17 septembre 2011

French critics legacy 6

V.F. Perkins interview on Film as Film [1972]
(at Kino 8½, Saarbrücken, Germany; Media Art and Design Studiengang; 2011?)
V.F. Perkins: "I wrote Film As Film when I was a lot younger, quite a long time ago, and in a rather special context, that is difficult for people now to grasp. It came about from my writing in a magazine called Movie, which I've benn on of the co-founder of, which have taken a very oppositional stance in relation to prevailing notions of what constitutes cinema, good movies and so on. I was quite a lot under the influence of Cahiers du cinéma in France. [..] The book [my editors] initially wanted from me was a book about how to appreciate a film, what is the medium of film, what makes film an art. And, partly under the influence of André Bazin, a number of us came to think quite differently and to relate somewhat different ideas about film to a different range of texts. Nobody in the older tradition would have thought it was worthwhile discussing a film by Otto Preminger. [..] A range of films that came out in the mid-fifties, which were very dissmissively, at best, received by the generality of film reviewers. Key instances: Orson Welles's Touch of Evil, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind, Nicolas Ray's Part Girl. These all stroke me at the time, and strike me today as major products of aesthetic and dramatic intelligence in the medium of movie. And it made us very angry that these films were dismissively received, that on the other hand we could see a contrast over in France, Orson Welles was being interviewed in a way he could respond about the depth of his intentions with Touch of Evil. No such questions were being asked in America or in England. Particularly from the interviews in Cahiers du cinéma, one got this sense that filmmakers were highly articulate to themselves (not necessarily in words) about what they were doing at every moment with the film they were making, and they were capable of responding intelligently to an intelligent approach from critics. So that anger on behalf of the artist, we wanted Vertigo to be recognized as a major achievement, of an artistic soul. And felt it to be disgraceful that Hitchcock was demeaned as a merely very effective commercial filmmaker, who as it happened with Vertigo, had made a commercial flop. So the kind of anger that provoked obviously means that, not only you have to argue for the quality of Vertigo, you have to argue for the kind of cinema that Vertigo represents, that the old aesthetics is somehow incapable of comprehending. [..] So that relationship between taste, critical understanding and a development of generalised notions of aesthetics is very important. And it's kind of easier to achieve under the pressure of anger, enthusiasm of some kind, than it is simply as an abstract theoretical engagement of some kind. [..]"     
Apparently you need to be 75 years old to remember the legacy of French critics... Youngsters at "New Cinephilia" have too short an attention span for such a long and respectful memory. They believe they made themselves out of thin air, and their ego is so big that they have the nerves to bad mouth and reject to original cinéphilie, cause they are so much better than French cinéphiles, totally oblivious of the fact nobody watches artfilms or foreign films in their country (see reality check here), and that their individualist practice of home-cinephilia doesn't do anything to expand film culture outside of the hardcore cinéphile niche to the general population... That's the difference between the combative generation of old film culture scarcity, and the complacent generation of new film culture over-abundance. 


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