One thing about reading the French film magazines Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif and Trafic is that one needs to do much position taking, be able to see the other side, as they are sometimes in opposition to one another on particular films and filmmakers. On one hand, ones own thoughts about the films get diluted amongst the reviews. On the other hand, a good piece of film criticism can be thought provoking and enjoyable to read. This banter also has a rich history.
For example, in the January 1971 issue of Cahiers the editor Jean Nabodi argued for his methodology against Bertrand Tavernier who in Positif ridiculed him for his heavy-handed approach to an interview they had together with Howard Hawks. Over forty years later, Cahiers is still holding onto a grudge as Tavernier's new film Le Princess de Montpensier gets a scathing review while in Positif Tavernier's film has a dossier. While the most inquisitive review of the much lauded Antoine de Baecque's book on Godard is in Positif as Baumann discusses the encyclopedic fetishism of this Godard scholarship as he denounces the tendency of magnetic mimesis - a criticism that wants to be Gordardien - and a denial of his anti-Semitism. Baumann does all of that, and at the same time, he shoots down two major figures that were produced at the revered Cahiers: "Deux de la vague isn’t a film about Godard and Truffaut, but about Godard and de Baecque."
To bring the film-journal Trafic in the mix, one of its editors, Raymond Bellour wrote a glowing review of Benoît Jacquot’s Deep in the Woods, which Michel Ciment would highlight in his Bloc-notes, where at Cahiers the film got panned. Who really knows if the film is any good? It's not readily available. But my point is that it's exciting to read about. It should be clear by now that there are personal squabbles that seep into film criticism. And all we can really do, as Baumann points out, is to be true to ourselves and cherish our individual pleasures whether that means pursuing films that look enjoyable or reading articles that look interesting. All of this hopefully leading one to be able to better elaborate on ones own thoughts and feelings.
If you are in Toronto sometime this summer for twelve-dollars you can see the Spectacular Obsessions exposition that will be at the Lightbox as well as some of his films. What I really want to see are The Swimmer and Shampoo which will be playing as part of the double-bills. Olivier Père has an overview of Fellini’s films at his blog. And on the subject of Locarno, the jury member list is up and, though the line-up will only be available later, the fact that Abel Ferrara will be receiving the Pardo d’onore Swisscom is already note-worthy.
July Film Listings: Like always there is the Early Monthly Segments. The Underground is getting The Godfather and Deep Red. The Cinémathèque is having a Cassavetes and Neo-Realism series and, as far as new releases go, there is Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Winterbottom’s The Trip and Morris’s Tabloid. Though the biggest film-related news in Toronto is Adan Nayman’s new class: Lars von Trier (July 11), Michael Haneke (July 18), Luis Bunuel (July 25) and Woody Allen (August 8). Adam's talks are actually one of the models for how I put together my own director overviews whenever I review a book.
Film Writing: In S&S (June 2011) the feature Forgotten Pleasures of the Multiplex is actually quite fun: Brad Stevens writes about Zalman King’s Women of the Night and Kent Jones’ about Jack Black in Year One. The fact that Nick James’ highlights The Devil Wears Prada reinforces my belief that he really should be the editor of a fashion magazine instead of a film magazine. The layout of Positif (N.603) appears a little different: you can better read the text, as it is not so spaced together, looks good. And the Positif - Hors Séries with the major interviews from the 70s and 80s looks great; I cannot wait to get a copy. Project: New Cinephilia, which is a symposium organized by the Edinburgh Film Festival, put up a lot of think-pieces by some smart contributors (Nayman included), though my only problem with the survey is that they did not get any French film critics involved who have to offer different, and I think, more refreshing perspectives (as illustrated in the above Baumann quote). There is also a new issue of CineAction! and Trafic (N.78). Gary Crowdus and Richard Porton highlight hybrid documentaries in the latest Cineaste. Adam Nayman also reviews the Lethem They Live book in the issue, as well he writes about emerging alt Canadian cinema in the summer issue of Montage. There is a new issue of Senses of Cinema, which includes a contribution from Marc Saint-Cyr. And I also look forward to the new issue of Cinema Scope.
It was a great opportunity to see Los Angeles Plays Itself with Thom Andersen in attendance. As well as to meet Jonathan Rosenbaum after the screening of Double Indemnity. Thanks again Adam and Andrew! In France, the Dean Tavoularis show at Gallery Catherine Hovard in Paris looks cool and so does the recent programming at the Cinémathèque Française. I would like to see André S. Labarthe’s Portrait de Michel Gondry. A Torontonian contacted me about the short-film he is working on My Loss, Your Gain by A Little FX Productions, I look forward its progress. I am happy to hear that BFI Silver is going to put out in the fall Raymond Durgnat’s A Mirror for England and I would love to get a hold of a copy of Michel Mourlet’s L'écran éblouissant. Finally, I want to shout out Nick Little, thanks for the Hall Pass poster man! It is definitively one of my own three favorite pleasures from the Megaplex so far this year along with Scream 4 and Super 8.
It is always refreshing to get feedback (come on guys!) and this time particularly from Nicolas Saada who informed me that he liked my Coppola-Delorme piece. As well, he mentioned that I could pass this on, that Claudine Paquot who was a publisher at Cahiers recently passed away. The books of hers that I have read have always been of superb quality. It's a sad loss...
What am I going to write about next? Not sure yet… Maybe Apatow, Costa, Cassavetes? Who knows? With so many choices it is always tough pinning down what to write about. But the movies make me write and a blog needs to be updated.
Have a good month,
*** (A Must-See)
*** (A Must-See)
*** (A Must-See)
* (Has redeeming facet)