Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Film Criticism in Crisis?" Why not: Everything else is.

Today saw an interesting group discussion -- Film Criticism in Crisis? -- sponsored by Film Comment magazine and given before a near sold-out house, during the 46th NY Film Festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. As he introduced his prestigious panel, Film Comment editor Gavin Smith joked that using the word "crisis" sort of guaranteed that people would sit up and take notice. But is true film criticism in any more of a crisis now than at an earlier time? The panel seemed not all that concerned with the "crisis now" attitude.

Certainly print media is in crisis -- and has been for some time -- and many former print critics are in print no more (unless you choose to highlight their blogs, paste them into a Word document, and hit the "print" button). The crisis, if it is such, is that any kind of a living wage for those of us who toil in the writing-about-film vineyard is no longer (or rarely) forthcoming. So I guess, by day, we'll be busboys at Denny's -- and write at night.

Each panel member (there were eight, including moderator Smith) added his or her own ideas about criticism and crisis: Smith opined that we should not expect any dishing or fights to break out between print and blog critics (they didn't). Chicago critic Jonathan Rosenbaum offered, among a lot of good stuff, the idea that there is so little now of what we hear and take for granted that is actually the truth -- including the fact that Barack Obama is consistently described as a black man when his mother was white.

Film Comment's editor-at-large Kent Jones offered an interesting reference to Pauline Kael and later asked for -- and got -- a round of applause to honor the late Manny Farber; Jessica Winter, talked about her current gig with O magazine and how she must think a bit of about demographics and where, urban or not, her readers are located; Korean film critic Seong-Hoon Jeong offered up a fun story about the Korean blockbuster D-War and what happened in the blogosphere when the critical establishment drubbed the film.

Pascual Espiritu, who blogs -- and beautifully: thoughtful, informative -- as Acquarello at Strictly Film School, told us how she (and we) ought to think of her blog; Cahiers du cinema editor Emmanuel Burdeau was perhaps the hit of the panel, offering lengthy tales of the how and why of Cahiers' current crisis, as well as telling us how very good and underrated was the film Cloverfield (I fully agree with the gentilhomme on that one); finally GreenCine's own go-to guy for what, filmwise, is worth reading on the web, David Hudson, acted (as he does on the GreenCine Daily Blog) as a connector, linking and commenting on what his co-panelists had just told us.

Smith opened the discussion up to attendees for a few minutes prior to adjourning to the gallery for nibbles and in-person chats with the panelists. The questions from the floor were perhaps on a bit higher-level than is sometimes encountered at the Walter Reade, so I am sorry there was not more time for them. All in all, this was well-spent afternoon, and if we did not solve the crisis, (or even agree that there is much of one), it was a pleasure to see and hear intelligent talk about international film criticism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, right back at ya.