criticism and against the liberty for critics to do their job, which I cannot condone. Call the "critical establishment" incompetent, antiquated, outdated, out of touch with reality, tell them they are missing the point, that they focus on the wrong aspects if you think that the NEW Chinese cinema needs a NEW generation of critics updated to the new paradigm. But don't reject criticism altogether, or the right for a scholar to judge your work. It's not the critical principles that are faulty, but the individual persons who misuse them. It is possible, even for scholars, to be wrong. It happens regularly throughout Art History. In this, I agree with the point #18, 21, 22, 24 of their manifesto.

I feel bad that the current vital scene of Chinese digital cinema cannot walk hand-in-hand with the current generation of critics and scholars... their (respective) loss, but so be it. The art scene may strive in the margin of the establishment, no worries. The Academe will catch up later (hopefully sooner than later), because what matters above all is the artist community producing art TODAY! Every art lover would agree. We are glad that artists in the past stubbornly pursued their researches and experiments all the while being mocked, caricatured, dismissed and repressed by scholars, critics and society of their times, often to the point of never profiting of the value their art reached in today's market, dying poor and neglected. Art survives all hardship, and that's the beauty of the selfless faith of artists in their persistent inspiration. That's why we should admire and respect the dedication of artists.

(23) I understand the frustration of filmmakers being misjudged by "critics" who never tried to make a film in their life, and don't understand the amount of efforts and commitments it involves, while they click a number of stars on their computer to evaluate a film after sitting on their ass for 90 minutes. The fact is there are lazy reviewers out there, who think of their job as a factory job, rating the most films per day as possible to show off to their peers, to publish-or-perish...
However, Cinema cannot be judged only by people who make films... it would be a self-serving, corporatist enclosure patting itself on the back, or rivaling with eachothers for personal interests. The purpose of art criticism is to offer an independent point of view. The point I agree with is that critics are REQUIRED to know about the filmmaking technique, almost as well as a filmmaker, to be able to evaluate and maybe to be more understanding of the efforts put into a given shot before dismissing it.


06 décembre 2011

Tough sell (Chinese indies)

Karin Chien : "It's a tough sell. Foreign language cinema is a tough sell in the US. Subtitles... Also there is no previous tradition of this kind of cinema showing in the US. So a large part of our mission is not only to distribute the films but to educate the audiences, to grow the audience, to create the audience for these films. I started my film career in Asian-American independent cinema. that's another sector where we have to create the audience for a film. So I kind of come from that tradition. So I understand what that means and what that entails. But it is a lot of work. Sometimes I look North (to Canada) or West (to Europe). The films we distribute in the US are shown theatrically in these other countries, that get a lot of support, go to Cannes, win awards at Venice, and Locarno, have series playing at Berlin and Rotterdam. They are really well-fed across the sea, and they are also really supportive in Canada. And when we come here, it's starting over a little bit. And starting that education process. The people who see these films usually fall in love with them or find something really amazing to hold onto in the film. So we're grateful for that. And like you said, institutions like MoMA or the NYT, do come out and support the films, put their money where their mouth is, put it in print or in the theatre. And that's incredibly important. It is sometimes a constant uphill battle, bring foreign indie cinema, anything with subtitles to an American audience. [..]"
Filmwax; Webcast by Adam Schartoff; #1110: Interview with Karin Chien, film producer and President of dGenerate Films (16 Nov 2011) [MP3] 28'23"
Great discourse, great interview. However, this falls under "partial publicity campaign" (even if I agree with its content, and it's quite objective in itself). What I mean is that a producer-distributor talking to the guy who exhibits the films, both have an obvious interest in the stakes. They won't say the films are bad, or that the audience shouldn't come. Thus the necessity of an independent branch of the marketing trail : the film criticism. It's better when all this is spoken and published by a third party, an independent mediator, who is the film critic. I know this distributor and this local exhibitor do their job out of love, and incidentally for a kind of independent art cinema I personally prefer. But these films need to be defended by people who won't make money out of its screenings. 
I'm not dismissing anything they did, but it's preaching to the choir at this scale. For the message to go out and to gain public exposure, it needs to be relayed by the independent media. Only then, reading the same type of discourse in the press, would Film Culture be able to move forward. 

I noted that Karin Chien first mention "commercial distribution" in Europe for independent Chinese cinema, and when the host comes back to that point, Karin answers a different side of the question (that she had nothing to do with the distribution in Europe) but sounded like "no they are not distributed" because of a confusing jump in the conversation. I guess listeners unfamiliar with the world market might misunderstand this key point (because the host get a "no" answer to his follow up, which he hoped to see Karin develop : about how such films get a proper commercial release (not direct-to-DVD) in Europe, because of its (subsidies-backed) art house circuit, which is quasi-non-existent in the USA. I thought it was an important point to emphasize there.
I believe it's important to explain to the public why an arthouse circuit functions in Europe (by picking up daring titles and taking risks to show them even if the audience takes weeks to come in). While in the USA these films are only screened on 1 or 6 screens nationwide, and it is impossible to build a word of mouth that way or to reach out to the niche that would want to see them. 

The host mentions certain reservations regarding "subtitles" that are too revealing of a reticent mentality. If he shows artfilms at his venue, why would he draw attention to the bad quality of subtitles... which further alienate an already intimidated audience.
The problem of bad translated subtitles (which I'm familiar with also in Paris) is only a tangential issue. It's because there is not enough time and money to subtitle a film that will only circulate on one print! Poor budget films have poorly made subtitles (usually). But it's something we should learn to ignore... If we start to become as nitpicky as a multiplex audience (complaining about everything that doesn't look crispy clean like a Hollywood release, sound quality, image quality, number of prints, proximity of the theatre, screen size, early release, and in the case of foreign cinema subtitles), then the artfilm circuit pales in comparison and has lost before a chance to show us anything. If you're a film lover, you overlook the obvious shortcomings of a small-budget-release, and are thankful of being able to see it at all. If the first audience that gets to see the films doesn't endure the (bad) subtitles, then there is no chance for the film to make money and get a better distribution later. Since this webcast was obviously meant to support the indie scene, it is counter-productive to bring up such detail in the grand scheme of things : which is to get undecided movie goers to make an effort to see a film that is visible on very few supports, in very few places, for a very limited time...
Artfilm re-familiarisation starts with education and without the old clichés about "bad art film screenings", particularly in the USA!
In France we haven't worked out the fail-proof subtitles yet (essentially limited to festival screenings of undistributed indie films). In the USA, you have bigger worries : to get the films SCREENED at all, bad subtitles or not. Solve one problem at the time.
Hopefully the transition to full digital projections will improve the condition of subtitles, and lower the cost of "soft" subtitles, and the ease of correcting a subtitle file rather than having to print a new copy  of the celluloid reel with hard subs on.

* * *

"China is a nation on the move - and Chinese movies are no exception. Here you'll find the world's fastest growing movie industry, where luxury Cineplex’s with 3D projectors and IMAX screens cater to a booming leisure class.
Chinese movie theaters raked in $1.5 billion last year and are expected to make more money in the next five years than even American movie theaters. Now Chinese moviegoers still prefer to watch Hollywood imports, but there have been a few breakout hits from the mainland.
Let the Bullets Fly is a rollicking, action-packed period comedy in which high-level swindlers face off with a powerful bandit played by Chow-Yun Fat. This year it became Mainland China's all-time top-grossing movie, beating the record set last year by Aftershock, a remarkable drama about a 1976 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. It's directed by Feng Xiaogang, who is so successful in China that he's been called the Chinese Steven Spielberg. Neither of these blockbusters are officially available in the US, but another important film is coming soon to home-video : City of Life and Death [..]"
From escapist entertainment to reality, Kevin Lee reports on Chinese cinema today. (dGenerate; 28 Oct 2011) video 4'48"
Ebert presents at the Movies, which used (commissioned?) the above videoclip, re-edited it down to 3'41" by cutting out half of the paragraph cited above (about the fact very popular Chinese blockbusters of excellent quality are NOT distributed in the USA). I wonder why....? Well it's better to talk a bit about China than nothing at all, you're going to say. Sure. And they do show all the part about the indie niche of Chinese cinema; which in a way, is better for film culture, but also a lesser competition for the American domestic market. Pick and choose. I guess that's the mantra of the mainstream media with (fabricated) airtime constraints.


04 décembre 2011

Film Philosophy (MIT)

Philosophy of Film / MIT 24.213 (Prof. Irving Singer)
During the fall of 2004, four sessions of 24.213 were recorded especially for OpenCourseWare.

This course is a seminar on the philosophical analysis of film art, with an emphasis on the ways in which it creates meaning through techniques that define a formal structure. There is a particular focus on aesthetic problems about appearance and reality, literary and visual effects, communication and alienation through film technology.
Session 1 [1h10']
Syllabus and course requirements, philosophy and film, student introductions, the humanist philosopher, Jean Cocteau, film as cultural communication, readings for the course, meaning and technique are inseparable
  • 00:00:00 Introduction to course
  • 00:13:10 Singer explains his work in philosophy...
  • 00:19:47 The first reading book Reality Transformed..
  • 00:21:20 Singer continues with student introductions...
  • 00:28:18 Singer describes himself as a humanist philosopher.
  • 00:31:00 Singer discusses the work of Jean Cocteau.
  • 00:41:30 Student raises issue of film as a primary form of cultural communication.
  • 00:58:55 Singer's fundamental idea on meaning and technique is that the 2 cannot be separated

Session 2 [42'39"]
why study film?, realism and formalism, mathematics as an abstract art form, film and photography, Beauty and the Beast, Cocteau, Citizen Kane
  • Student begins presentation, asking the question: Why study film?
  • Singer discusses the interpenetration of realism and formalism in film.
  • In response to a student's description of problem-solving in engineering, Singer argues that mathematics is an abstract art form.
  • Discussion of the aesthetic differences between film and photography.
  • Student talks about Cocteau's film, Beauty & the Beast.
  • Further discussion of Cocteau; Singer explains that in Cocteau's work, film lends itself to poetry.
  • Student continues presentation with analysis of Citizen Kane.

Session 3 [1h12'48"]
Beauty and the Beast, William James, Citizen Kane
  • Singer announces that this session will continue the discussion of the last 2 weeks, which included an introduction to the philosophy of film; watching Beauty & the Beast (an archetype of what Cocteau calls "the poetry of film"); and discussion of the distinction between realist and formalist schools.
  • Singer mentions the work of the American philosopher William James.
  • Singer continues discussion of Beauty & the Beast.
  • Singer reviews the Disney version of Beauty & the Beast, which draws on Cocteau's version to some degree.
  • Emily begins presentation on Citizen Kane, discussing themes of alienation in the film.
  • Discussion of Welles's choice of the word "Rosebud."
  • Singer argues that Welles is not sympathetic to the character of Kane; students discuss whether or not they felt sympathy for the character.
  • Singer discusses Welles's involvement with politics.
  • Emily continues presentation with discussion of how techniques of cinematography are used to express elements of time, memory, reality, and illusion.

Session 4 [59'26"]
 Orson Welles, The Dead, The Magnificent Ambersons, expectations for student papers
  • Student begins presentation on Welles, focusing on a philosophy of pessimism.
  • Singer points out that Welles generally avoids nostalgia and sentimentality, in contrast to Huston's film, The Dead.
  • Singer discusses the use of myths in works of art, and how myths function in our interpretations of the past and our search for truth.
  • Discussion of the BBC documentary on Welles.
  • Discussion of comic elements in Welles's work.
  • Singer claims that critics have not given credit for the depth of feeling that Welles expresses, which is particularly evident in The Magnificent Ambersons.
  • Singer reviews expectations for students' second paper.


22 novembre 2011

USA blames China's tight foreign films imports... LMAO

- Cultural Diversity Awareness -

"It is rare that marquee international film events take place in China. That is in part because of the censorship imposed by the government. Then there are the tight limits on the importing and screening of foreign movies, which cast a shadow on attempts to bring new film experiences to China."
"Streep and Coen Discuss Foreign Film in China" By Edward Wong (NYT; 21 November 2011)

What a noble gesture for the USA to bring "cinema diversity" to China, as if they had anything to teach in this domain...
Censorship on domestic and foreign cinema, there is indeed in China. There is a quota of 20 foreign titles per year since 1994. We do wish for the Chinese government to improve its policy, especially for the artistic freedom of its own filmmakers. But despite such administrative restrictions, foreign films in China (mainly Hollywood titles btw) manage to earn 39% of the admission market! And China is amongst the large producers of film in the world (500 films in 2010), so they don't leave such a big share to foreign films because of a lack of domestic production, like small producer countries do.
Meanwhile the patronizing "land of the free", the USA, with no quota and no governmental censorship, only opens a 8.4% (2009) window to foreign films (5% in 2008) on their exhibition market! 
Last month (October 2011) the USA "generously" gave 33 screens to the opening of the single Chinese mainstream blockbuster of the month : 1911 - Xinhai geming.

Wow. I don't think the Hollywood industry is in a position to lecture any country about their "openness" to "new films experiences"... the shadow is cast on the USA. Instead, the NYT should open their eyes, look around and see the plank in their own eye, and wonder WHY China is LESS isolationist than them, in spite of the protectionist measures!!!
The only countries you could harass would be India or Iran, they are in your league of isolationism.

Hello? New York Times? Anybody home??? Are you publishing disingenuous bullshit to brainwash your readers so they think that Hollywood is the good guy, the one that brings freedom and democracy to the world, and that the world welcomes you as liberators? Is it journalism or is it propaganda? You're just part of the marketing machine, aren't you? I thought you published facts... Am I mistaking "The New York Times" with another newspaper with an actual reputation for journalistic excellence and objectivity? This is a joke right?

Hint : 8.4% is LESS than 39%
Answer : USA's

Who are we kidding here? Who is complaining about the other's hermetic market??? Are you fucking blind? They are totally delusional...

I don't have the stats handy for the Hollywood share on the Chinese market, but we can easily assume a large chunk of these 39% are Hollywood blockbusters. Looking at the following BO top5's corroborates this hunch. On the other hand, there is no Chinese movie, ZERO, in the USA BO top5, and we know that they are distributed on a "limited release" and only gather a slim slice of these 8.4% (which large majority goes to Europe). 

CHINA box office top5 (2008) WITH IMPORT QUOTA :
  1. Transformers (USA)
  2. The Warlords (China)
  3. Assembly (China)
  4. Spider-Man (USA)
  5. Harry Potter 5 (UK-USA)

USA box office top5 (2009) WITHOUT QUOTA :
  1. Avatar (USA)
  2. Transformers (USA)
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (UK-USA)
  4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (USA)
  5. Up (USA) 

When 3 out of 5 most viewed movies in a country come from abroad, and 20 foreign films rack up nearly one third of the BO revenue (leaving 2 thirds for the 406 domestic films), I don't think we can speak of a problematic import/export balance... not given the state of the movie industry everywhere else in the world. 40%-60% is a pretty decent level, one that should be seen more often on the world market. If anything, this is a situation problematic for the Chinese industry, and they have the moral right to proceed to protectionist measures to make sure they don't loose a greater share of their market, or they would risk the bankruptcy of the local chain of film production.
At least in this domain, we can't reproach China anything. And using buzzwords like "censorship" or "import quota" to nitpick at openness to foreign cinema is disingenuous... Hollywood is only trying to widen the breach and get the lion's share in China (a most profitable market if they managed to extend their hegemony within Chinese culture), like in other countries their hegemony has conquered and submitted. They don't care about DIVERSITY on the Chinese market, they'll be happy as long as 100% of the foreign share is owned by American blockbusters, while they don't give a shit that the USA is not opened to foreign films at home...
China has the potential to produce a lot more movies than their current level. Domestic production comes a long way, and slowly builds up in recent years, since a low point (only 82 films) in 2001. China could reach a level somewhere between Japan and India. Thus, the foreign film share can only shrink in proportion to this prospect. And they proved they can make quality mainstream entertainment comparable to Hollywood.
Instead of whining, you should enjoy this privileged position (39%) on the Chinese market. Expending their production can only loosen and diversify the rules of censorship and the repression of Chinese artists, in the long run maybe, but inevitably they will open up (as they already have economically).


21 novembre 2011

Désir Mimétique (René Girard)

René Girard, philosophe français, né en 1923

StudioPhilo, n° 19, par Ollivier Pourriol, 2009

Ciné Philo 2 : Vertiges du désir, comprendre le désir par le cinéma; Ollivier Pourriol; 21 mai 2011; 252pp
Fidèle à sa méthode consistant à faire dialoguer philosophie et cinéma, Ollivier Pourriol dévoile les grandes théories du désir à l'oeuvre dans des films aussi variés que Le Mépris, Kingdom of Heaven, Heat, Beau Travail, Casino, Eyes wide shut, Eros, THX 1138, Blow Up ou Toy Story.
Fruit des conférences Studiophilo - où la philosophie est expliquée par le cinéma, et le cinéma par la philosophie (voir extrait sur le désir mimétique)- ce livre nous fait comprendre ce qu'est le désir, tout en nous ouvrant les yeux sur certaines scènes célèbres du cinéma : Sartre nous éclaire sur les fesses de Brigitte Bardot dans Le Mépris, Hegel sur la lutte à mort entre Al Pacino et Robert de Niro dans Heat, Girard sur le désir mimétique dont sont victimes les jouets de Toy Story, Deleuze sur l'électricité sexuelle de Sharon Stone dans Casino, Platon sur les vertiges de l'amour dans Les ailes du désir.
Olivier Pourriol consacre un chapitre au désir mimétique à travers les films Casino (Le désir des autres), Blow Up (L'illusion du moi), Charlie et la chocolaterie (Le désir de distinction), Toy Story (Les jouets du désir), Le Grand Saut (Le désir à la chaîne) et Zoolander (Les modèles du désir).
* * *

René Girard et le Désir Mimétique
(Les nouveaux chemins de la connaissance; France Culture; Nov 2011)
  1. Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (14 nov 2011) [MP3] 50'
  2. Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde et Achever Clausewitz (15 nov 2011) [MP3] 50'
  3. La violence et le sacré (16 nov 2011) [MP3] 50'
  4. Shakespeare : les feux de l'envie (17 nov 2011) [MP3] 50'

Bibliographie selective de René Girard :
Bibliographie complémentaire :
  • Oedipe Roi; Sophocle; 415 B.C.
  • l'Evangile selon Saint-Marc / Caïn et Abel
  • Don Quichotte; Cervantès; 1615
  • De la démocratie en Amérique; Alexis de Tocqueville; 1840
  • Totem et Tabou; Sigmund Freud; 1913
  • Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion; Henri Bergson; 1932
  • Les structures élémentaires de la parenté; Claude Lévi-Strauss; 1948
  • Un Mime nommé désir; Jean-Michel Oughourlian; 1982
  • La marque du sacré; Jean-Pierre Dupuy; 2009
  • La connaissance objective : une approche évolutionniste; Karl Raimund Popper; 2009

* * *

Entretiens en 5 parties avec Raphaël Enthoven (A Voix Nue; France Culture, 2005) [MP3] 25'

* * *

René Girard, le penseur du désir et de la violence
Philosophy Magazine, Hors-série Novembre 2011
Sommes nous libres de désirer ? Non, affirme le penseur René Girard, auquel nous avons consacré ce numéro exceptionnel. Nous désirons un objet parce que celui-ci nous est désigné par un tiers. Voilà une idée dont tout parent de deux enfants, ou plus, a pu tester la solidité.. Seulement voilà indique René Girard, la rivalité mimétique qui en découle peut entraîner une société entière dans une spirale de violence. D'où, pour enrayer ce mécanisme, la désignation d'un bouc émissaire dont le sacrifice permettra le transfert des tensions. Retour à l'harmonie et à la paix, sauf pour la victime… innocente. Voilà la trame d'un phénomène qui se répète à travers les âges, depuis Œdipe jusqu'à l'affaire d'Outreau.
Démonstration à travers quelques chefs d'oeuvre de la littérature et mise à l'épreuve, dans les champs politique, financier, militaire et publicitaire, d'une théorie qui fait de son auteur un grand nom de la pensée française. 
Articles dans ce numéro :
  1. « Il y a une correspondance entre les thèses anthropologiques de Girard et mes observations d'éthologue » Boris Cyrulnick, neuropsychiatre, psychanalyste et psychologue
  2. « Je pense que la guerre a sa vie propre, hors de contrôle du politique, mais cela ne veut pas dire que la politique est impuissante » Colonel Durieux, officier d'active et spécialiste de Clausewitz 
  3. « Nous vivons dans un monde de sagesse au detail et de folie en gros » Peter Thiel, inventeur de Paypal et actionnaire de Facebook
  4. « Le marketing peut parfaitement être interprété à l'aune de la théorie du désir mimétique » Marie Claude Sicart, experte en stratégie de marques
  5. « Girard est un génie solitaire qui doit tout à toute l'histoire de la culture occidentale » Jean Pierre Dupuy, philosophe, ingénieur et épistémologue

* * *

Conférences et colloques proposés par l'Association Recherches Mimétiques 2011-12 [PDF] :
  • 10 décembre 2011 : "Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque à travers le cinéma", par Ollivier Pourriol (Espace Bernanos)
  • 16 mars 2012 : « Théorie mimétique et théologie »( avec James Alison, Benoît Chantre, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, François Euwe, Dominique Pécoud, Olivier Rey et Lucien Scubla) à la Bibliothèque nationale de France
  • mai 2012 : « René Girard lecteur de Shakespeare » (avec Sandor Goodhart, Joël Hillion, Jean Duchesne…) 

* * *

Entretiens / Conférences de René Girard en vidéo :

Voir aussi :

18 novembre 2011

"Overlong" Entertainment

Boredom is a subjective perception, and often deceiving.

Spectators who complain about the length of a movie, only stigmatize the run time when the content is not stimulating enough for the limitation of their attention span. They never complain about the same characteristic (duration) in an exciting ENTERTAINMENT movie. So many of the most popular/successful movies exceed the standard duration established by exhibitors in Hollywood and the Western world (90 minutes), and thus for quite a long time. Let alone the standard duration in Bollywood (closer to 150 minutes, although revised to 110 in recent years). The following examples in this list are not experimental works or obscur artfilms by Tarr Béla or Lav Diaz... they are all commercial movies for a mainstream audience, and ranked in IMDb's top1000. Except for Fanny and Alexander, and The Best of Youth (TV episodes released in theatre; the 2 highest dots on the graph), all are feature length movies with a commercial theatrical release. Some of them are animation for children (Fantasia, Cars, Spirited Away...)! or Teen flicks (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Carribean...) If children can take a movie longer than 2h, I would expect adults (who happen to work for the NYT) to be able to handle it too without whining like babies in front a broccoli.

A long movie is just not that odd! And not even in domain of the highest-grossing BO blockbusters. It's not rare, boring or unpopular!

Keeping this in mind, now reconsider the reasons why you reject "slowish artfilms" and CCC... It's not because of their duration, which rarely reach the epic length of a Harry Potter movie. You're just addicted, conditioned to constant nagging stimulation, and lost any reasonable sense of the passing time when it does not beat to the rhythmic cuts and punchlines. This is your problem, a problem of the audience in general in this day and age. Not the problem of a cinema that operates in different waters, nowhere out of reach, nowhere inaccessible to the common man's physiological abilities... but in a space where a greater deal of concentration is required to keep out of your mind the idea to look up your smartphone.

Mainstream entertainment movies longer than 120 minutes (incomplete selection, emphasized after 1994 to compare with CCC; longest runtime version available for each title):
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915) 190 min
  • Intolerance (1916) 197 min
  • Helena (1924) 204 min
  • Les Misérables (1925) 359 min
  • Les Misérables (1934) 281 min
  • Gone with the wind (1939) 226 min
  • Fantasia (1940) 125 min ***KIDS***
  • The 47 Ronin (1941) 241 min
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) 163 min
  • Henry V (1944) 137 min
  • Children of Paradise (1945) 163 min ***TEENS***
  • Tokyo Story (1953) 136 min
  • Shichinin no samurai (1954) 207 min
  • The Ten Commandments (1956) 220 min
  • Around the World In 80 Days (1956) 183 min ***KIDS***
  • War and Peace (1956) 208 min  
  • Giant (1956) 201 min
  • Les Misérables (1958) 210 min
  • Ben-Hur (1959) 212 min
  • Rio Bravo (1959) 141 min
  • Spartacus (1960) 184 min
  • Exodus (1960) 208 min
  • The Alamo (1960) 202 min
  • Pepe (1960) 195 min
  • Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) 186 min
  • El Cid (1961) 182 min
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 216 min
  • Sodom and Gomorrha (1962) 154 min
  • The Leopard (1963) 187 min
  • The Great Escape (1963) 172 min
  • It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) 154 min
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) 188 min
  • The Sound of Music (1965) 174 min ***KIDS***
  • Dr. Zhivago (1965) 197 min
  • The Bible (1966) 174 min
  • Hawaii (1966) 189 min
  • The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (1966) 182 min
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) 175 min
  • Ryan’s Daughter (1970) 195 min
  • Woodstock (1970) 184 min  ***TEENS***
  • Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) 189 min
  • Fiddler on the Roof (1971) 181 min
  • The Godfather (1972) 175 min
  • The Iceman Cometh (1973) 239 min
  • O Lucky Man! (1973) 183 min
  • The Godfather: Part II (1974) 200 min
  • Barry Lyndon (1975) 184 min
  • All The President's Men (1976) 138 min
  • Star wars (1977) 125 min ***TEENS***
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978) 132 min  ***TEENS***
  • The Deer Hunter (1978) 185 min
  • Apocalypse Now (1979) 202 min
  • Tess (1979) 190 min
  • Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 127 min ***TEENS***
  • The Shining (1980) 142 min
  • Heaven’s Gate (1980) 220 min
  • Kagemusha (1980) 180 min
  • The Blues Brothers (1980) 133 min ***TEENS***
  • Reds (1981) 194 min
  • Fanny and Alexander (1982) 312 min
  • Les Misérables (1982) 220 min
  • Gandhi (1982) 188 min
  • Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) 135 min ***TEENS***
  • Scarface (1983) 170 min
  • The Right Stuff (1983) 193 min
  • Amadeus (1984) 160 min
  • Once Upon a Time in America (1984) 229 min
  • Ran (1985) 162 min
  • Goodfellas (1990) 146 min
  • It (1990) 192 min ***TEENS***
  • The Godfather: Part III (1990) 169 min
  • Dances with Wolves (1990) 236 min  ***TEENS***
  • At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991) 189 min
  • JFK (1991) 189 min  
  • Malcolm X (1992) 202 min
  • Schindler’s List (1993) 195 min
  • Short Cuts (1993) 187 min
  • Pulp Fiction (1994) 168 min ***TEENS***
  • Shawshank Redemption (1994) 142 min ***TEENS***
  • Forrest Gump (1994) 142 min ***TEENS***
  • Burnt By The Sun (1994) 135 min
  • To Live (1994) 125 min 
  • Les Misérables (1995) 175 min
  • Se7en (1995) 127 min 
  • Underground (1995) 170 min
  • Heat (1995) 170 min
  • Braveheart (1995) 177 min
  • Casino (1995) 178 min
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995) 136 min
  • Nixon (1995) 192 min
  • The English Patient (1996) 162 min
  • Hamlet (1996) 242 min
  • The Rock (1996) 136 min  ***TEENS***
  • Secrets & Lies (1996) 142 min
  • Princess Mononoke (1997) 134 min  ***KIDS***
  • The Game (1997) 129 min 
  • Donnie Brasco (1997) 127 min 
  • Titanic (1997) 194 min ***TEENS***
  • L.A. Confidential (1997) 138 min
  • Boogie Nights (1997) 155 min
  • Jackie Brown (1997) 154 min
  • As Good as It Gets (1997) 139 min
  • The Thin Red Line (1998) 170 min
  • The Red Violin (1998) 130 min ***TEENS***
  • Elizabeth (1998) 124 min 
  • The Horse Whisperer (1998) 170 min  ***KIDS***
  • The Legend of 1900 (1998) 170 min 
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) 169 min
  • Les Misérables (1998) 134 min 
  • Fight Club (1999) 139 min 
  • Matrix (1999) 136 min ***TEENS***
  • The Insider (1999) 157 min
  • Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (1999) 136 min ***TEENS***
  • The Green Mile (1999) 189 min
  • Magnolia (1999) 188 min
  • Gladiator (2000) 171 min ***TEENS***
  • Amores Perros (2000) 154 min 
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) 120 min ***TEENS***
  • Cast Away (2000) 143 min  ***TEENS***
  • Traffic (2000) 147 min
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001) 135 min
  • Black Hawk Down (2001) 144 min
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) 159 min ***KIDS***
  • Spirited Away (2001) 125 min ***KIDS***
  • Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001) 122 min  ***TEENS***
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 228 min ***TEENS***
  • Pearl Harbor (2001) 183 min
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) 141 min
  • Minority Report (2002) 145 min
  • The City of God (2002) 130 min 
  • The 25th hour (2002) 135 min
  • The Pianist (2002) 150 min
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) 131 min
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) 235 min  ***TEENS***
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) 174 min  ***KIDS***
  • Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) 142 min ***TEENS***
  • Gangs of New York (2002) 167 min 
  • Gods and Generals (2003) 231 min
  • La meglio gioventù (2003) 366 min
  • Love Actually (2003) 135 min
  • Mystic River (2003) 138 min
  • X-Men 2 (2003) 133 min ***TEENS***
  • Good Bye Lenin! (2003) 121 min 
  • The Last Samourai (2003) 154 min ***TEENS***
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 263 min ***TEENS***
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) 143 min ***KIDS***
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) 141 min ***KIDS***
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004) 132 min
  • Downfall (2004) 156 min 
  • Taegukgi (2004) 140 min 
  • Aviator (2004) 170 min
  • Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004) 133 min ***TEENS***
  • Man on Fire (2004) 146 min
  • Ray (2004) 152 min
  • Alexander (2004) 214 min
  • Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) 136 min 
  • Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) 140 min ***TEENS***
  • The New World (2005) 172 min
  • Brokeback Mountain (2005) 134 min
  • The Constant Gardener (2005) 129 min 
  • Batman Begins (2005) 140 min ***TEENS***
  • Munich (2005) 164 min
  • Walk the Line (2005) 136 min ***TEENS***
  • Cinderella Man (2005) 144 min  ***TEENS***
  • Kingdom of Heaven (2005) 192 min
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) 157 min ***KIDS***
  • King Kong (2005) 187 min  ***TEENS***
  • The Departed (2006) 151 min 
  • V for Vendetta (2006) 132 min ***TEENS***
  • The Life of Others (2006) 137 min
  • Apocalypto (2006) 139 min 
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) 141 min
  • The Black Book (2006) 145 min 
  • Casino Royale (2006) 144 min ***TEENS***
  • Blood Diamond (2006) 143 min
  • Babel (2006) 143 min
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) 151 min ***KIDS***
  • Cars (2006) 117 min ***KIDS***
  • The Prestige (2006) 130 min ***TEENS***
  • There Will Be Blood (2007) 158 min
  • Into the Wild (2007) 148 min ***TEENS***
  • American Gangster (2007) 157 min 
  • Zodiac (2007) 157 min
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) 160 min
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) 169 min ***KIDS***
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) 138 min ***KIDS***
  • The Dark Knight (2008) 152 min ***TEENS***
  • Entre les murs (2008) 128 min ***TEENS***
  • Che 1&2 (2008) 269 min
  • The Chaser (2008) 125 min
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) 166 min
  • Iron Man (2008) 126 min  ***TEENS***
  • The Hurt Locker (2008) 131 min
  • The Changeling (2008) 141 min
  • Inglourious Basterds (2009) 153 min
  • Millenium (2009) 152 min ***TEENS***
  • Avatar (2009) 178 min ***TEENS***
  • Mother (2009) 128 min
  • Un prophète (2009) 155 min 
  • Watchmen (2009) 215 min  ***TEENS***
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) 153 min ***KIDS***
  • Inception (2010) 148 min ***TEENS***
  • Shutter Island (2010) 138 min 
  • I Saw The Devil (2010) 141 min
  • Incendies (2010) 130 min 
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1&2 (2010) 276 min ***KIDS***
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) 136 min ***KIDS***
  • Moneyball (2011) 133 min  ***TEENS***
  • X-Men: First Class (2011) 132 min ***TEENS***
  • The Help (2011) 137 min 
  • Warrior (2011) 140 min 


15 novembre 2011

Intuition, Reflection (Kahneman)

Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields—including economics, medicine, and politics—but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research and thinking in one book.
In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.
  • System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; mostly below consciousness (innate reflex, natural instinct, learnt symbolism, acquired experience)
  • System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical; activated automatically if a lack in System 1 occurs (abstract thinking, corroboration, swift investigation, logical processing)
Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.
Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you think about thinking.


13 novembre 2011

Variety, Balance, Disparity (Stirling)

- Cultural Diversity Awareness -
Cultural diversity : “the ethnically marked cultural differences associated with the international movement of peoples and, within national territories, the claims to difference associated with the protracted struggles of in situ minorities to maintain their identity and specificity in the face of the homogenizing force of national cultures”
Differing diversities. Transversal study on the theme of cultural policy and cultural diversity (Bennett T., 2001, Cultural Policy and Action Department)
Application of the Stirling model to assess diversity using UIS cinema data 
(Françoise Benhamou and Stéphanie Peltier, UNESCO, 2010) [PDF]

Vertical axis : admission per capita in each country (top= most movie goers)
Size of the dot : number of films produced annualy in each country
Horizontal axis : HHI indicator = Cultural diversity (Left= most diverse)
Overall diversity (including all factors) : draw a line from the origin (bottow left corner) and the country, the highest angle defines the best score (angle closer to horizontal = least overall diversity)

Among other things, the concept includes languages, high and popular culture, and ways of life. [..]
Diversity in this case relies on many different factors – for example, the ability of producers to work with film-makers and actors from different origins, the number of films released or on the level of standardization of goods and more. Cultural diversity can be captured through two complementary dimensions. The first deals with the “human” criteria (i.e. criteria that apply to individuals), such as the genre or the origin of film-makers. The second dimension refers to more “material” criteria (i.e. criteria that apply to products, such as the nationality of a film). Of course, “human” and “material” criteria may be linked. The nationality of a movie depends on the original country where the film is produced but it may also have an influence on the nationality of the film-maker. More generally speaking, while some aspects are easily quantifiable, others are definitely qualitative. [..]
It is hypothesized that the diversity of cultural products implies diversity in the industrial structures and in the governance of companies. This can be seen in the TV sector in particular (Steiner, 1952). Many studies show that oligopolies with a competitive fringe dominate in cultural industries. This structure is well-adapted to the uncertainty that characterizes the production of cultural goods and services. The firms on the fringe develop a propensity to innovate thanks to their proximity to creators while the firms in the core regularly try to attract the most creative artists and/or to purchase the most promising small labels and firms.
If we adopt this point of view, we can assert that a country that wishes to support diversity is interested in subsidizing the creation of small firms – directly or indirectly (e.g. through tax cuts, etc.).
Table 14 :
- Among 33 top ten films – for at least one of the two years analysed – on average, 9 countries (27% of those sampled) share at least 7 titles in common with the global top ten over the 2005-2006 period. This percentage bears testimony to the existence of a globalized taste but also of the persistence of an audience ready to assert national and/or local preferences.
- National top ten are deeply different from global top ten in the countries that are culturally rather distant from the United States, like Japan (3.5 titles from 2005-2006), Malaysia (3.5), Morocco (3) and the Republic of Korea (3).
- The case in Italy seems peculiar. The rate of similarity (2) is the weakest of the sample in 2005. Yet, since data are not available for Italy in 2006, we cannot conclude that the Italian top ten is more diverse than for one of the other countries.

Table 15 : Films can be shot in several languages. This is especially true in multi-language countries like Austria, India, Nigeria, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. In some cases, there can be more than five languages in a given country.

Table 16 : The balance between different languages is somewhat high for Canada, Croatia, India, Morocco, Nigeria, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. This balance concerns only two main languages in the cases of Canada and Croatia


10 novembre 2011

Future of Cinema (VIFF2011)

Panelists :
  • Simon Field, film producer (eg. Uncle Boonmee), member of the ICA (Institute of contemporary Art, London), former director of International Film Festival Rotterdam, consultant to Dubai festival 
  • Andréa Picard, film critic and programmer, formerly of the Toronto International Film Festival ("Wavelength" section, "Future Productions" sidebar) and the Cinémathèque Ontario 
  • Tom Charity, film critic and Vancity Theatre program coordinator, film critic for CNN, LOVEFiLM 
  • David Bordwell (USA), film critic, academic and author of numerous books on cinema, and a website
  • Alan Franey, director, Vancouver International Film Festival

VIFF 30th Anniversary (website)

The first few chapter headings in a film we did not program at this year's VIFF are: “Technology Is Great”, “The Industry Is Dead”, “Artists Have the Power”, and “The Craft Is Gone.” To which celluloid-loving film festival organizers might ask: Is it? Do they ?  Where on earth are we headed ? And why ?

VIFF has come a long way in its 30 years and never has the future of cinema - and VIFF's future - been more uncertain. Will it be bright and splendid and fair or will it move so quickly that a great deal of what is valuable will be lost before we know it ? There are now dramatically more “film festivals” and “films” being made than ever, yet some fear that the industry may be dead. Filmmakers are acutely worried for funding, yet need to operate on a growing number of fronts. Given that the numbers of hours in a day and the numbers of days in a life remain fixed, what limits should we council for our own appetites ? Why might we miss the Hollywood Theatre and Videomatica ? Given that cultural agencies seemingly have shrinking resources but more new media and film festival applicants every year, will the centres hold or is babble ascendant ? Will VIFF's function as an annual international universalist festival be superseded by myriad niche events ?
Technology is indeed great in that it has put the means of creative motion picture production in almost everyone's hands, but will the best artists be the ones to be recognized ? The entrepreneurial spirit tends to favour change in hopes that it may profit from it, but will artists have the power ? When entrepreneurs benefit, will consumers benefit ? Will cultural institutions that have taken years to build remain viable ? Will cinema, metrics of quality and craftsmanship and, ultimately, quality of life be improved or even be sustainable ? What do you personally care about for the future of cinema to offer ? What should VIFF 2020 aim to be ?

Alan Franey's VIFF statement of purpose :
This is not a panel about filmmaking, film financing. It's not a panel that is going to go into the nitty-gritty of technical issues. I hope that we'll need to get into some of that. And we're not talking really about Hollywood films. We're talking about festival films. I want this to be as pertinent as possible to our own operations here. What's relevant to a film festival in Vancouver now, particularly our festival, a festival anywhere. And most especially, year-round programming. How can movie theatres that want to bring audiences in to appreciate good films. Not that Hollywood blockbusters aren't but it's a completely different model that we're not going to concern ourselves with here, today.
We're also wanting to define what we mean by film, so I just want to say very loosely that in the BC Arts council grant, we've just finished writing, we have to explain this, so I want to read you this part:
"We intent to nurture cross-pollination between various domains and forms of the moving image but our mandate is cinema. We strongly believe in the theatrical experience of cinema. And we know that the membership of our film society expects us to deliver works that is worth their money. This means that with few exceptions, our programs must be made for the large screen, have a movie-like duration, and not be available on the internet (or not generally available). This is the only way to maintain a paying audience that has an increasing number of alternatives." 


09 novembre 2011

October 2011 releases USA

- Cultural Diversity Awareness - 

Let's take a look at the monthly release batch on USA screens, for October 2011, the national month of "Cultural Diversity Awareness", supposedly (hopefully) the most diverse period for American distribution...

ALL RELEASES USA Oct2011 (red=USA / colour=foreign)
"LIMITED RELEASES" USA Oct2011 (black=USA / colour=foreign)

Note that there are a lot of USA films relegated to the "limited release" limbo... it's not just the foreign films being silenced. Hollywood keeps at bay both foreign films and indies! (see here)
Usually the "commercial" releases (mainstream, populist, lowbrow, entertainment, teen flick...) monopolize the largest majority of screens. It's normal, because the largest crowd wants to watch these and we need to open enough seats for them. BUT, instead of the natural curve described by the Long Tail consumers, on the USA market we notice a drastic break between the top 16 titles (owning 97% of the screens) and the rest... 49 titles struggle and share the remaining 3% of screens (272 arthouse screens for a country of 310 million population!). There are more "press screenings" organised for the free previews, for the film reviewing community, than there are opened to the paying public! This is insane. Half of these "limited release" films, both foreign cinema and American "indies", get a single digit number of screens, and will never expand to wider release. This equates to a virtual invisibility in such a large country! Even for a huge city such as NYC, opening a couple of screens for a given film doesn't give a chance to the 20 million populating this mega-pole to discover it, except for a chosen few. 
The American distribution system only knows 2 speeds : 2000 screens or 30 screens, no grey areas. If this doesn't indicate a structural corruption of the system, what will? The producer-exhibitor monopoly has been ruled illegal since 1948, really? What a coincidence that even without official "collusion", we still see the major studios hegemony on the exhibition circuit... 
Let's just say that the USA released 25 titles nationwide in October 2011 (an average of 5 per week), and the rest only opened locally in NYC and LA... That's the name of the game. Not ALL Americans get to choose from the 68 titles line up.

  • Total number of screens in the USA (2010) = 39,028 (26% of world market!)
  • Total number of titles releases (30 Sept-3 Nov 2011) = 68 (avg 13.6 per week)
    • American titles = 51 titles; 39568 screens (91.8%)
      • USA = 42 titles; 34746 screens
      • USA co-production = 9 titles; 4822 screens 
    • Non-American titles = 17 (25%); 3569 screens (8.2%)
      • UK co-prod = 2 titles; 280 screens
      • Non-English titles = 15 (22%); 3289 screens (7.6%)
        • India = 3 titles; 77 screens 
        • 2 titles each : Spain, Germany, China
        • 1 title each : Netherlands, Mexico, Iceland, France, Finland, Congo

Because it is impossible to find FREE online data about foreign films distribution, I have to do it myself, and count films and screens manually. They only care about publishing a business report on how much money their movies make, and they are even incapable of distinguishing between USA proper and Canada in their datas, as they consider Canada an integer part of their commercial market! I'm sure the addition of Canadian numbers inflates the domestic/foreign ratio since Canada (and especially Québec) does a better job at showing a wider diversity of world cinema than the USA. And they think that Mexico doesn't belong to whatever they call "North America".
I can only bother doing it for one month (Oct 2011), but this should really be a yearly survey to compare to every other countries that do publish such surveys. Someone in America should take up on the task, and publish detailed statistics about the releases by country of origin and their weight on the market, every year (instead of making graphs that distinguish between Major-studio-owned distributors and pseudo-independent distributors... this is a business consideration, not a culturally sound segmentation). 


When we look at the catalog of film titles proposed on commercial distribution for that month, it is actually pretty diverse. 75% domestic - 25% foreign is a reasonable compromise. It's the lowest limit, but it's within reason I'd say, especially since the USA has a large domestic production (which fatally implies less room for the foreign competition). Somewhere between 75% and 25% for foreign cinema should be alright in any country. Less than that and you're denying the world to influence your own culture. Over that limit and you're letting the world appropriate your own culture, at the expanse of home-grown artists.
And contrary to other countries, foreign films come in subtitled in the USA, because spectators hate dubbing, which is a great thing for cultural diversity. It is always better to listen to the original voices, even if we don't understand them, because intonations and the melody of an idiom is characteristic of a culture. Not to mention dubbing often makes the audience forget that the films are actually made elsewhere, and tend to mistake them as part of their own national cinema.
There is also a nice share of co-productions, indicative of an opening of Hollywood with world collaboration  (although the results might not necessarily be inclusive of world culture, more like outsourcing production to places where it's cheaper).
As you see, the foreign films are almost evenly split between Europe (10) - surprisingly not dominated by UK - and the Rest of the World (7) with India, China, Mexico and Congo.
However the English language (80%) tends to dominate, not leaving the room deserved by Spanish language (since 26% of American movie goers are Hispanic), with only 3 Spanish films by Spain and Mexico. And the 63% of caucasian spectators should include all sorts of non-English backgrounds/ancestry (German, Dutch, French, Russian, Israeli, White-Hispanic...) and should inflate the interest in non-American culture, if only a few of them. Add to this 12% of African-American and the remainder 6% (Asians, American Indians, Pacific islands)... The American population is a diverse mix itself, but the diversity of culture offered by commercial distribution is a lesser mix. Whereas this country should show the world's highest interest in mixed-culture cinema because of the particular immigration history and demographic diversity present in its population unlike almost anywhere else in the world.

Now the distribution of screens for these films paints a different picture. If there is a decent share of foreign titles available on commercial screens, they are relegated to an insignificant number of screens for a country of that size, rendering them de facto invisible to the general population and the average movie goer. 91.7% of screens show exclusively American-made films, and 99.3% of screens show English-language films! So the 25% of foreign films are shown on 8.3% of the screens. And that includes The Three Musketeers 3D, which is a Hollywood-like blockbuster made by an Europe-America co-production (Germany/France/UK/USA) and shot in English language with familiar Hollywood actors. It's like when Harry Potter or James Bond are listed as a "British" movies... Anyway. If we ignore this pseudo-Hollywood vehicle, we are left with 272 screens (out of a nationwide total of 39028) reserved for non-English cinema in the USA (0.6%) which is ludicrous! What kind of a "melting-pot" is this?
In a country of 310 million inhabitants, just imagining that less than 300 screens show non-English cinema doesn't seem right. The number of screens is a direct correlation to the visibility of these films, and inevitably translates into the admissions ratio of 95% domestic / 5% foreign. Of course, world cinema is never going to exceed 10% of the admission market, and hasn't in the past 3 decades (see here) with only 0.6% of the screens offered to the movie goer population!!! 
The USA does not resort to legal quotas or subsidies or tariff to limit the number of foreign films. No. That's not even their excuse for such pitiful scores. It is the "natural" result of the "free market". Unfortunately, I doubt this is free in practice. There is a great deal of national-centric indoctrination, cultural isolationism, stereotypes, self-sufficient media, fatalism of cultural arbiters, anti-intellectualism, anti-art and all the Dan Kois who prefer pop corn to vegetables... This is obviously a recipe for success of patriotic exclusive consumption of nationally-made products, and disregard or even ridicule anything made outside of motherland. 
  • Studios make too many movies for their own good!
  • Studios buy rights to remake popular entertainment/art made abroad!
  • Distributors refuse to buy foreign films, even at major festivals! 
  • When foreign films are bought, they are either shelved indefinitely, go direct-to-video, or are quarantined on a handful of screens only visited by hipsters!
  • Movie reviewers incessantly bash film festival line ups, "boring" foreign films, insinuate foreign films get a free ride, and that there are too many of them oppressing their self-serving taste!

This situation might be the result of a poorly educated general population, and the plethoric production of Hollywood, which clearly makes way more films than is necessary for their market. They make more films than China! Come on. And anybody, even the average movie goer, will agree that more than half of it is substandard, not only artistically, but even for the basic entertainment consumption (poor acting, plotholes, pompuous CGI, facile dialogue, stock characters, stereotypes, unoriginal stories...). They could really afford to cut their production in half (they don't even distribute all films produced each year!), and welcome quality foreign entertainment, as well as quality art films made abroad. They could. For the benefit of their customers, to enrich American culture, to broaden the minds, to be more open to world culture, to better reflect and represent the ethnic/cultural/language diversity present in the very fabric of the America population. Starting with their Latin-American neighbours.
If regular movie goers do not want to go try non-Hollywood cinema, willingly and consciously, in earnest, then it's the responsibility of cultural educators to change these narrow-minded minds and help their taste evolve towards a greater sensibility to differences, diversity and richness of neighbour cultures. 

But a poor taste of consumers is not the only culprit, and is certainly not beyond improvement and evolution in the future *IF* educators take their responsibilities! If the film press stopped publishing B.S. and cared a bit more about changing the isolationistic distribution system they live in, instead of playing along... If critics had higher aspirations and cleaner ethics... If exhibitors took more risks for quality cinema (be it foreign entertainment or artfilms) instead of clinging to easy money promised by bad remakes... If distributors displayed more discernment in picking quality cinema and selling it better... If film schools formed open-minded and competent students rather than Hollywood-wannabees... If cultural studies cared about quality cinema rather than whatever zeitgeist phenomenon is best representative of the American population...
There are lot of things to do, and reviewing imported DVDs and films that are only available on 6 screens nationwide is NOT ENOUGH to push for fundamental changes. This isolationism will not fix itself, it is petrified by a powerful cultural inertia. Anytime someone talks about foreign cinema, it sounds elitist or "boring" in the American consciousness. So talking about it in small amounts always meets the same rejection. To overcome this barrier, a radical transformation of society and culture is necessary before any improvement could even start developing.

You do not need to compare the American distribution system to the one of France to understand there is something fundamentally wrong with only showing world cinema on 0.6% of your screens! Or do you?

Source : NYT (October releases); IMDb; Box Office Mojo; My spreadsheet 
Other titles which data (screens) is missing :
Bombay Beach (2011/USA); Cargo (2011/USA); Everyday Sunshine: The Story Of Fishbone (2010/USA); Father of Invention (2010/USA); Glitch in the Grid (2011/USA/UK); Klitschko (2011/Germany); Norman (2010/USA); Silver Bullets (2011/USA); The Nine Muses (2010/Ghana/UK); The Reunion (2011/USA); The Swell Season (2011/USA-CZ-IE)

Note: Sum of screens may exceed total number of screens available (I counted the max number of screens reached by each film in October)

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