When I was young I wanted to be an actor. When I was older I wanted to be a film critic then a filmmaker; director, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor. I went as far as thinking I wanted to be a theatre director and a playwright. As I’ve gotten older I’ve considered being a film programmer and now a film studies lecturer. With all of these career paths juggling in my head, I’ve come up with this conclusion. Being a film critic from a journalistic side often means that the reviewing is based on only what can be seen in the cinema, which can be quite limiting. Ideally a critic could also write about what films are not in wide distribution or indeed those that have little or no distribution to get them known. It could be a film from Taiwan, India or Burkina Faso. It doesn’t have to be a review of a film that a reader can get so many other opinions on. To aspire to create art in film criticism as Mark Cousins says, to write something that hasn’t been written about a film before, or indeed about a film that hasn’t been widely seen, to be as creative as possible. As I say it is an ideal way of film criticism.
Film programmers can have the dilemma of choosing films just because they showed at Cannes or Venice. As Adrian Martin points out there can sometimes be only three films from Australia and other countries that are selected by the world festival circuit that do the rounds. To teach film studies is the most ideal for me, to teach and write would be a dream. Surely there is nothing more rewarding than teaching film. You can teach those lesser known films, it’s part of education! Adrian Martin started teaching film studies in Melbourne at 20, Mark Cousins started programming films for the Edinburgh International Film Festival at 26. I’m 26 this year, I’d better get on it and not look back.
Two inspirational critics that I have encountered in my life are Adrian Martin from Australia and Mark Cousins from Northern Ireland. I have only realised how inspirational Martin is recently. Martin was born in Melbourne in 1959, he has been writing and teaching about film since 1979. His latest book Mise en Scene and Film Style: From Classical Hollywood to New Media Art was published last year. A 20 year archive of his writing on film to due to published as a website http://filmcritic.com.au/. Martin is a great speaker, he continues to get my attention on elements of film theory that would normally pass me by. It goes to show you that the individual teaching the material matters so much. Amsterdam University Press are publishing an essay collection of Martin’s academic writings by next year. Martin completed his Ph.D on film style in 2006 and took a post as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Film Studies at Monash University in Melbourne and later Goethe University in Frankfurt. Martin wrote an essay on Philippe Garrel’s L’enfant secret which he considers to be the greatest film ever made. http://cinentransit.com/lenfant-secret/#z3. He later spoke of his experience of watching it for the first time in the Irish Film Institute Cinema 2 in Dublin. http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/video-essay-sight-and-sound-film-poll-adrian-martin-on-philippe-garrels-lenfant-secret Martin recently moved to Vilassar de Mar in Spain where he continues to write and teach.
Cousins was born in Belfast in 1965, he has lived in Scotland since 1983 and resides in Edinburgh. He made his first film in 1989 and began working as a film programmer for the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1991. Cousins made his first feature film The First Movie in 2009, he has made eight feature films as of 2015! twenty-two all together for film, television and online. Cousins’ passion is infectious. It was Cousins’ interview with Scorsese on BBC’s Scene by Scene that I discovered him. Cousins on BBC’s Moviedrome is very special, particularly his introduction to Bad Timing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFZaCIWKCCQ He is the most beautiful writer on film that I know, the writing flows like river. Read his essays on Billy Wilder’s The Apartment http://moviedromer.tumblr.com/post/103736115843/the-apartment-1960 and Bruno Dumont’s L’humanite for Sight and Sound. Cousins is writing a new book, his first in nearly ten years, a follow-up to his most famous work The Story of Film.
Martin and Cousins both write for BFI’s Sight and Sound and the Dutch film magazine De Filmkrant. Both are deeply passionate, articulate and clear about cinema. Martin introduced me to Philippe Garrel, V.F. Perkins, Gilberto Perez. Cousins introduced me to Imamura Shohei, Forough Farrokhzad, Mani Kaul. Martin and Cousins fly the flag for international cinema, they both fight for what they believe in.
There are too many film production courses in Ireland. Only around thirty features films can be made in Ireland every year. There needs to be equal emphasis on the history of film. Ban the equipment! Articulate the medium from within yourself. I studied production for two years in Ireland and film studies for two years in the UK. I found that the analysis of film was my strong point even though I struggled so much to articulate it in academic language at the time.
I find that a skilled technician for film does not always watch a lot of films, the same can be said of for film academics. Filmmaker William Friedkin has said he hasn’t watched many films since Blade Runner in 1982. Filmmaker Peter Greenaway says that we’ve had over a hundred years of illustrated text, we need to think visually. He said that film died in 1983 with the birth of the remote control giving the viewer the choice to change the channel. I am a cinephile. By cinephile I mean I’m open to film culture from not just Hollywood, the six continents of this world, knowing what you don’t know. As Mark Cousins argues “we don’t need to see these things that we’ve seen so many times”. It is to be passionately international to cinema; as Cousins, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Adrian Martin have taught us. I’ve watched Apichatpong’s Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonmee: Who Can Recall His Past Lives, I can’t emotionally connect to them, maybe I will in the future.
How important are the Oscars anyway? Recognition from Hollywood? Yes. Awards are taken too seriously and should never overshadow the greatness or dullness of a said film. Mike Leigh says that they are two kinds of cinema, Hollywood and World Cinema. I’m with Rosenbaum there are just good films and bad films from the six continents. There is an idea amongst some cinephobes that it’s acceptable to knock World Cinema, but not necessarily be highly critical of Hollywood because it’s all they see. As a critic you must ask as Cousins points out “what films are not being seen and why?”
In 2012 David Cameron urged the British film culture to go mainstream, BBC news presenters are heard to say “there is enough depressing films that no one sees in art cinemas. “Surely you know what films are going to be hits” “Surely a film can be judged by how good it is based on how much money it makes.” Cinema needs Mark Cousins to help open the doors to us to watching as many different films as possible. As Robert Bresson says “Make visible what, without you, might perhaps have never been seen”. The economic aspect of film culture is too narrow to be the only reason they are made. I see the main point in watching any film that they will hopefully be one image I can take from it. They must be made to be remembered. The worst thing a film can be is forgettable.
Writing about a film from memory is an art within itself. Michael Haneke’s Cache changed my life, I’ll never forget the way Haneke films Georges and Majid’s son in the lift, the reverse mirror, Georges reaction, this is Haneke’s cinema, making the insignificant significant. As Cousins argues “Cinema is better than any other art form at the repressed, sexual, damaged, dreamy, Freudian aspects of the human mind but it doesn’t look or feel rational because it isn’t. This is why it’s undervalued. This is why it doesn’t have the prestige it deserves.” The cinemas doors are open. Six doors to six continents, which one will you choose?
Wim Wenders has talked about the close relationship between motion and emotion. In this case the motion of the cinematography of the angels point of view and the emotion of one angel, Damiel (Bruno Ganz). Like most of Wender’s protagonists, he looks to listen like in Alice in the Cities. I was in Berlin last week, I walked both sides of the Wall playing Jurgen Knieper’s theme from the film on my iPod over and over, I wanted to capture that emotion of what it was like to be human. I remember distinctly from the trailer, Cassiel (Otto Sander) falling from a statue intercut with wings followed by Ganz’ sound of joy as he bleeds like a human. Incidentally the sound of his joy in that moment isn’t in the final film. I’ve seen this film three or four times over the last six years. My general feeling about it hasn’t changed, I admire it more than love it. Peter Falk’s cameo as himself is charming, his presence adds a lovely feeling of having lived a life. Henri Alekan’s cinematography is incredibly alive, the change between black and white (for the angels) and colour (for the humans) remind me how much I love the vitality of colour. Maybe Peter Handke’s deep philosophical dialogue makes the film harder to connect with emotionally or at least fully. The film’s first hour isn’t as gripping as its second, the colour makes it even more alive. The first hour is like a dream that you don’t understand. A woman says to Damiel “who knows where time begins and space ends”