24 mai 2012

Repeat Whiner (Cannes) Season 2 Episode 3

Cannes English-language Roundtable (23 May 2012): Amy Taubin (Film Comment), Gavin Smith (Film Comment), Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter), Scott Foundas (Film Comment) :

Gavin Smith : "I wasn’t in the Lumière, but was there a standing ovation at the end of the Michael Haneke press screening? [..]  I mean, was there a lot of applause?"
Yeah, Cannes is all about the standing ovations... LOL That's the kind of trivial detail shallow people remember of important events. If the film is shown at an eldery retirement home, or to paralytics, will you tell your friends the film sucked because nobody stood up for 20 minutes to applaud it? It's all about showing off and appearances...

Todd McCarthy : "Because you have to say it was a downer film. It wasn’t one of those exhilarated “whoopee”–type screenings."
"downer" and "whoopee" is the vocabulary of a film critic talking about films selected at the most prestigious festival in the world? wow you must feel so much superior to cinema's best... Maybe you can print this in THR about fucking Hollywood flicks... but you could show a bit of respect and deference for proper films made by people who care for their work (informal conversation or not).

Scott Foundas : "if this movie [Matteo Garrone's Reality] had just shown up here and it wasn’t this film that Matteo Garrone had made right after Gomorrah, and it wasn’t shown in the official competition, people would like it a lot more. [..]"
Gavin Smith : "You’re basically saying that it suffers from the burden of expectation, which always seems to apply in Cannes when somebody’s had a big success."
Guilt by association. You realise that most of the "problems" with Cannes are what the public brings in, right? An actual critic should be able to ignore the pre-screening gossips and concentrate on judging the work on its in-film merits. What's all this B.S. talk? Not only you play the expectation/anticipation game like the random moviegoer, but it becomes an evidence to demolish a film now? WTF?
Yes films in competition are judged more harshly, that's the point of a competition! that's the price to pay to get the privileged platform, as opposed to "off-competition" or screening else where in the world.

Scott Foundas : "I think it’s sometimes easy to take those guys for granted a little bit and not take them as seriously as some of the more capital-A Auteurs."
I hope you're not one of the whiners who complain that Cannes only invite the same Auteurs over and over then... What do you want in Cannes, quality auteurs or new faces? Fucking flip-floppers who use whatever talking-point is more convenient to always have something to whine about in every context! And never put forth a stance because they believe in it and held a coherent history supporting that stance for ever. 

Amy Taubin : "That doesn’t mean I thought it [Reality] was good, or that I wanted to be sitting there for the length of it, which I certainly didn’t."
Nevermind your job is to attend EVERY screening you're supposed to cover, back-to-back, regardless for its quality... because you're a fucking REVIEWER, not a self-indulgent moviegoer! But thanks for sharing this incredibly banal (consumer-grade) thought... is that how articulate is a reviewer compare to anyone else? If you had given a few thought to the responsibility of your job, you would never utter such B.S. in public, much less when it's recorded for later publication... Fucking pathetic. See Slow films, easy life (Sight&Sound) 

Amy Taubin : "And it [Beasts of the Southern Wild] had a standing ovation in a mixed screening. Press was there, students were there—the students loved it—and normal people, whoever they are, were there, so it was that kind of mixed thing, and it was fantastic."
Aspiration for the average... She goes to an elite festival (specialized in showing challenging art-oriented non-commercial films that have a hard time getting distributed in the world in general and in the USA in particular) and what she looks for is the populist confirmation of the all-sorts crowd... You can stay in Sundance if you only care for feel-good movies!

Todd McCarthy : "It’s one of the most deliberately vulgar and unattractive casts that’s ever been assembled. No doubt, absolutely on purpose."
WTF? This is just plain insulting. Even for a mere spectacle consumer it would be libelous. But for a "critic", this is embarassingly unprofessional. Some people don't even filter random ideas popping up in their head... You'd think a "trained reviewer" would know better...
Gavin Smith : "Fair enough, but basically what that means is that Michael Haneke refuses to leave his comfort zone as a filmmaker, and I think that it’s really time that he did that. [..] Well, that’s not what I mean by comfort zone. What I mean is that Michael Haneke is very comfortable making films in a certain milieu. This film was fine in that milieu. In effect, I came full circle and I wasn’t questioning it, but I do think that going forward in his career he needs to look elsewhere. [..] I do think that Ken Loach should start making films about other classes of people in England."
I'm glad there was someone to speak up against such B.S.
Amy Taubin, Todd McCarthy and Scott Foundas dare to stand up to their editor and pound some sense into him. See Comfort Zone in Contra-Contrarianism (IFFR) 4 
One mentions the suicide of Haneke's aunt, another his family of musicians, and Gavin Smith mischaracterizes as a mere "comfort zone" what is the basic autobiographical input any writer, any artist, any filmmaker uses to nourish his/her fictional stories. Total "authorism" fail. You don't have to abid to the Auteur Theory to know that an author uses personal life experiences first and foremost, whether it ends up obvious or in a concealed/criptic way. Besides it's not a reviewer's prerogative to decide the content chosen by an author. And we only appreciate the diversity of themes, social classes, milieux, historical periods on a comprehensive scale encompassing all authors of a certain country or globally worldwide. You can't blame one given author for not making a film about that theme you want, or for repeating familiar themes. The community of films balance out eachothers. One completes the lacks of others and vice-versa, in terms of representative diversity.
You may examine the content, contextualize, criticize it, but if you reject it altogether (as if someone wasn't allowed to make a film about that, or had made too many films that way) you cross the line of critical duty and step down into the average consumer selfish demands. In Hollywood, studios supply whatever the audience asks for. But in real life, filmmakers make films because they have something to say, from within, not to pander to a potential audience, or petty reviewers...

That's a lot of bullshit that refuses to die out... Until USA deals with film culture education, American reviewers will remain this shallow, petty and whining like babies until they get what they want, exactly the way they asked for, and right now.

But wait, this isn't over. In the same roundtable, Gavin Smith makes a 180° turn and start defending the "comfort zone" of Beyond the Hills, after Scott Foundas blamed Romanian directors for sticking to their "New Wave" comfort zone and Amy Taubin complained about The Hunt  :
Gavin Smith : "On the contrary, I couldn’t disagree with you more [Beyond The Hills]. There’s a small core of filmmakers in Romania who are making most of the important films, and all of these films enter into an intense dialogue with each other from film to film, and I think that’s fascinating. There’s not enough of that going on in the world, it seems to me. [..] You had a visceral reaction to just having that story retold [The Hunt]. It’s not a new story. There’s nothing new in this film."
B.S. ! Reviewers who just throw random disorganised ideas don't mind for long term coherence of a consistent line.
Finally, everyone agrees about the evil of the "comfort zone" when it comes to Hong Sang-soo. WTF? They have no clue what they are talking about, and are not qualified to talk about artfilms. And then :
Scott Foundas : "Yes, one of the great body filmmakers. David Cronenberg, a guy whose whole career has been about body horror." 
So is it a "comfort zone" to be identified as the "filmmaker of body horror" or is it something to be praised for? I think you need to sort yourself out before coming up with contradictory bullshit theories about what art should or should not be...

Todd McCarthy : "There were bold aspects to it [De rouille et d'os], too, but the very same story, treated a different way, could have been a very conventional, middle-of-the-road Hollywood movie. So in that sense it wasn’t as exciting as some other works of his. But I thought it was a very good film, quite credible—fine."
Hypothetical straw man! Yeah, if you tweak this and that, and take out all the good elements, the great performances, the skills, the inspiration, the style... you end up with crap. Oh really? That was a very informative statement. If you cared about the Hollywood sub-standard formulaic stories, maybe you'd be a bit more vocal about the absence of artfilms in your country dude! And it's not about WHAT you film (it could be the most banal or cliché story) but HOW a filmmaker translates it, what he does with it.

Scott Foundas : "I could have counted down to the minute that shot was going to cut to black. I found it very mannered, very self-conscious. [..] And then when the camera started to track, I thought, OK, we’ve got about 30 seconds until it’s going to cut off on a shot of just these two guys, everyone else framed out, and a conversation that doesn’t have anything to do with the movie."
LOL. Yeah dude, being able to predict cuts to the second makes you a better "critic"... Brag away! Is this film criticism or weather forecast???

Amy Taubin : "I think the Vinterberg is a terrible film. I think it’s dumb. I can’t even talk about why it’s terrible."
Then don't speak up! Wow you don't need to be an employed reviewer to utter such useless shit...

Scott Foundas : "The only thing I want to say beyond what we’ve talked about is that people are always hot to talk about trends in Cannes, and I feel like trends are usually the invention of — [..] Magazine editors and people who are looking for some kind of an angle rather than just talking about the films. So I’m glad we mostly talked about the films. But, really culminating with the Haneke this morning, I have been struck by the intense physical quality of the films here in the competition. [..] This has really struck me as being a throughline through the films. The films themselves are quite visceral. [..] Also, I never buy the idea that there’s any theory to the programming of the festival. In Cannes, so much of how films are scheduled is about talent availability"
LOL. He's glad the conversation didn't fall into the topoi of Cannes coverage, BUT he makes sure to drag it there himself now. Yeah let's find a simplifying talking point to sum up the overall flavour of the competition, so we have something easy for our readers to digest, and we can later accuse some films for not respecting the annual trend or conversely to blame the festival for being a cardboard caricature of itself. Finally he declares that what he just said didn't make sense.

I notice that except for the cinematography in particular scenes (an opening scene in a bad film...), what they talk about is whether they like the subject matter chosen by the author, about the actors performances and plot points... And then they heckle the director, virtually screaming at the screen in their head. They argue with what is realist, how social behaviours should be in real life... as if these fictions were documentaries. That's a bit disappointing for art critics. They don't really talk about CINEMA, about the art of filmmaking, about depth and inspiration. That's what distinguishes the critics from reviewers, or "the men from the boys" (no offense intended to feminists, it's the saying).
I know it's only a stream-of-consciousness conversation, before the end of the festival... Fine. But these are seasoned reviewers... shouldn't we expect higher-standards from their "first impressions", just like they expect such "high standards" from this festival? Their nitpicking would be more credible if they held themselves to the same level of critical standards...

They are disappointed by these films... well, I'm disappointed by the level of their discourse.

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