Monday, November 29, 2010

On Positif (Getting Ready For Burton)

This is a preliminary note on an eventual defense of Tim Burton. -D.D.

“In the space of eight years, between 1984 to 1992, four directors that were younger then thirty-years-old turned up in the American cinematographic landscape: Joel and Ethan Coen (who are really just one person), Tim Burton, Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino. These four musketeers form the last generation who – to this day - sparked the torch of North American cinema and were celebrated in these pages [Positif] since the start, similar to how twenty years earlier there was Coppola, Scorsese, Schatzberg and Malick.” – Michel Ciment

I have found it astonishingly surprising how controversial this above quote has been while talking to some ardent Toronto cinephiles. We would agree on a lot of other topics but when I bring it up they would become dismissive of both the directors and my taste. Others were even rude about it like how this one guy turned his back to me mid-conversation. I guess there is a time and place to insinuate that these mainstream directors are viable and that they belong within a relevant cinephilic terrain. Positif’s position is important as it takes these more artistically endeavored films by mainstream directors and lifts them to an auteur level to highlight their merits, which is relevant in a film criticism climate where they are dismissed for being the exact opposite, impersonal and generic. My squabbles are only a minor footnote in a larger unawareness and dismissal of both Cahiers du Cinema and Positif found within English-language film criticism. This refusal can be due to either an inability to be read French or a refusal to acknowledge any artistic merit in some of their outlier choices, which can lead to an eventual dismissal of the magazines as a whole. This reluctance does more harm then good as these two publications have done more for film and film culture then any particular individual or new media outlet, their catalogue is so rich with insightful writing on films and as a window into particular cultural climate, and finally, and the most important point, is the sheer pleasure of discovering a film that you truly enjoy with the awareness that it is a shared reception.

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