30 avril 2011

French Critics Legacy 2

Contrary to Bordwell's unfortunate oblivion (French Critics Legacy 1), Jonathan Rosenbaum remembers that French critics inspired the American critics of the 60ies to start appreciating American cinema in a different way : 
Rosenbaum : "I have to say that my appreciation of American cinema came to a large extent from the French. It was French critics who taught me how to appreciate Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks and Nicolas Ray and Samuel Fuller and lots of people. There were some American disciples like Andrew Sarris, but even he was getting a lot of his inspiration from the French. [..] It happens in more than just in films. In literature, William Faulkner was appreciated in France, to a greater extent before it was appreciated in the USA. [..] In America there is a big difference between people who ever left the country even briefly, and just what it does to your perspective, to be able to see America the way the rest of the world sees America. And also to feel that you're part of that world. It's very important to me whether people regard themselves as just citizen of America or whether there're really a citizen of the world, and therefore how much they relate to other people, the international community. And the funny thing is that America is in some ways more isolated now that it was during the Cold War. And yet, because of the internet, the possibilities of being in touch with people all over the world are enormously greater than it were. [..]"
Jonathan Rosenbaum interview (The Marketplace of Ideas, 20 Feb 2011) 57'34" [MP3]    
Eureka! It is much better when an American (an influential figure like Rosenbaum) says it, in the USA, to an American audience. Because nobody listens to the French guy (promptly labeled anti-American) who says the same thing on this very blog. Now, keep repeating this until it is no longer a controversial, anti-American thing to say, and that Americans are past the denial stage, ready to deal with the isolationism of the American culture. It is up to Americans themselves (helped by cultural educators) to work on it, and make their own cultural environment as open to the world as they would like it to be! Educators need to care for this pernicious issue. Students, readers, spectators... need to learn to care for world culture too (against the national-centric interests conveniently imposed by the American market which prefers to sell Hollywood products than to contribute to make a living for foreign artists!). If cinéphiles aren't offended by this situation, are they cinéphiles?

Rosenbaum : "French cinephilia while it's very intense... French culture is in some ways paradoxical, in its own way is kind of insular. Most French film critics I know don't read that much of critics from other cultures. Few of them do, when some things get translated. But to a large extent they read other French critics."
OK. I agree. More than the proverbial language barrier, it's about the self-alimentation of the press community, anywhere it is. And I'd be particularly interested to read a comprehensive survey on available translations in each language, comparatively! Should we compare head-to-head the French-English and English-French translations on either side of the Atlantic? Should we survey what names critics working in the press can cite? what foreign books did they read?

Now before we do that... you're assuming that French criticism would learn something from the American press? I've read the reviews in the NYT, in LAT, in Village Voice, in Cineaste, in Filmmaker, in Artforum, on Salon, on Slate... and I've given up. Maybe the anti-intellectual demographics in America is impressed, I'm not. At least the French press, however imperfect it is, doesn't apologize to be overanalytical or intellectual, it is not constantly obsessed with spoilers, it is aware of bad distribution and political problematics of the industry, it knows what an independent film is, it does not fear controversial debates, it does speak of mise en scène and form.

The accessibility of foreign films on the French market (the big screen, and not just in Paris) is way better than anywhere in America, even in NYC. Well, you read in the French press more inquisitive articles on the weakness of the distribution, on blind spots, on favouritism, on bad management of our state subsidies, on the complacency of the industry, on the Hollywood ubiquity, on perverse marketing tactics... When there isn't enough Hollywood films in Cannes, or no comedy genre represented in the selection for years, the French press talks about it, and confront the status quo openly. We can read both sides of the issue expressed in the articles, on the radio, on TV. It is not taboo to put into question the "Exception française", to compare our market failures to Hollywood's market...
However, in America, the state of theatrical distribution is infinitely worse, and instead of making the press angrier... American critics don't give a fuck, don't talk about it, don't even see it as a problem for the balance of world cinema!!! What exactly do you think French criticism needs to learn from reading the American press, translated or not??? Do French critics need a masterclass in populist pandering, in demagoguery, in puritan hypocrisy?

I'm all for cultural exchanges, so translation of foreign press should be more widespread, by principle. Even if the content sucks.
But honestly, if you've read anything in the French press (and I don't like everything, by a large margin, even most of what Cahiers and Positif do), you'd realise that French critics are probably more self-critical about French criticism, about French cinema, about the French industry than any other critics. They are also sometimes more insightful about American movies than American critics themselves! (History proved that time and again)
What would American critics would have to say about the French press, the French industry, the French market... when all they know about France is what is marketed to them by Hollywood publicits! Even when they go to Cannes, all they care about is to trash independent East-European movies because they aren't as glossy and light-hearted as a Hollywood flick.

We obviously have a lot to learn from eachothers, but not from the current cultural environment. Maybe after the language barrier and the cultural policies become more permeable, after a few years or decades of mutual exchanges... then there'll be some substance to share.

It's not all bad in the American press, and not always bad... but the standards consistency isn't high enough on average. Influenced by the decline of journalistic standards on TV, there is no minimal level of sound arguments in film discourse... every pundit believes they can say whatever they want on anything, and they even get published by the high-profile press. In France, the profile of the publication usually corresponds to the level of quality we can expect from their content. Do you really think the NYT, or the various cinephile specialized publications live up to the quality we'd expect from them? (I have a few examples if you can't think of any)
The confrontation of American and French press will not flatter American writers... let's put it that way. So I'm not sure it is a clever move to turn the "isolationism issue" back in our face (especially since the question asked by the host was about the relevance of French cinema, not French criticism!). I would bet that, as little as the average French critic knows about the American film press, it still is more than what American critics know about the French film press themselves, or anything about French culture at all... And France is probably one of the countries they would more likely know something about, outside of the UK. What do they know about Italy, Portugal, Romania, Iran, Korea...?

What's tragic is that within this cultural isolationism, there is usually a small underground pocket of resistants who defy the dominant attitude and think outside the box, a group of activists who seek out knowledge that is not available in their country through the official channels, bypassing the censorship, cultural barriers and national-centric interests, moved by a love for global cinema beyond any borders. If there was a dozen Jonathan Rosenbaum in the American film press, I think it would have come to my attention by now, even as ignorant as I am of American culture. And there should be. Owning a DVD collection of a few French films doesn't make a film reviewer an anti-isolationism activist. I don't see this cultural resistance anywhere, I don't preceive on the internet the indirect shockwaves of its presence, I don't see the results of its secret achievements.

Back to the French Critics Legacy theme: when this pocket of resistance existed in France, during WW2 and afterwards, we could see the cultural impact and we still are grateful today for the services they rendered for world cinema culture, by saving silent film prints and not only French films! (Langlois), by developping a network of cine-clubs to educate the public at large (Bazin), by supporting foreign films not visible in France (Rissient), by nurturing a cinephile press (Cahiers, Positif)...
France is a much smaller country that the USA, with a much smaller economy, a much smaller movie business, a much smaller audience, and language much less widespread than English... So logically, anything similar happening within the USA should be remarkably more visible. Where is it? What American (so-called) cinephiles fight for? What do they support? What is their ambition for American culture? Do they care what the MPAA does to cinema industries in other countries?
What is left from the Sarris-Kael legacy for today's American cinephiles to work on? They can now use snob words such as "Nouvelle Vague", "mise en scene", "montage", "cinephile" to impress their friends... but apart from that?
They aren't helping foreign filmmakers get screened, or get better exposed. They aren't making the film press substance any deeper. They aren't producing a new generation of filmmakers more aware of world cinema. They aren't teaching in film schools life-changing classes. They aren't taking serious criticism to the radio or TV.

Mekas' Film-makers Cooperative is expelled to the street of NYC, the most cinephile-friendly city in the USA. The LACMA film program, in the city of the world's richest movie industry, is shut down. When screenwriters and actors protest in the street, it's not like Truffaut and Godard in 1967 to save Langlois' Cinémathèque, or to take down the studios stronghold, or to give copyrights and director's cut to the auteur of the film... you know, noble, selfless, ethical issues... no, they march the street to get more money for themselves! This doesn't look like a country who cares for cinema as an art detached from personal/national/corporate interests... It's not surprising that the industry, the government or even the institutions don't care about this. But that's when there should be a pocket of resistance against the mainstream opinion, who actively defends these cultural principles. And even if it's an unattainable goal in practicality, it shouldn't stop anybody from TALKING ABOUT IT again and again. Making it part of the film discourse doesn't cost a dime. And since USA is a democracy, it doesn't even take the courage of Iranian or Syrian filmmakers, to risk imprisonment for speaking up... Yet American cinephiles freely choose not to be activist and disregard the basic rights cultural diversity should enjoy on the American market... clinging to the comfort of their own DVD collections (half of which was pirated online, which doesn't even support the way of life of foreign filmmakers). It just shows American cinephiles don't care as badly about the place of cinema in their culture as French cinéphiles did back in the days...

If you don't do it "to do like France did", or for world culture... at least be selfish and do it for yourself, do it for the future generations of American movie consumers, do it for the level of culture a country like yours deserves and should aspire to. You don't have to compare USA to France and its "cultural exception"... but you should at least attain a decent cultural development for yourself. And isolationism is not acceptable, not for Iran or China, less so for USA : leader of the "free" world.

I wonder how many more decades and generations it will take for American culture to be as open to the outside world as their patronizing political talking points suggest it is. I'll keep repeating myself until I see some changes. And so should you.

"[..] I don't want to rain on his Parade [..] I don't want to criticize an excellent book I came away from whistling the theme from Mon Oncle. Just like in Tati's film, it is the play between the old world and the new that makes Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia so valuable and unique."
A.S. Hamrah, review of Rosenbaum's Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia, 2011 (Cineaste, Spring 2011)
When his book is reviewed by a friendly admirer in a magazine where he's listed as an associate... there is not much critical insight to expect indeed. All Hamrah did was recounting how he watched the movies cited in Rosenbaum's book... ME ME ME. That's the American style of journalism. Always make the reader relate to a pointless subjective anecdote.
I would hope that Rosenbaum's retirement would give him the time necessary to write proper books. An anthology of already-published articles is for others to publish after your death... Just like I wish he would be a little bit more vocal about American culture and American cinema on his blog, instead of posting old articles that are available elsewhere. Again, this is the job for an archivist. A serious critic should dedicate his time to write new material, which mere archivists cannot do for him. If he writes a book on Dreyer or Godard... I will probably not like it, but at least he would do his job of film writer, and contribute to expand Film discourse in these areas, which will make wannabe reviewers who look up to him, hopefully smarter.

Anyway this radio interview is very interesting, and the content of Rosenbaum's speech changes a lot from what we generaly hear about American culture, about world culture as seen by Americans, about niche markets, cine-clubs... in the American press. So listen to it and pass it around, because this type of discourse should become the dominant discourse, at least within cinephilia, if not mainstream media. If more American "cinephiles" would think that way, and make a point of spreading this mentality everywhere they can, in their articles, to their friends, or at their cine-clubs... this would start to make constructive evolution in the  isolationist brainwashing, time allowing.


    Fonction d'un festival (Boyer)

    Entretien avec Frédéric Boyer (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs)
    27 avril 2011 (forumdesimages) 14'53"

    Voir aussi:

    23 avril 2011

    MPAA not interested in democratized culture

    "If you do not believe in the value of creativity, the importance of protecting it and the need to reward those who produce, then maybe you can justify piracy. But in that case you’ll be doing great harm to culture. [..] Obviously, governments and societies have to work to make sure that the population has access to the basics in order to survive, but that does not mean you should ignore other things. Companies must live together because they respect each other and respect that people do not steal from one another. Even if you battle to put food on your plate, it is immoral to steal [..] [Creative Commons supporters] don’t always agree with what we advocate. And you are talking about democratizing culture, this is not in our interests. It really isn’t my interest."
    Greg Frazier (MPAA Vice President) during a lobbying visit to Brazil 
    The MPAA is merely protecting their corporate interests. [..]
    To the MPAA and many others in the entertainment industry, copyright has little to do with the word right, nor with creativity and culture. Instead, it’s a restrictive tool that allows works to be traded, leased and licensed in return for money.
    Indeed, democratizing culture is not in the MPAA’s interest, but maximizing profits and control is.
    Ernesto (Torrentfreak, 20 april 2011) 

    Let's put this into perspective (figures for 2009) :

    USA Brazil
    GDP (purchasing power parity) $ 14.7 trillion $ 2.2 trillion 
    GDP per capita $ 47,400 $ 10,900 
    Cinema BO (total) billion $ 29.4  0.481 
    Cinema BO (domestic share) % 91.8% 14.3%

    I don't have the exact figure detailing the foreign films imports in Brazil, but I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood owned about 90 to 99% of the non domestic share. In any case Hollywood already earns more money (80-85% of 481 = $385 million) from Brazilian consumers than the Brazilian filmmakers/producers (14.3% = $96 million). Any non-American film industry would be overjoyed with such figures... but the MPAA is greedier than this. They won't be happy until Brazilians spend all their money in legal sales or in lawsuit fines, instead of paying their bills or investing in their own domestic culture... That's sad. When you're number 1 in the world, by a large margin, you are expected to show a bit of modesty and compassion for those who couldn't even dream of reaching the level of benefits you make every year in legal sales, and no be so damn ruthless about the few unsignificant peanuts left on the floor after your industrial harvest!!! Peanuts that matter little to your overall commercial balance, and are primordial to the survival of the foreign market you cream out. Nah, the cultural business is not about diversity, exchange and support... the MPAA sees foreign art as COMPETITION. 

    In the USA, cinema is not an art, it is a competitive commerce, and crushing competitors is the only goal.

    And since America deals with world cinema like any of its foreign policy : meaning as a marketing strategy, they abuse of their political leverage and economical incentive to subdue weaker economical competitors to the laws established by their hegemony. Might is right. And mighty will get mightier.
    America is already lucky that the entire world (barred a few rebellious countries like Iran or North Korea) spontaneously loves Hollywood movies, in any honest blind test (the mainstream crowd at least). People prefer Hollywood movies over their own domestic filmmakers, even in countries where the cinema industry has the capability to compete on equal footing (quality wise). That is a market winner right there, without any effort. But that's not enough, they want to use marketing brainwashing, domestic culture attrition, quotas ban, economic pressures... If they were number 2 desperately trying to snatch the number 1 rank, that would be a greedy mentality. But since their total domination of the market is not threatened to be overtaken any time soon... this attitude really lacks class, not to mention morality.

    They are just jealous of the tax-free revenue the black market generates. But the consumers of the black market do not belong to them, even the police cannot turn 100% of black market consumers into legal consumers, because either they cannot afford legla prices, or because if it wasn't free/really cheap, they would not buy at all. Fighting the black market, which is sometimes the only access to a wide culture (against government censorship), will never increase dramatically the market share of legal sales.

    Still, they want to lecture Brazilians about the morality of copyrights. Ironically, at home they don't even respect copyrights themselves! They make everything legally possible to contain foreign film distribution under 10% on their own market, just to make the Hollywood remakes more profitable! Which is exactly the equivalent of installing an unofficial quota of 98% for their domestic market. It's not the American audience who doesn't want to watch foreign films, or that foreign films are not as good as Hollywood... it's that the American distribution market is not giving foreign films a fair chance to meet an audience! Yet the MPAA complains about countries such as France, Korea or Brazil who try to keep the Hollywood films under 50% with official quotas. What hypocrisy!!!
    They don't care about copyrights, because screenwriters (actual owners of artistic property rights!) and actors have to march in the street to get a decent share of the profits made by producers!!!

    The legal way is not always the best way to look at the situation. Maybe it sounds absurd to suggest such a thing... but I thought America was founded on principles like overriding an unjust law.
    Copyrights laws existed for concrete goods sold from hand to hand. It is impossible to apply them to the radical transformation of the global market and its virtual goods and its invisible consumers.

    All the MPAA cares about is to maximize profits for their investors. It is a business operation. It has nothing to do with defending copyrights against piracy, or supporting their screenwriters, or defending art, or claiming moral high ground with emphatic discourses!


    20 avril 2011

    L'homme à la caméra (Pourvali)

    Cours de cinéma de Bamchade Pourvali : L'homme à la caméra de Dziga Vertov
    8 avril  2011 (forumdesimages) 1h17'

    18 avril 2011

    Critical Fallacy 12 : Spoiler alerts

    THIS IS A SPOILER ALERT, BE WARNED : If you are afraid that words might steal your virginity, close your eyes and stick your head in the sand before reading any further. Don't watch trailers, don't listen to P.R. talking points, don't watch actors' TV promotional tour, don't read newspapers and reviews, don't read synopsis and ratings, don't read film criticism or film studies, don't go to film school. And if you like biopics, documentaries and movies based on a true story : do not watch the news, ever.
    Host: "My own opinion about spoilers has long been that if a film is actually spoiled by revealing plot details what you have is a bad film. Can I take you to agree with that? [..] What do you think about the notion that the second time you watch a movie is actually the first time because you're not preoccupied by following the story?"
    Jonathan Rosenbaum interview (The Marketplace of Ideas, 20 Feb 2011) 57'34" [MP3]
    Rosenbaum demonstrates an incredible patience and politeness facing the deplorable questions of this affected radio host!
    The anti-spoiler has nothing to do with the intrinsic quality of films themselves (any Hitchcock; Citizen Kane; M; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Stalker; The Exterminating Angel; La Jetée; Blow-up; The Taste of Cherry... are not "bad films"), but with the restrictions imposed on film writing liberty. And film criticism is not exclusive to pre-screening reviewing (where we kinda expect the plot synopsis to respect the surprise for the virgin spectators). Like Rosenbaum says, if we can re-watch a film over and over, knowing the plot by heart, without feeling cheated, we can also read another kind of film writing that doesn't focus on superficial pre-screening recommendations : serious filmic criticism (wherein some spoilers are inevitable).
    Spoiler (see: Wikipedia) :  Any element of any summary or description of any piece of fiction that reveals any plot element which will give away the outcome of a dramatic episode within the work of fiction, or the conclusion of the entire work.
    A spoiler reveals the story, but doesn't ruin a film for ever! It is possible to rewatch a film and enjoy it, even knowing what happens. Knowing classic stories, their main arcs, their premise and conclusions, and being able to talk about them, to make references, to produce parody or homages... is what constitutes general culture generations after generations. It's not the mysteries of top-secret plots that consolidate society around a common culture.
    "Some people’s obsessive preoccupation with spoilers has been driving me batty lately. It isn’t only among moviegoers; many fiction readers are equally afflicted. [..] Give me a break. Is this form of worry a fit activity for grown-ups? [..] The weird metaphysical implication of spoilers is that moviegoers and readers who fret about them want to regain their innocence, perhaps maybe even their infancy, and experience everything as if it were absolutely fresh. From this standpoint, we shouldn’t even know what films we’re going to see in advance, or who stars in them, or who directed them, or what they’re about, or perhaps even where they’re playing. Just so we can experience the bliss of being taken there by benevolent parents."
    In defense of spoilers, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader, 2006

    Movie spoilers and Spoiler movies

    It is obviously the movie industry that has implanted this irrational fear of spoilers in the mind of the mass audience... because it helps to boost their sales. Indeed, curiosity killed the cat. Or more trivially, if you warn the mouse about the violent slap after that delicious bite into the piece of cheese, you'll never catch a mouse. In other words, a spectator who has minimal information about a film, might be tempted to buy a ticket anyway, out of curiosity : inflating box office numbers with an audience that would not have watched it if they knew it didn't correspond to their taste.

    If the film is bad, it's better to shut up the reviewers as much as possible, so that readers won't believe mere opinions, legally deprived of backed up evidences. More consumers paying before being disappointed! The take-the-money-and-run type of first weekend marketing strategy.
    If the film is good, the whole mystery sustained by actors, marketing campaign, reviewers and the spectators who have already seen it, who only spread the buzz with subtle spoiler-free ellipses and circumnavigations, will inevitably push more curious spectators to buy a ticket, to know what it's all about, to be part in turn of this secret community of "people who can speak freely about spoilers amongst themselves". Even if in the end, the film wasn't worth all the extrapolated fantasy that mystery alone generates because the imagination runs wild (most often favourably) when we can't put definitive words on actual things. Again, more consumers than what the film would attract by itself (without the mystery marketing tactic).

    Ironically, the movie industry doesn't see any problems with selling a movie on DVD that everyone has already seen in theatres... Not only the plot and ending is spoiled for this potential consumer demographic, but the ENTIRE film too, yet they sell us completely spoiled meat, without any precautions or remorse. Double standards! Same with re-runs on TV, it is not perceived as a waste of air time and money even if "spoiled movies" allegedly do not attract audience.

    This is bullshit. Responsible spectators are able to figure out whether a 5 lines synopsis, or a 5 pages analysis may or may not spoil an entire film. The film pages of a newspaper or a blog are probably the easiest things to avoid if you worry about being spoiled. Water-cooler conversations, eavesdropping, TV shows... might catch you off guard, and you only figure out that you didn't want to hear that when it's too late. 

    Now about the legitimacy of spoiler-prohibition, in particular cases.

    Reviewers ought to be responsible too. Obviously, if you're only writing a capsule review, it is not worth spoiling anything in the film, just stick to generalities and elements that won't put the potential spectator ahead of the film, instead of being dragged along by the suspension of disbelief. First, because this kind of pithy comments are designed solely for readers who haven't seen the film yet. Secondly because readers who will not go watch that film, will find even less interest in the revelation of these spoilers. Thirdly because you have to deserve the privilege to cite a sensitive plot element, by dedicating time and words to the utilization of these unfortunate spoilers.
    A writer must not spoil gratuitously, out of pure perversion : I know something you don't know, and I will rub it in your face to make myself look good. (see: 100 Movie Spoilers in 5 minutes) That is pointless and stupid.  Yet we see that going on with a lot of reviews. Writers who reject the anti-spoiler policy, and just list spoiler after spoiler to show off, without making any productive use out of it. This is irresponsible. If you do not need a certain spoiler to make any worthwhile point at all, just stay away from spoilers.

    Also, before resorting to spoilers, you should always make sure it is otherwise impossible to use cunning phrasing that will spare the virgin readers, while hinting at a very precise detail that only someone who has seen the film would understand. This is part of the literary skills required to be a good reviewer! And it is not that hard to use ambiguous words, or only implicit half-truths that do not reveal anything specific explicitly, thus saving the mystery for the future audience.

    If you must reveal something that might pre-condition the reader into expecting something along the plot, or put them in an anxious wait for a detailed scene (which trailers do all the time), then it is really going to alter the spontaneous responsiveness of these readers during the film. The wording of your article, or even it's paragraph structure should unmistakably announce the cursory analysis incoming. You don't have to spell out "spoiler alert" either, this is very infantilizing (like Rosenbaum says). Just show a little bit of curtsy and do not start a sentence with a spoiler coming out of nowhere, without the reader being able to realize it is going to happen.


    12 avril 2011

    Film School for Dummies

    "Therefore, 'film school' -and the attitudes and stigmas commonly associated with it- does not necessarily require a new kind of analysis, for no new kind of analysis can exist for a sensibility that has been heretofore hardly been analysed. [..]
    Unlike Godard, however, 'film school' wants to reverse the command that 'one should put everything into a film.' The new task: 'One should get a film out of everything' [..]
    To become involved with a work of art entails, to be sure, the experience of detaching oneself from the world. But the work of art itself is also vibrant, magical, and exemplary object which returns us to the world."
    Notes on Film School By: Ricky D'Ambrose (Undercurrent, Jan 2011)
    Is it "good writing"? It doesn't even make sense... Anybody read this article on the editorial board at Undercurrent ? It's like nobody cares... Afterall the FIPRESCI isn't all that. It's a club of wannabe reviewers, it has nothing to do with world-class critical standards.
    Are there any ideas? And nobody is scrutinizing this article on the interwebs since January! Everyone who read and linked to that thought it was alright? Where are the critics? You can't re-tweet everything you find and pause to actually read what you link to at the same time... or else you fall behind! Well you would need to understand what is wrong with this article too... Complacency is damaging Film Culture a lot, and even if you think it saves the ego of a wannabe who tries hard, it won't help him get any better! That's what happens when you don't go to school.

    So what is the purpose of a Film School according to the International Federation of Film Critics??? (This should be easier for them to grasp than "ethics")
    They think that learning filmmaking technique (such as editing, staging, lighting, acting, editing, production...) and deconstructing film screenings for aesthetic analysis (key light, fill light, colour filters, light temperature, focal length, microphone source, budget...) is overrated! Listen, if all this is a problem to you, if you're afraid it might "spoil" your artistic sensibility to acquire "too much" knowledge... one simple solution: DON'T GO TO UNIVERSITY !!! Many directors managed to make films without going to any film school and a few great filmmakers too.
    The guy would like to have sex and remain virgin at the same time... He wants to learn how to make movies, without losing the innocence of the illiterate spectator. You can't unlearn filmmaking just to watch films... if you want to make films (or review them), you will fatally notice the technical flaws of a scene in a glance, or else you haven't watched enough films... That's why filmmakers (actors too) can't watch their own films, they only notice the smallest missed opportunities and the never-ending possible improvements. It is physically and mentally impossible to spend a few months (or years) on a project and not keep a highly critical, omniscient scrutiny on your own work. That is if you're any good at your job.

    So his long "research" of the film education curriculum consists of an anti-intellectual rant against all the things everyone with common sense is expected to learn in a film university. Maybe what he needs is to go to Werner Herzog's non-school.
    Werner Herzog: "You don't need to go to film school. You can learn the technical things in less than a week. All the rest you can learn by traveling on foot."
    Masterclass, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Greece, 2009
    By the way, I couldn't believe my eyes, the Cineaste magazine is advertising for a 2-day DVD course to learn everything you need to "make" films. And it's not just all technical aspects in 2 days... it's EVERYTHING : screenwriting, casting, budgeting, scheduling, financing, dealmaking, marketing, distributing, product placement... in 16 hours. What a big joke! You might sell a "Filmmaking for dummies" booklet with that, but not issue a "diploma" (included in the boxset!). Cineaste : "America's leading magazine on the art and politics of the cinema" yeah, right.
    • The Rogue Film School will not teach anything technical related to film-making. For this purpose, please enroll at your local film school.
    • The Rogue Film School is about a way of life. It is about a climate, the excitement that makes film possible. It will be about poetry, films, music, images, literature.
    Excerpts of the Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School "convention" (since 2010)

    I agree that what film universities teach today is conformist academism. Student films and debut features show they are more inspired by the commercial fare than by the vanguard of art films. Roger that. But I don't think it is impossible to learn acceptable knowledge and skills in a Film School, or that their teaching should be more sensible and less theoretical. No school will teach you talent, inspiration or genius... either you have it, or you cultivate it yourself. The function of a university is to teach you basic and advanced knowledge that can be taught, like technique and theory. Like Herzog says, the rest is up to you and your life experience (although in 2 weeks you will not learn all the technique needed to make Herzog's films, he's exaggerating!). There is no school for "feelings"! You're responsible to expose yourself to a variety of arts and life experiences to develop your sensibility. 

    The main argument of this article is against a mentality called "Film School" by populists. Supposedly it is a snub trend amongst film universities, film students and commercial filmmakers who think highly of technique and aesthetics (allegedly eg. Jarmusch, Lynch, Kubrick, Anderson, Coppola, Coens bros., Tarantino, Wong Kar-wai, Haneke, Almodovar, Kurosawa, Lang's Metropolis, Demy's Les Parapluies de Cherbourg...) Really? You are angry against the quality of cinema they represent? So that's what FIPRESCI wants to trash today? Dude, watch their films... you might learn something.

    And the only positive models cited are Akerman, Farocki, Godard and some Bergman. Do you really think everyone should make movies like Godard or Farocki? Yeah that would be a funny school if they only taught these films to film students. First, these are the kind of experimental filmmaking that does not mean to generate copycat disciples : so the idea of a film school teaching their ways to all students in America is a big misunderstanding. Second, this is an area of experimental cinema that would be hard to "teach", precisely because it's unconventional, and in school you learn conventions. A class on Godard would be way more theoretical than all the "technicality" you hate in classes on Scorsese or Wachowski. 
    I see, this is probably another deluded fanboy who believes JLG is not a formalist, theoretician, technician but is all about improvisation and sensuousness.

    I thought "film school" was a positive denomination amongst educated cinephiles. Reknown reviewer, Acquarello, actually titled her blog : Strictly Film School (since 1997). When I asked her, she said that the expression delimited the spectrum of titles covered by her selection, which excluded the mainstream fair, and pretty much means all "art cinema" (whatever this term means in America) that would be taught in film universities, and perceived as inaccessible/pretentious by the general audience. So it sounds to me like a positive and serious reference for cinephilia (even though it is used as a derogatory term by the mainstream viewers). Why would an article at the FIPRESCI diss that phrase, which is kinda "snob" already? Contrary to acquarello (who I'd rather trust), d'Ambrose made it seem like it represents "commercial", "sensationalism", "amusement", zealousness", "mannerism"... basically anything evil in cinema today. Why the discrepancy? Why the over-snobbery?

    doing =
    / = thinking
    pragmatist =
    / = intellectual
    "common sense" =
    / = complexity
    accessibility =
    / = difficulty, didacticism
    archetypes =
    / = esoteric-ism
    prevalence =
    / = uncommon
    excitement =
    / = contemplativeness

    "Common sense" opposed to "complexity"? I heard this before... (Contra-contrarianism 4)
    I wonder why "good cinema" should be necessarily complex, difficult, esoteric... this is not at all a given. "Deep" opposed to "shallow" : yes; "challenging" opposed to "dumb" : yes; but simplicity, transparency and accessibility doesn't equate to bad, dumb and shallow films, necessarily. "Didacticism" is not the antonym to "accessibility", to the contrary!
    And most of all complexity, difficulty and esoteric-ism directly contradicts the "contemplativeness" aspect, you gotta pick a side! For one thing, CCC (if that's what you care about) is not about "seriousness", "intellectualism", "effort", "thinking", "didacticism"... rather it is about evident simplicity and absence of intellectual constructions.
    I am the most vocal supporter of contemplative cinema you can find (Unspoken cinema), yet, I'm not preaching to teach "contemplativeness" exclusively in ALL film schools. That would be absurd. CCC is not meant to substitute all other forms of storytelling. Film universities don't exist to format the taste of students and train them to make films only one way (the contemplative, intellectual, challenging way). Don't count on me to support this pamphlet just because it mentions "contemplativeness" (out of context)!
    Like it or not, quality or not, traditional narrative is the bulk of film/TV storytelling in the world, and for more times to come, so there better be film schools that teach future directors how to get it right, if they go for the conventional job.
    If you're writing a paper on the syllabi in today's film education, you need to be universal and stay objective. Even if you don't like commercial genres, the point of a film school, good or bad, is to teach the whole spectrum of genres and styles available to filmmakers. Film genres are not inherently bad, there are only bad directors. Great filmmakers can make wonders with the silliest genre. So if there is a problem in film education, it's not by limiting styles and techniques you're gonna fix it. You can become snob later, after you learnt the basics in school.

    The author is so full of preconceptions about film techniques and stylistics devices... as if a long take had only one possible use, the one defined by Farocki. Instead of blaming BAD DIRECTORS, the article blames the technical devices (BADLY) used by (BAD) directors and rejects them altogether, with the whole generation they belong to.

    So I'm not sure what is the mannerism disputed here... it's contradictory.
    The talking points say anti-entertainment, by defining the "Film School" mentality with buzzwords such as "commercial interest", "accessibility", "excitement", "sensationalism", "irony", "speed", "fantastic", "shock", "diversion", "passivity", "lack of mental energy", "amusement", "sensation", "intensification of the image", "Mannerism", "edginess", slickness", "lack of interest in contemplativeness and seriousness", "love of aesthetic excitement and polish, of stylisation and velocity"...
    Whereas the examples of guilty directors cited above say anti-intellectual, or anti-artsy.

    This article doesn't know if it wants to be against commercial Hollywood or artsy cinema, against art filmmakers who became commercial or classic filmmakers who are too formalists, against theory or anti-intellectuals, against complexity or contemplativeness... I don't even know what the guy wants.

    [..] More so than Resnais' films, the former [Christopher Nolan's films] easily align themselves with "film school" taste in their possibility for unambiguous advice about narrative structure, in their reliance on assimilability and convention. 
    For instance, part of the speech is typical of the anti-Po-Mo arguments (dating back from the 90ies!) : against what postmodern films brought to cinema (recycling, homage, citation, parody, self-awareness, meta-narration, coolness, relativism, hyper-aesthetics, raw sensations, raw pleasure...), which is everything Godard does (yet he's the positive example cited here); since his very first film in 1959, he was a postmodern!

    So the underlying repressed ideology I sense behind a discourse that pretends to be "pro-intellectual" is anti-education, anti-taxonomy, anti-technique, anti-form, anti-analysis, anti-criticism, anti-PoMo, anti-Mannerism (albeit a misplaced mannerism), and at least one constructive opposition : anti-commercial.
    Usually anti-intellectuals who are against higher education are against high-brow Art and for mainstream entertainment. But there is a new kind of snobs (cultural studies) who have their own definition of "Art", the emotional art that theoreticians and critics don't understand and cannot express with words, allegedly. And they call the intellectual art, the sophisticated aesthetic, the conceptual experiment : "artsy".
    Basically they pose as artfilm supporters, as "intellectuals" but they reject all the auteurs who had too much success (Almodovar, Coens, W. Anderson, Tarantino, Lynch, Aronofsky, Haneke, Wong Kar-wai, Fincher...) which is typical hipster oblivion : forward tabula rasa tactic.

    At university you learn classics! Long-lived, safe classics. And the best of fairly recent filmmakers. You don't learn to become an experimental artist or the hip trend of next year in a traditional film school! In film school you learn how not to suck at filmmaking, which is already huge, and is apparently not even the minimal requirement to work in Hollywood. If EVERY film student learnt their shit from the lessons of film history, to make sure they don't make bad movies, the quality standard of mainstream entertainment would already raise above mediocre. Then we could turn some of them into artists.
    But don't expect to come out of a film school with a know-how to make masterpieces. That would be too easy, don't you think? If you care about deep art and intellectual art, there is no reason to blame universities for not teaching you that. 

    I'd agree that film departments in universities suck. Just by looking at what comes out of them. You might want to change the professors or the films studied... but a film school is a film school, it'll teach you technique and theory. Opening film departments to multidisciplinary courses and other arts is a great idea of course... but you still need to teach filmmaking techniques in a film school.

    One good thing I note in this whole mess is the cry for more diversity in film nationality for the course syllabi. Too many American films used in American film schools! No wonder they keep repeating the Hollywood model over and over. But if they teach Kubrick, Jarmusch, Lynch, Tarantino, Coens brothers... that's solid material already, and they are not really "commercial" or "conformist".

    And suddenly, the "film school sensibility" becomes synonymous with "intensified continuity", "image stylisation", "Mannerism"... in short : "American cinema over the past fifty years"! no less.
    The simple mistake to put Lynch, Jarmusch, Coens, even Tarantino in the same bag with the "intensified continuity" that characterises cheap Hollywood spectacle kills the argument right there. Even if you pretend you defend a more intellectual cinema (which is disproven by the sloppiness of the article).

    Anyone understands what was the point? There is no single consistent argument that holds everything together here. His examples are contradictory, even though he warns us against "reductio ad absurdum". Good ideas lost amidst ill-informed self-important subjective judgments make a lot of B.S.
    I'm guessing that the guy has read a lot of interesting stuff, that were sound arguments in the first place, took short-hand notes he didn't understand and then tried to paraphrase the whole thing into something of his own that somehow justifies his distaste for the styles evoked. Result : fail. 

    However bad this "film school mentality" is, I still think it's better than whatever the wrong-headed position this article puts forth. At this point I believe the main problem is bad professors and bad students which could get fixed eventually, without the dismantlement of film analysis, film theory, film technique, film education and films schools.

    BONUS CLIP : Ricky D'Ambrose's own student film (2008) : a parody of NYU's student films (typical PoMo!)

    Related :

    Hong Sang-soo (La Cinémathèque)

    entretien Hong Sang-soo
    14 mars 2011 (lacinematheque) 7'53"

    * * *

    [video non dispo]
    Conférence Hong Sang-soo (La Cinémathèque) 16 mars 2011

    08 avril 2011

    Contra-contrarianism (IFFR) 5

    Good critic, Bad critic... what does it mean???
    CRITICS KNOW: a BAD CRITIC is ... someone incompetent, dishonest, shallow, generalist, incoherent, subjective, complacent, lacks arguments, speculates, improvises summary judgements  a GOOD CRITIC is ... someone educated, skeptical, independent with objective analysis, facts, historical perspective, aesthetic standards, insights, ideas, opinions backed up by evidences
    REVIEWERS ASSUME: a "BAD" CRITIC is ... someone who does negative criticism (called "tough love"),  dogmatic theory ("clichés"), [over-]analysis ("elitism", "spoilers"), love-deprived ("anti-cinephilia"), dialectic ("patronizing") a "GOOD" CRITIC is ... a "good" writer (a.k.a. thesaurus),  with positive promotion (cheerleader), impressions (truthiness), love (cinephilia), recommendations (prescription), trivia, anecdotes, puns
    AUDIENCE FEELS: a "BAD" CRITIC is ... someone who dislikes what I like (attributed to "taste") a "GOOD" CRITIC is ... someone who likes what I like (taste)
    Words mean different things to different people in different contexts. The problem is when two persons use the same word (with a different meaning) thinking they are talking about the same thing. And sometimes it means the contrary to what it is supposed to be used for.

    05 avril 2011

    Stanley Kubrick (La Cinémathèque)

    Table ronde : "Stanley Kubrick, l'artiste et sa méthode"
    La Cinémathèque Française, 24 mars 2011, 1h18'
    Rencontre avec Ken Adam, Marisa Berenson, Michel Ciment, Nigel Galt, Jan Harlan, Christiane Kubrick, Tim Heptner, animée par Serge Toubiana.
    • 00:00:00 : Introduction
    • 00:04:04 : Napoleon, le rêve d'un film
    • 00:14:49 : Barry Lyndon, Docteur folamour : pré-production, décors et tournage
    • 00:36:48 : Être perfectionniste n’est pas un défaut
    • 01:06:36 : Questions des spectateurs
    * * *

    Exposition Stanley Kubrick à la Cinémathèque : 23 mars - 31 juillet 2011

    * * *

    Michel Ciment (France Culture, 16 avril 2011) 1h [MP3] avec:
    • Philippe Fraisse, auteur de « Le cinéma au bord du monde - Une approche de Stanley Kubrick » 
    • Pierre Berthomieu pour « Hollywood moderne - Le temps des voyants »
    • Sam Azulys pour son ouvrage « Stanley Kubrick, une odyssée philosophique » 
    * * *

    Michel Ciment à l'Institut Lumière, Lyon, 3 mai 2011 [1h27']

    * * *

    Michel Ciment: Entre raison et passion
    26 avril 2011 (La Cinémathèque) 1h16'
    Un fil rouge relie les films de Kubrick qui sont autant d’avertissements en forme de fables : le rapport au coeur de chaque homme et dans la société entre une volonté de contrôle, l’affirmation de la raison et l’irruption de la passion, de la violence et du refoulé.

    Voir aussi :

    04 avril 2011

    French Critics Legacy 1

    I was going to congratulate David Bordwell for writing about the state of Foreign Films on his blog (reviewing Tino Balio’s book : Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946-1973), and then he says :
    "Today we regard Citizen Kane as a classic, if not the classic. But for several years after its 1941 release it wasn’t considered that great. It missed a place on the Sight and Sound ten-best critics’ polls for 1952; not until 1962 did it earn a spot (though at the top). Its rise in esteem was due to changes in film culture and, some have speculated, the fact that Kane was a regular on TV during the 1960s. Something similar happened with His Girl Friday, another stealth classic."
    I wonder what happened between the unpopular release of Citizen Kane in 1941 (dismissed by American critics!), and its canonization in 1962... at a time when Orson Welles was an Hollywood outcast, exiled in Europe, and making Le Procès (1962) in France. Maybe André Bazin's support from 1946 (when American films could be seen in France again after the war) to 1956, while the American didn't care for it, had something to do with it?
    • Citizen Kane, André Bazin, Parisien Libéré April 07, 1946
    • La technique de Citizen Kane, André Bazin, Temps modernes February 1947
    • Je plaide pour Orson Welles, André Bazin, Ecran Français January 20, 1948
    • L'apport d'Orson Welles, André Bazin, Ciné-club May 1948
    • Orson Welles, André Bazin, 1950
    • Dossier secret Orson Welles ou la volonté de puissance, André Bazin, Radio Cinéma Télévision June 17, 1956
    Or maybe it was the power of TV broadcast that turned an outcast into a star... Sure. Let's credit popular TV for the reversal of an elitist canon like Sight and Sound's decennial top10. I'm afraid he mixes up the (belated) popularity of a film within general culture, due to TV exposition, with the critical appreciation of a masterpiece by an elite circle of critics (also quite late).
    Bordwell dedicated an entire post to Bazin, to unearth his alledged "plagiarism" by misquoting him, but he wouldn't namedrop his name here, to acknowledge his key role in the reappraisal of Orson Welles' reputation in the world... Convenient memory lapse. Unfair.
    He cites Film Comment and Film Culture, but not Cahiers du cinéma (translated by Andrew Sarris in 1966-67) which did such a good job at saving Hollywood films' reputation from the neglect of the American press?
    What hope is left if even historians are biased and revisionist in America?
    The excuse of French critics to wait till 1946 to rediscover Citizen Kane... was WORLD WAR II ! What is the excuse of American critics???

    At least, I welcome the often forgotten mention that the unbeatable number 1 masterpiece on all canonical lists : Citizen Kane, didn't always enjoy this unconditional love in America. It's easy to confess, today, that Citizen Kane is your favourite film of all time... but sadly, Orson Welles had rough times with Hollywood, the American audience and the American critics because of it, to begin with. 
    "[Tino Balio] is asking a business question: What led the U. S. film industry to accept and eventually embrace films so fundamentally different from the Hollywood product?
    Several researchers have pointed to the roles played by influential critics, film festivals, and new periodicals like Film Comment and Film Culture."
    The question of canon formation is an interesting investigation. I do think that the golden age of Hollywood consumerism until the 50ies (before the competition with TV), which fortunately coincided with a peak in quality creation (within the studio system), influences greatly the favouritism towards this period in cinema history. They made great films back then, indeed, but they also benefited from other factors which favourably exaggerated their importance, like the fact that a lot more spectators went to the movies at the time, that most influential critics and publications (and later filmmakers) came of age during this period, that art cinema was more popular than today, that cinema culture in general was a lot less controversial and polarized than today... All this results in the fact that in the collective memory, this period combines more positive sentiments than any following periods. And when lists are tabulated, the lowest common denominator is the less controversial masterpiece, ranked on top by the majority of voters. Since critics polled are often over 60 years old, they are most likely influenced by the aura of this Golden Age, during their impressionable years. Later critics are then influenced in turn by the authority of this period established by their elders.

    But does it mean that Bergman or Kurosawa were overrated? Seriously? Can we say today (even by acknowledging the exceptional conjuncture) that a Bergman masterpiece or a Kurosawa masterpiece doesn't live up to the hype? This is ridiculous. I would rather re-evaluate, in hindsight, the cult of personality around the persona (which overcompensates the actual "superiority" of their films) of Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Renoir, Wyler, Hawks, Wilder, Donen, Curtiz, Lean, Laughton, Capra, Nicolas Ray... (I know how terribly subversive it is to dare claim such thing!) before thinking of revising the canonical merits of Bergman's (Cries and Whispers, The Virgin Spring, Winter Light, Persona, Shame, Scenes from a Marriage, The Silence, Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna) and Kurosawa's (Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, Stray Dog, Throne of Blood, High and Low, The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, Sanjuro) best films (within the 1946-73 timeframe). TV broadcast and distribution in the USA have nothing to do with the worldwide recognition of their talent!

    Personally I believe that the 60ies gave us more masterpieces (Antonioni, Resnais, Bergman, Cassavetes, Satyajit Ray, Pollet, Kubrick...) than the preceding decades of Sound Cinema, and the more recent masterpieces made by Tarkovsky, Kubrick, Lynch, Kiarostami and Tarr should be rated higher comparatively to the conservative taste of the Golden Age classics (40-50ies). The aesthetic challenges and discoveries made since then are of higher magnitude than what the 40ies was in comparison to the achievements of the Silent era. The degree of risks and improvements are superior today, for the few masters, while the aesthetic qualities of commercial cinema today is inferior to what it was in the Hollywood of Hitchcock, Ford, Lang or Welles.

    The question Bordwell conveniently forgets to ask is : What happened to the distribution of Foreign Films in the USA after 1973??? (see a graph of Foreign Film admissions in the USA between 1985 and 2008 here)

    Last week, Quattro Volte (like Alamar last autumn) opened in the USA on 1 single screen (NYC)!!! despite raving reviews. This is a shame for the American distribution system and shame on American intellectuals (or art lovers) for not caring about it.
    Apparently it doesn't justify a particular attention from the Press that a new (foreign) film is given such a bad chance to meet an audience in this competitive market... it doesn't move the American critics, it doesn't trigger an outrage, a revolution... They no longer fulfill their function of watchdogs in Film Culture. What really offends them is that a 3D movie was retrofitted in postproduction rather than shot in 3D! What are we gonna do with these guys, seriously??? 

    In 50 years, someone will write a book on The Foreign Film Demise on American Screens : 1973-2061, and the indifferent press will be remembered. Do you realize that?


      02 avril 2011

      Contra-contrarianism (IFFR) 4

      Some definitions from the official dictionary that allows our society to communicate with a common language...

      Common Sense
      Common Sense : "the ability to use good judgment and make sensible decisions" (MacMillan Dictionary)
      Not to confound with :

      Comfort Zone
      "The temperature range between 28° and 30°C or 82.5° and 86°F at which the naked body maintains heat balance without shivering or sweating"
      (The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary)
      Originally the Comfort Zone is beneficial to our biological system. We don't need sunburns or ice burns to prove we are alive. Not everybody needs to risk their life to feel alive. No reason to blame the general population (or the general audience) if they want their "comfort clothes", "comfort food", "comfort movies"...

      The problematic is different when we talk about a specific group : critics. We expect critics to exceed their comfort zone because they are not the average movie goer, they do not watch movies for their own selfish comfort (not exclusively at least I hope), they are only paid to provide an educated advice to other movie goers, not to indulge their own idiosyncratic narcissistic envy, fantasy and pleasure (film writers often forget that!) that reinforce a craved sense of security (their comfort zone).

      " The comfort zone is a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk. A person's personality can be described by his or her comfort zones. [..] A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. "
      The figurative meaning of the phrase, applied specifically to critical/competitive professions (always seeking to be off the edge, ahead of the curve) takes a new turn. In this particular condition, being safe, limiting yourself to artificial boundaries, sticking to your comfort zone might be detrimental to the practice of your job. It doesn't mean that EVERY critic MUST reject their comfort zone and throw themselves into a fastforward race to the next novelty, the random unknown, the unique stuff that nobody else promotes... Because this kind of attitude (that exists in certain hipster quarters) has the anarchical tendency to call conservative (or comfort zone) anything déjà-vu. The crucial difference is how you define what is the "comfort zone" and what is revolutionary.
      We've seen how some critics feel better about themselves by trashing so-called "non-fast cinema" as if it was a (homogeneous) style that lasts too long, looks too old, out of touch with MTV frantic cutting... Totally oblivious of a wider context where "intensified continuity" is just as old and a very superficial imitation of contemporary technologically-addict lifestyles. It's all a matter of point of view. Yet certain critics are entrenched in their certitude that fast=good and slow=bad, no matter what. They are in their own comfort zone. And we could just as well burst that bubble.
      Preconceived ideas, prejudices, contrived biases do not help to get Film Discourse to higher planes...

      " A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."
      (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance, 1841)
      LOL. Seeking misunderstanding with everyone else to insure being above everyone else... This is confusing the incidental end with the performative means. I'm not so sure that whenever you are misunderstood, you are therefore profound. In fact, I'm pretty sure that is the definition of an ignorant in the overwhelming majority of cases. The value of these few geniuses cited is not defined by being misunderstood by an outdated paradigm (incidental and unfortunate) but by being understood by the new paradigm (groundbreaking leap forward). 
      In Europe we are Cartesian (Descartes, champion of reason), in America they are empiricists (Emerson, champion of individualism)... We believe empiricism is anti-intellectual, they believe rational thinking is elitist. That explains the cultural gap right there.
      How ironic that 50 of the top100 best world universities are American, yet the American general public is amongst the most anti-intellectual, as if the American intelligentsia was insular, disconnected from its duty to educate its own fellow Americans. 
      That's what we have to deal with, when we engage the uphill battle against the humongous colossus that is the Hollywood culture hegemony throughout the world. And film writers who don't care about the absence of foreign film screenings in their country, the absence of critical debate, the dictature of the marketing talking points, the dumbification of the masses... are no critic at all.

      " Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to what individuals perceive is normal of their society or social group. This influence occurs in small groups and society as a whole, and may result from subtle unconscious influences, or direct and overt social pressure. Conformity can occur in the presence of others, or when an individual is alone. For example, people tend to follow social norms when eating or watching television, even when alone. "
      It's rather easy to mock the misconceptions, the outdated taste of distant generations... but it's another thing to be able to have the critical distance to judge clearly OUR controversies in OUR time as they unfold, without falling for the conventional wisdom bandwagon. We only need statistics to figure what is the opinion the majority of people go for, but it takes critical thinking to sift insights from fads.
      It's all dandy to toss around words like "out of the comfort zone"... but what did you do to prove you oppose the inertia of the populist self-indulgence???

      Criticism is for defiant reflection not for self-congratulatory fascination.
      "Le motif de la résistance, c'est l'indignation." Stéphane Hessel, 2011

      Related :

      English Fail

      At TEDxDubai, longtime English teacher Patricia Ryan asks a provocative question: Is the world's focus on English preventing the spread of great ideas in other languages? (For instance: what if Einstein had to pass the TOEFL?) It's a passionate defense of translating and sharing ideas.