Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Editorial: Programmer (Cahiers du Cinéma, May 2012) [English Translation]

After writing editorials on University Film Studies Programs in France (March) and then on Online Film Pirating (April); the editor of Cahiers du Cinéma, Stéphane Delorme, in the editorial of the May issue (N.678) re-asserts the direction in which he's shaping the magazine, which I translated below. [For more on Delorme's writing at Cahiers see the last paragraph of my review of his Coppola book.] - D.D.

Putting together a film magazine is not much different than being a programmer. Which films does one decide to show in a movie theater? At a film festival? At Cannes? In Competition? Or elsewhere? To program is to think methodically, considering locations, inclusions and exclusions, openings and fences. This supposes a selection and a hierarchy. But we not only program for people, we guide them. This then supposes an alterity.

Programmer, a nice word, but one that does not have a good reputation these days. Defending five or six films each week, like in the alt-papers, reverts to annulling this work of programming. The films in these papers are all in the same mess, they are all equal. We ask ourselves how can the reader really figure them out! The mission of criticism is in opposition to choice, instead it should recommend what one must see first, what one can't miss. We live in strange times, where in the press there is a fear of losing space (one must consider the amount of pages dedicated to films), and too there is now the fear of loosing the larger audience (one then has to like the big films), and there is also the worry of "killing" the smaller films (that one should forcedly defend...). The situation since the beginning of the year has become dramatic: we have the sentiment that all the films are being defended. Cahiers, in contrast, seems very severe. Five or six films, only, liked each month!

In these lasts few months, there has been an extreme tolerance directed towards French productions, from Marsupilami to Cap Nord to Two Days in New York, by the way of 38 Témoins and Les Adieux à la reine (two proud representatives of the cinema du milieux something that Pascal Ferran wished for, but that engulfs France in an old French tradition). All the while an American production like the cotton-candy We Bought A Zoo by Cameron Crowe is being hailed by the snobbish critics as a new Hawks. The disorientation of criticism is real. The reader that discovers the programming that Cahiers proposed for in April was forced into disorder: Twixt on the cover, the extremely moving animated film The Plague Dogs - not tucked away in a corner like in the Journal section, but spread over four pages - alongside the great Bulgarian film Avé, which could touch a larger public if it was actually put in front of them.

The privilege of a monthly is to be the first to arrive on a film and then to propose the first programming. In the previous months we have accorded four pages to Oslo, 31 août and eight pages to Policier; two films by unknown directors, and which have had great commercial success. Cahiers played it's part. Too many films come out, the situation is becoming absurd. At the hour where films only last two weeks in the cinema, there needs to be a criticism that hits hard, and fair, and assumes it's role as a guide. If not then these important films won't be seen. This month, if we exclude the new Cronenberg and the Wes Anderson, only one film appears in our critique, the new Hong Sang-soo; a sign of the desertion of distribution due to Cannes (in regards to Burton, Warner declined to show it to us). Do we need to force ourselves to find others?

This politic, since it is one, goes with, at Cahiers, for the last three years, with the refusal to follow the perverse rule of that, "that the person who likes the film most, should write about it." The excessive generosity of this axiom leads to that there is always someone to write about them! Today the chief editor decides, after a discussion with the team about the films, how the film is "treated" and programmed in the magazine. When a movie divides (like the Hong Sang-soo, by coincidence, this month), one must press upon a position. If no films fit the criteria, so be it. There are also DVDs to see, and books and magazine to read. The programming of a magazine should account for all of this. So, with that said, the film to see this month is maybe Touki Bouki, which just came out on DVD. There is also this pleasure, which is becoming even more rare, of rewatching films. As one knows, the demands of reality no longer offer us the time.

Stéphane Delorme

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