09 novembre 2012

Change the frame to make us forget the picture... (festivals)

Mark Cousins believes that the pretty fun framing is what makes film art better for the audience

Film Festival Form: A Manifesto (Mark Cousins; Film Festival Academy; 22 Septembre 2012) [PDF]

Is this what a seasoned "festival critic" comes up with? What a self-indulgent prick! If film culture is in crisis it's because of douche-bags like these, not because the carpet on the floor of festivals is red... 

What is tragic is that there are more and more spoiled brats like this clown who share such demented ideas around a few beers while they wait outside the VIP room, bitter, whining for being rejected from special events of no importance to serious film critics... They text each-others grandiloquent theories about what festivals should be like and muster the courage to publish it for the world to see, even after sobering up... Why aren't festivals built around ME, MY TASTE, MY FANCY, MY WHIMS, MY NEED FOR ENTERTAINMENT? Why are actors and directors the stars of festivals and not movie reviewers? Why do they get VIP rooms, red carpet, galas and we don't? Basically, this smart-ass doesn't care to provide a better service for filmmakers, their film, or cinema itself, in general. NO. What he wants is to change the format of ALL FESTIVALS to serve his need for ADDITIONAL distractions. Films aren't enough in and of themselves... he wants more action going on around their screenings, to make the event more memorable to superficial douche-bags who only remember the packaging. If Kiarostami comes with a "boring" film, let the curator spice it up to his liking, so that the repetitive job of a movie reviewer becomes more exciting. Yeah right! 
You really don't understand anything about art, dude! You don't know what is the role of a festival, and you don't know how to stay in your place, the place of a reviewer subaltern and complementary to the art exhibition, not as a substitution for it. 
If you want to make general recommendations about the format of a cultural event, you need to accommodate most everyone, not to impose an incredibly narrow-format that obviously only suit your idiosyncratic fancy and that most everyone else will definitely not enjoy or desire...

If cinema is art, then a festival is its art gallery, thus MUST remain the most neutral showcase to present each work without influencing the audience in one way or another, and let the film speaks for itself and seize the audience attention any which way its creator chose.
If Maurice Lemaître, wants the projection of his film to become an event-performance in itself, this is HIS prerogative and he will CONCEIVE his work to be projected in a very specific (unconventional) way (instructions included). But if a festival curator decides to screen a given film to his own fancy, without consulting the auteur, it is a crime against the art, not a celebration of whatever the filmmakers wants to show. This lost soul (Mark Cousins) confuses festival screening with art happening, détournement, hi-jacking, defacing, vandalism... 
If you want your documentary on the history of cinema to be screened in one theatre for the first half, then send everybody home where they can download on a cellphone the next 30 minutes... this is your choice, the choice of the maker, and it means you didn't put much thoughts into your editing process if the projection continuity can be interrupted and disrupted in such careless manner. But if you do that to a Bresson film, you're a douche, not a genius curator.

Did you see how your peers react to anti-conformist formats? How they booed Bresson, Pialat, Antonioni, Gallo, Lars Von Trier, Carax... What makes you think that these morons who get offended by the content and form of films themselves, would welcome your proposed performance art around screenings??? Are you dreaming or just high? Did you see what your bored colleague Nick James writes about festivals at Sight & Sound when they aren't mainstream enough? Did you see how Americans think that the choice at the Oscars is too elitist??? You're out of your mind if you think that there are a lot of people who await for a more transgressive festival format.  

If you think filmmakers aren't capable enough to come up with their own creative screenings, and festival curators are too timid, why don't you get off your ass and go MAKE YOUR OWN deconstructive festival, and deface films all you want??? See how many filmmakers will accept your invitation... LMAO. 
And I'm not saying "Do It Yourself" to challenge you to achieve the task you criticize (like idiots demand critics to become filmmakers before being able to judge a movie)... You need to carry out this project yourself because this is YOUR INDIVIDUAL AGENDA. This is not the business of the festival circuit to create a value-added container for films lacking self-worth. If you can find filmmakers interested by your proposition, if people enjoy your sacrilegious event, all dandy. But YOUR prototype has no chance to become THE only standard (which your manifesto kinda wants to impose on everyone), and even if the a-cultured audience makes your thing viral because they prefer trashing art, than integer art itself, there will always be a role in society, in culture, in the film industry, for the "traditional format" of film festival that you hate : to introduce premières to world critics in a formal yet neutral way.
Even an experimental artist would rather come up with their own built-in screening conditions (however wacky and improvised) than let a random curator with no artistic training temper with they way they designed their work to be interacted with... They wouldn't even let another (trained, experienced, famous) artist alter the projection ritual with an artistic sensibility that might contradict the intention of the film (unless it was part of an agreed upon collaborative project)!

Sorry Orson Welles, we can't screen your cut of The Magnificent Ambersons, we'll let James Cameron recut it for you and screen its 5 new chapters in 5 different theatres simultaneously. FUN!
Sorry Stanley Kubrick, we can't screen Barry Lyndon the way you intended it, it will be re-cut by Godard, and screened on an iPod as a 5 minute accelerated trailer. FUN!
Sorry Tarr Béla, we can't screen The Turin Horse as a normal film, it will be recolourized by Disney and screened in digital format on a 60 inches TV set. FUN!
Yay, finally someone is there to improve upon whatever these "incapable" filmmakers could achieve on their own. (saracasm intended; sometimes I have to state it for the dummies who still read my blog targeted at an educated readership who already knows I'm defending auteurs and their sacred right to final cut)

"the world of film festivals is, in fact, in crisis"
Mark Cousins can't get in the VIP room, is bounced out at the private party on Tom Cruise's yacht  has to wait in line like everyone else because the colour of his badge doesn't match the colour of his credit card... Weep. Weep. Let's all cry and empatise, because there is a WORLDWIDE CRISIS of UNPRECEDENTED PROPORTIONS raging the GALAXY OF THE FILM FESTIVAL CIRCUIT : Mark Cousins doesn't get what he wants!!!!! OMG! The end of the world is near. TELL EVERYONE!!! We must change the format of festivals for EVERYONE, because Mark Cousins and 3 of his frustrated beer buddies dream of an entertainment park where reviewers are treated like the center of the world. 
Do you see filmmakers complain about festivals? Do they refuse en mass to attend them? Is there a generalized boycott? Do the curators complain? Do the audience complain? No. Not really, it's mostly frustrated movie reviewers who want apples to be oranges, just because.

"There are too many of them chasing world premieres and film celebrities"
Yeah, well... that's kind of the point, you know. That's your way to look at it, the half-empty glass. But then again, when you look at it another way, maybe festivals are different from your local multiplex because they only screen the best. And maybe film celebrities are sought after because they are the best at what they do. So if you expect festivals to pick second-hand films and unknown artists, maybe just maybe, they won't be "festivals" anymore and become another local community center that nobody cares about and where great masterpieces will never be discovered. 

"we should think of them as authored, just as films are authored. We should think of them as narratives – stories lasting ten days or two weeks, just as films are narratives"
Do you think so poorly of festival curators? Don't you think their selection is in itself a very personal touch? Some even suggest they are being way too idiosyncratic... Don't you realise that the films are programmed with a certain event narrative in mind? Like it or not, but there is a narrative (while respecting the singularity and neutrality for each film). They don't queue films one after the other in a random order. And every decision taken will piss of at least one of the nominees, because they wanted their film to be screened at another time slot... 

"There should, therefore, be no red carpets at film festivals. No limos. No VIP rooms"
... because art films don't deserve the celebrity treatment! We should embrace the fact that art cinema is an invisible niche, dull and austere, and get together in a dark moldy basement, because deference and ceremony is only appropriate for superficial stars in Hollywood who make big business. Why make low-key artists feel like they are the celebrities of the art world? Why waste a red carpet at an art festival if its BO can't afford it? Why shine a spotlight on art cinema once a year, if they should remain invisible all year?

"they are poetry not prose"
They are neither. Festivals are not literature (art), they are the book cover, the marketing packaging (showcase)!

"The people who run film festivals must think of themselves as storytellers and stylists. They must ask themselves what the narrative structure of their event is, and its aesthetic."
Yeah. And that's exactly what Mussolini wanted to do with Venice... impose his own fascist narrative onto world cinema, and highlight a very particular agenda that supersedes the art of individual films themselves. You can do that when you're a dictator, when you believe that YOUR OWN IDEA OF AESTHETIC is the only right one, and everyone else (guest filmmakers, critics and audience) must submit to your narrative, your choices, your ideology. That's when you don't think that artists should be allowed to speak for themselves and be presented to the public on equal footing, in a neutral context that doesn't favor one aesthetic or the other. A respectful festival makes rooms and lets shine each and every artist and film, each tendency, each form, each ideas, without tempering, without favouritism, without decorative mannerism. The glamour aspect you don't like (which is an unfortunate, but inevitable, collateral ritual of our over-mediated era) is only an exterior mannerism, it is the same packaging for every award nominee, it doesn't interfere with the own presentation filmmakers already decided for their film, BY SCRIPTING THEM, CASTING THEM, STAGING THEM, DIRECTING THEM, EDITING THEM, MIXING THEM!!!! This is what is called a cinema narrative and filmmakers do it by themselves, they don't need someone at the door to make last minute changes... 

"And there’s the whole issue of festivity itself to restore to the centre of the world of film festivals."
Yeah, cause if films can't be fun in and of themselves, we need an event-planner to make them more fabulous than they are, so that the audience who came to watch movies will leave with the satisfaction of spending a day at the entertainment park! LOL
So you're saying that the current format of film festivals is not "festive" or "communal"? What festival do you go to? Do you realise there is more communal experience (like at an actual screening in a commercial theatre open to the public) at a festival screening than at your weekly press screening in a tiny luxury screening rooms reserved for professional critics, among themselves, in leather seats twice the size of one in a normal commercial multiplex, sharing the same press kit material, exchanging the same talking points the press will agree to run its columns on, making spoiled brat faces, petty, disgusted, overfed, bored with themselves)

"[..]to counter this [fascist Venice at its inception], two alternative festivals were launched, one in a former fishing town, Cannes, and one in the ‘Athens of the North’, a centre of the Enlightenment, Edinburgh."
LMAO. Bias at its best! The Enlightenment was born in the UK? We'll have to correct all our books in Paris then... Cannes is a posh spa resort for rich Russian mafia tycoons, like most towns on the Riviera. But let's paint it as a noble proletarian village of hardworking fishermen to best serve Cousins's artificial narrative... He's complaining about fascism and marketing and he's doing exactly like them, only that when he deceives to serve his ideology it's not lying it's "printing the legend"... Hilarious, if it wasn't terribly sad.

"Toronto International Film Festival’s Piers Handling called this counter-market an ‘alternative distribution network’"
Then he's an idiot. See: Artfilm Visibility (festivals)

"Festivals should be radically about joy, about countering alienation, about telling the world of money and commodity that – ha ha – it doesn't know the secrets of the human heart or the inexpressible, stupendous need to be with other human beings."
LOL. Cause the world of profitable movies isn't already about "joy" and "countering alienation" with escapism. Yeah I see the totally different format you propose to counter the BO hits... Right. Comedy doesn't do well in the mainstream masses, so let's throw away the "serious film" and give their place in the sun to MORE FUCKING COMEDIES!!!! More Fun!!! Cause we're babies and we cannot live without FUN, FUN, FUN. Don't make us think, don't feed us vegetables, don't talk about depressing stuff. Let's live in Willy Wonka's colourful chocolate factory. 

"Film festivals should be more sceptical about business and industry. They should be the conscience of the film world. [..] A film festival is a shape, a response to the lay of the land and light of a city, or to a flood in Pakistan, or the threat to bomb Iran."
Sure. Mark Cousins wants festivals to be more political, more involved with tragic stories... OF COURSE. But not with depressing films, only with JOY, FUN, ENTERTAINMENT. Let's be the conscience of the world while having a bit of fun, right? Let's talk gleefully about bombing! Let's show the joyful side of a flood! He's so far up his own ass, he doesn't care about contradicting himself, about wanting one thing and its opposite and voicing out his disagreement with both options alternatively, a few sentences apart. Does he read himself before publishing what he writes? Does he think a bit before writing? 

"The people who run film festivals [..] challenge themselves to do things differently."
Let's put it bluntly, your counter-proposition to the current state of the festival circuit is not an improvement, no matter how bad you think it is. In fact, it is an heresy of a festival that you call for. So if you really want THAT to happen, you need to label it as something else. It doesn't walk like a duck, it doesn't quack like a duck... You're offering a new event where films aren't shown in their intended form, you're mutating their image, like Warhol transform the Campbell soup... however, Warhol was an artist (i.e. a producer of his own content), he didn't sell tomato soup, he sold his image of can. A curator is NOT an artist, who could produce new content with old content. If you transform existing films, you don't show these, you show DIFFERENT FILMS that didn't exist before.

Berlin showed A Separation, and the UK only screened it on 30 screens nationwide... As far as I'm concerned, the Berlinale is doing its political duty, and UK critics are failing to carrying on the job until the public can also see that film!!! Cannes is showing This Is Not A Film (Iranian censorship), After the battle and 18 Days (Egyptian revolution), Plus Jamais Peur (Tunisian revolution) Duch, le maître des forges de l'enfer (Cambodian genocide)... and critics pan them because they are too anti-conformist! If something is wrong at festival it's the narrow-minded mentality of movie reviewers!!! Change the critics, not the festival format!

What political films aren't showing at festivals? You name drop a lot of pop culture references in your manifesto... you could at least give us a few examples of your superior taste in cinema that apparently all festivals on the planet have ignored so far... Where are these films that nobody is talking about? Find them! Show them! Surprise me, let's see if they rival in quality the ones that end up on the Year-End Lists (which are mostly drawn from major festival line up, because these festival do their job, collectively, of bringing the best)... Complaining about a shortage of quality in hypothetical terms is quite easy. But being specific and relevant requires a little more legwork, and thinking. 

P.S. Oh by the way, Mark, the diacritic accent on the "e" of "mise en scène" goes the other way... Nobody cares anyway. Spell it however you want, create your own narrative! If the language doesn't suit you, make it fit YOU! That's the way of the navel-gazing individualist. MY FUN ABOVE ALL. ;) 


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