Considering Michael Koresky’s prompt on hunger Melissa Anderson posits gluttony as an initial stage of cinephilia, followed by a refinement of taste.
She then suggests two key elements; the role of advocacy for films (without patronising readers) is an essential facet of her experience of cinema, and that maintaining a sense of anticipation toward the adventure of film watching is vital in resisting cynicism.
What are the things that keep your light of cinema burning in the “rough patches” Koresky mentions? And is cinephilia an essentially hopeful state?
Daniel Cockburn compares cataloguing and list-making to the need to freeze-dry a film before we can move on, and calls for more criticism to cover the effect of films on individuals, rather than simply the reading of text.
He wonders if there may be more that critics can do to engage filmmakers, and to provoke a dialogue where the films are created in conversation with the discourse around them. What might this look like?
Art is dead, it has always been dead.
List making is merely the act of burying it.
Melissa Anderson’s story is my own, so curiously close that it’s a good thing she described herself as “critic” instead of “filmmaker” or I’d be afraid I’m being haunted by my transgendered future (though that might still be the case since nothing’s guaranteeing this whole becoming-a-filmmaker thing will work out!).
I do actually feel for her re: Madea all the way to 35 Shots of Rum with a major exception in that I as a film viewer as opposed to a film critic am not asked to or feel responsible for keeping up with recent releases—I only keep up variously as my interests permit, which is a part of that maturing from cinephagia that I’ve gone through. When I was first hired to work at a DVD rental store, I had cinephagia surging through my veins. I even tried, at one point, to watch every single movie on the new release wall in alphabetical order. It looks easy due to the couple-three big new releases every week, but actually a couple hundred movies and several months in, I finally stopped when I reached the letter B. Even with my employee discount this project was costing too much money, and I was not enjoying much of what I was seeing—not even because they were bad or good or anything, but because it was so much and little in the veins of my own interests in cinema that it all started bleeding together as one exercise in averageness.
Nothing kills the enjoyment like forcing yourself to see… everything. I also went from a pretty demanding intellectually rigorous position of film viewing (movies had to live up to my scrutiny or suffer the criticism they deserved), to realizing I much rather preferred letting movies surprise or engage me in their own terms. This came from many different reasons. I lived in a liberal arts community where people preferred complaining about movies over recommending good ones (what’s the point?); I found various ways of reaching out to others to discuss filmmaking based on their own experiences and interests rather than my critical objectives; and more importantly, I became a filmmaker in an area where filmmaking was burgeoning and getting people excited (that’s receding now that the state governor is dismantling the industry—different story I do not feel like getting into here).
The idea of championing the cause of a movie is, to me, much more attractive than arguing down the qualities of another. It may be true that movie A is better than movie B, but in my own way I no longer care about criticizing movie B for not being movie A, I’d much rather just talk about movie A. If I were a reviewer required to see movie B, this would be more difficult, but since I’m not, it’s to me appealing and profitable (in the social, not the economic) sense to praise A. Negative criticism gets you all negative and cynical, and a wash of movies watched in such a state turns to noize and nihilism. As a filmmaker I have to champion my own work—and so at a very basic level, I have to champion the work of filmmaking, no matter what form it may take. Within moments of making my first connections in the film industry and seeing the way they treat each other and seeing the way their ego works, I realized something important: in this industry, you are everybody’s friend. That means while you are allowed your critical opinion of something, the law of “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything” holds more true than ever. Unfortunately I am human and still have bad things to say to people, but the point is that between ranting about crappy movie B and getting excited for stunning movie A, getting excited is the thousand-fold better course to take for your own mental health, your social network, your cause as a filmmaker, and your working relationships.
Again, that doesn’t mean every movie should be talked about with a big grin and a “I loved it!” Some movies are not that well done, others aren’t for me. I do think the act of finishing a movie, no matter how awful, is an accomplishment in work and stress terms, but I do not think one necessarily needs to see anything and some productions are better left to fade away on their own.
I’ve also recognized this: there is no way to mention a movie without it being brought to attention. So if you HATE such and such filmmaker, and must SAY so, you’re putting his or her name out there and attracting interest. So it behooves the negative critic to expend more energy finding and talking about things he or she likes, than writing exegeses against those things that he or she doesn’t.
“But it does make me imagine a world in which filmmakers do incorporate criticism into their movies, where the makers are aware of and engaged in the ongoing dialogue, where they make films in anticipation of a critical response – not keying their work in order to elicit reviews of a certain type, but rather an anticipation of the sort you have when you’re in conversation, speaking and at the same time imagining what your words will prompt your partner to say next.”
I actually dislike it when I see what I think is the filmmaker attempting to do just that. There are careers, best left unmentioned, that I feel are built out of some filmmakers trying to see what a critic would say to their work. Oftentimes this takes the position of shock-value, attracting negative critical attention as an easy marketing strategy—but don’t think this trend is isolated to Hollywood! Then there are those who genuinely DO want to create a dialog in their work, but it’s difficult to distinguish them from those who seem to making movies just to see themselves be written about. Then there are what I call “art-buttons”, inclusions of meaningless points in the plot for the sole purpose of getting people to talk about what they mean, as opposed to the filmmaker actually having a purposeful intention of a specific meaning. This is differentiated from the term “ambiguity” in that art-buttons are usually insubstantial to the overarching narrative of the story, and almost always included very near to the end.
A second reason why not to make movies for the critics is the mere fact that you can never please everybody. Your work will never be discussed in print in the same manner in which you intended unless you are part of the conversation, and if you are part of the conversation it is going to be about what “you intended,” effectively negating the purpose of making the work in whole or in part. Within this argument as well is the realization I’ve come to that most of my favorite movies, filmmakers, art, and styles come from a, “Well, I know I’m not really supposed to do this, but, uh… I want to. So… fuck it. I’m doing it, and I’m gonna make it work” mentality, at least in my opinion. This is differentiated from shock value in that oftentimes the intention behind breaking the rules is clear, and most critics and viewers can see that… it is only those who adhere to strict defining aesthetic principles in their expectations, viewing, and reviewing that manage to completely miss the point. In other words, whereas “offensive material” could potentially be a part of this “I did it anyway” aesthetic, the goal is very rarely to offend, and the result rarely offends.
I think it’s okay to be a critic-filmmaker, and in some sense I sort of consider myself one—I just have to get my filmmaking practice up to snuff with the years of criticism I’ve practiced. In this sense there is a self-contained dialog between filmmaking and criticism that does not rely on the pluralistic subjectivities of critics and their various purposeful or unrealized promoting of certain viewpoints to maintain that dialog. It took me absolutely ages, but I finally realized that’s what Godard manages to do. This is why for me reviewing his movies is somewhere between superfluous and obnoxious: I “get the point”, but “the point” is the point so clearly that the act of watching a Godard movie is the act of watching him work through the aesthetic proofs of the point. In other words, it would be like reviewing published mathematical proofs in terms of mathematics literature. The proofs are the construction whereby the rest of the literature is written. I sort of got that really early on in watching Godard’s work, but of course like all things self-reciprocal it takes a while to put a simple concept into words—a lot of words to draw attention to the spaces between the words.
Anyway, the point is that I’d really rather filmmakers not make movies for critics, but stick to making movies about a concept (narrative) or working through a conceptual framework (experimental; and all of the varieties in between). However, true to form, it is not my place to say what other filmmakers should or should not do. So as a filmmaker myself, I will not be making movies to speak to the critics, and as a viewer, I do not feel like I would care for watching such movies. Otherwise they certainly have a niche audience worthy of some significant attention.
But it does make me imagine a world in which filmmakers do incorporate criticism into their movies, where the makers are aware of and engaged in the ongoing dialogue, where they make films in anticipation of a critical response – not keying their work in order to elicit reviews of a certain type, but rather an anticipation of the sort you have when you’re in conversation, speaking and at the same time imagining what your words will prompt your partner to say next
No, no, no. What could be more in-authentic than a filmmaker/artist shaping their film/work toward anticipated critical response? Even a highly intellectualized director, or rather one who can speak fluently to academic prececpts and concepts in her/his films when s/he is not directing, cannot allow those discussions or kinds of discussions to enter the process. it’s nearly impossible as it is to get a film to work – narratively and mechanically – without allowing awareness of an ongoing dialogue to enter the process and by virtue of its presence alter and putrefy the process. The filmmaker has to focus on the film alone not the film and potential reaction/s, potential interpretation/s, potential discussion/s. Remember Rocky 3 when Rocky got all caught up in the showmanship of the event instead of the event itself and paid for it? It’s like that.
“cinéphile versus cinéphage—a lover of movies versus someone who consumes them voraciously and indiscriminately.”
““But it does make me imagine a world in which filmmakers do incorporate criticism into their movies, where the makers are aware of and engaged in the ongoing dialogue, where they make films in anticipation of a critical response – not keying their work in order to elicit reviews of a certain type, but rather an anticipation of the sort you have when you’re in conversation, speaking and at the same time imagining what your words will prompt your partner to say next.”
That is ridiculous. Obviously a statement by someone who does not create. Just ridiculous.
I knew that statement was going to push that button with many of the filmmakers here . . . before you guys go too far down that path, suggest you Google Daniel Cockburn.
i’ve googled him and i still disagree with him.
and i’m baffled how anyone who does anything creative could arrive at his statement/suggestion.
Yes, ok I read that. And the quote above takes another meaning out of context.
But still, what on earth is he proposing? Many people don’t read criticism about their work, yes, I’ve heard about that, it does happen. And even if they did, what is he talking about — filmmakers making films in response to ideas that critics bring up? I don’t understand why making a film would be a collaborative process with anyone outside of the people actually making a film. What purpose would this suggestion serve?
Criticism is criticsim, it’s another person’s analysis and/or invention about an artist’s work. It’s an art in and of itself. The only problem arises when an artist’s reputation and living relies upon it. Fine if you see something inpsiring about what a critic says about your work, acknowledge it in the credits. And if not, so what? That can’t be the only way to initiate a more interesting dialogue between critics and artists. I mean fine — dialogue as in conversation, but making a film? Weird.
Yeah, this question came up in another context in another thread. As someone who has “created” once or twice in my time, I can understand why creative people want to distance themselves from the idea of “engagement.” But, you want your work to be in front of an audience at some point, right? . . . so you are engaging and anticipating a response even if you’re doing so only abstractly.
By the way, engaging in a dialogue with the audience is very different concept from pandering to an audience, and it’s perfectly possible to be a great artist and do the former without doing the latter. To site just some of the most visable examples of this, Godard has been doing it forever, Michael Snow does it in his films, Hollis Frampton does it in his, Abel Ferrara has been doing it at least as far back as Bad Lieutenant, Jia Zhangke is doing it, etc. etc.
The one thing you have to realize if you want to create art is that once it’s out, you often can’t control how it’s interpreted and you shouldn’t let the critics on board to relent to some kind of creative open sourcing. it’s not that the process is antagonistic, but it dilutes authorship. Most filmmakers already have a hard enough time with the financers and all the other folks who want to claim ownership….
engaging an audience is a different concept to me from pre-considering what intellectual interpretation of the film will be and shaping it to that end. maybe Cockburn means something else but the ‘ongoing dialogue’ seems to be referring to academic and theoretical concepts parsed and dissected among cinephiliacs not how an average viewer will respond to a movie.
My sense, Brian, is that he means it much more organically than that (this is why it would be nice for the originators at this round tables to be available here for discussion, even if only for a brief period—there would be an opportunity to expand and clarify). . . he starts off calling it criticism and ends that passage calling it conversation.
As to the cinéphile versus cinéphage distinction, I guess I would ask whether the lack of discrimination is applied in choosing which films to view or in the way one appreciates them after viewing. There seems to me to be a significant difference between the two ideas.
Regarding Cockburn’s idea of filmmakers engaging with critics, isn’t that already happening to some extent? It seems to me that this has gone on as long as I know of in some form as filmmakers have adapted certain ideas of viewing or arguments over methods into the films, such as the absorption of Freudian, Marxist, and Feminist theory into a set of codified or suggestive visual signals that allow the films to be understood as having been aware of the ideas. Directors like Haneke, von Trier, Tarantino, and many other less provocative filmmakers seem to be making very self aware films where the response is figured in to the construction of the film as a sort of central purpose. These things pose a real problem for criticism in that the adoption of the language alters the language and makes it more difficult to respond to the work as it is already taken in and destabilized the concepts used to understand the work. In the case of something like Freudianism back when that was first in vogue, filmmakers like Sturges could play with the ideas of Freud in a seemingly intentional way which then undermines or deflates a direct Freudian understanding of the symbols involved as they are meant to be looked at as being subconscious signifiers. By bringing them to the fore, the concept shifts from revealing unintended meaning to simply being another language or code added intentionally to be deciphered. Guy Maddin plays with these kinds of ideas in his films where the “real” is minimized and the code is put in the forefront, so one has to sort of work backwards to get to the heart of the film.
With the directors like Haneke the issue becomes one isn’t able to separate the knowingness of the narrative response from the narrative which leaves the films almost indecipherable as the two methods of communicating merge. It reminds me a little of the way “irony” has been used by some as a defense against interpretation. The Man Show, for example, used to have a segment with girls jumping on trampolines. The segment was alleged to have been intended “ironically” as a joke on the way men “used to” look at women while at the same time providing the spectator the “pleasure” of objectifying these girls just as before. The knowingness of the ploy shifted the way the segment could be responded to as anyone suggesting that it was objectionable could be told, “yes, that’s exactly the point, we’re commenting on that.” Now with Haneke the situation isn’t so direct or obvious in what he may be doing, but it seems to me that he is also sort of playing that kind of double game where he gains response via the narrative in a direct way but also does violence to the concept of the narrative which undercuts any attempt to look at the film as having a meaning in a traditional way. Nothing wrong with that exactly, but it does pose a problem for thinking about the films or discussing them as one has to try to account for both modes of thought simultaneously. The difficulty should be a way to further the conversation or understanding about films, but it doesn’t seem to work that way as much as it should since many critics don’t seem to be aware or account for the awareness of self and response the films implicitly hold.
Here’s something Bergman once said that sums up the issues for me"
" A French critic cleverly wrote that “with Autumn Sonata Bergman does Bergman.” It is witty but unfortunate. For me, that is. I think it is only too true that Bergman (Ingmar, that is) did a Bergman… I love and admire the filmmaker Tarkovsky and believe him to be one of the greatest of all time. My admiration for Fellini is limitless. But I also feel that Tarkovsky began to make Tarkovsky films and that Fellini began to make Fellini films. Yet Kurosawa has never made a Kurosawa film. I have never been able to appreciate Buñuel. He discovered at an early stage that it is possible to fabricate ingenious tricks, which he elevated to a special kind of genius, particular to Buñuel, and then he repeated and varied his tricks. He always received applause. Buñuel nearly always made Buñuel films."
Certainly, for example, for better or for worse, “la politique des Auteurs” effected how films were made after it was published because it transformed what was expected of a director in a very real but very profound way.
@Matt — You mean they have a “schtick?” I.e. a performance they do that is predictably “them?” And therefore not very daring or inventive? Lots of artists end up that way, particularly if they are commercially successful or well known. They succumb to the (perhaps imagined) expectation that the audience wants the song which makes them hold the lighters up and sway to be performed at every show. Sitting on your laurels, perhaps…
But I still don’t understand what Cockburn is wanting here. A conversation about what? Of what benefit to whom? What makes him think there aren’t conversations of a kind going on already?
Yes, that is exactly what I was trying to get at. The level of awareness of filmmakers towards the critical discussion of their films, or simply at how we look at films in general, has dramatically shifted the way films need to be looked at over the years. A film by someone like Scorsese or Bogdanovich can’t be understood in the same manner as a film by Hawks or Ford since they are using Hawks and Ford and what critics have said about them to inform their own work. The Coen brothers aren’t using narrative the way it was used in the thirties, but they are referencing the way it was understood then as a part of their vocabulary. Wes Anderson makes knowingly “unknowing” films where the faux-simplicity is used to play against narrative demands. Neveldine critiques action films with Crank, Bigelow offers a critique of maleness through the lens of an action film in Point Break, and so on. This all causes a sort of escalation of critical response, ideally anway, and that in turn shifts the narratives even further, some doubling back to pick up elements from earlier times to add to the current vocabulary, and others commenting on the comments as younger filmmakers treat Scorsese as Scorsese treated Ford, but with the added weight of the earlier quote still being present. The awareness of how critics approach the films drives the films to go beyond that point, which can serve to make the films increasingly esoteric as happened in some of the other fine arts, or it can push them further along the lines of the so called contemplative movement where there is an attempt to erase meaning in the previous understanding of the idea. Perhaps I am missing some more important consideration Cockburn is trying to get at, but I just can’t see it being the case that filmmakers haven’t been involved in a sort of discussion with those who write about film for a long time. Directors like Assayas seem to even make that link explicit as times.
i’m baffled how anyone who does anything creative could arrive at his statement/suggestion
Needs money and would rather align with smarts than dumbs to get it.
Nonetheless, low risk cinema will probably generate low returns.
@Greg — so either you buy into the conversation game with the critics, or you play a game with them of catch as catch can?
Well Odi, the thing is that art changes and adapts to the elements. The critical reception or understanding of a work is something many artists would read about or be taught so they will take that in and add to it as a matter of course, or there is an urge to be relevant, to do something new, and in determining what might be new, one has to look at how we understand the old either directly or indirectly, so critics shape the art landscape with artists, it isn’t an us against them thing as much as it might feel that way sometimes to the artist. Critics can provide a conceptual framework to something an artist may have arrived at via some other avenue, or they can “work with” the artist by elaborating on what the artist has left implicit which can help other artists, audiences, and other critics to more thoroughly understand the work or to even see it. A critic shapes the conversation sometimes just by drawing attention to works that may otherwise have been ignored. Artists also sometimes “respond” to critics via their work suggesting a disagreement, subversion or a revision of what they believe critics are saying. An artist wants an audience and the critics have been the audience that responds in a way that can be heard, so there is an interaction between the two groups. Purity of purpose is largely an illusion I would suggest, the artists and critics share the same sets of interests and areas of interaction so there is necessarily some infection of values and ideas occurring between the two groups. Since artists barely exist to much of the larger world, it would be a good thing to not think of some of the few people deeply involved with the arts as being enemies or not having any influence on each other.
Edit: I neglected to add that for many of the more experimental artists out there, the critics or those who are most likely to take good criticism seriously, are pretty much the only audience they have, so by necessity there is going to be some interaction between the artist and critic in that circumstance. Cockburn may be referring to a much more direct influence or interaction between critics and artists than some of the ways I have been suggesting, but the interaction is and has already been a part of the form.
Now I see where you’re coming from Polaris, but I think you’re associating all ‘wide nets’ to the alphabetical experiment you had when you were in your ‘cinephagia’ phase.
There is a trend that I’m guilty of myself of, after you turn from extreme to moderate, reacting overly negatively to people who are where you used to be. After I got over my militant atheism I became totally intolerant of Richard Dawkins.
Most people who cast wide nets to find films are just trying to find something interesting they weren’t aware of before and trying to expand their horizons, and sometimes that leads to the pressure not to miss anything, but once it starts to affect their enjoyment of film they pull back and consolidate what they’ve discovered.
As for what you’re saying about filmmaker-critics, I see what you’re saying, but again I think you’re overgeneralizing from your own experience. You don’t want to be writing just to please the critics, but without listening to what other people are saying about your films you’ve only got your perspective and yours alone. You should listen to criticism and other people’s opinions, and choose for yourself what to act on and what to ignore.
You shouldn’t write to please anyone but yourself. Period. It is one thing to listen to critcism and take what is relevant or take none of it, and maybe you can keep in mind what may not have gotten through to people and agree or disagree, but then again, there have been people who have done things, made things, or whatever throughout history who were ahead of their time and not popular with anyone at all. Still they made their work according to their vision, because they had to, and because it was theirs.
Finding favor with others should never be the focus of your work. Unless you are designing wedding dresses.
Critics can provide a conceptual framework to something an artist may have arrived at via some other avenue…
experimental artists out there, the critics…are pretty much the only audience they have = Cockburn
Yes, I’m not suggesting one need seek to please, merely that the intersection of the two areas is hard to avoid, and not very useful in the attempt. One gets one’s own ideas from somewhere, and that somewhere is often going to be in the exchange of ideas occurring around one’s area of interest. That exchange takes place between artists and other artists, between critics and other critics, but mostly between the art work and the person apprehending the work. Critics are the voice of apprehension in a way, they make manifest what a work make be suggesting opening that work to better view by others which enriches the art, The artist provides the area of discussion, the critic picks that up and answers, making a further space for more response from the artist or others. The communication requires both sides in order to work. While a critic may not be a necessary component of an audience, they are the member that is most likely to provide a coherent or meaningful response, to ignore that response can move towards the point where the artist is no longer seeking to communicate at all, in which case one has to wonder why they would be exhibiting their art. It is a sort of romantic view to think that there is an audience that is somehow better or distinctly different than the critics when it comes to fine art. To be sure, if one isn’t interested in art but simply entertaining a group who isn’t very informed or concerned about art in the more profound sense of the word then the use of a critic is minimal. The use of a bad critic, one who isn’t well informed or doesn’t seek to address the work on its level or through its methods is never a welcome character as that person isn’t really much of a critic at all, just a loudmouth with an opinion, so I can see where there would be some intolerance towards the role as the lowest or most base amongst the group can tend to cast a bad light on the group as a whole, but just as a hack artist shouldn’t ruin the experience of all art, a bad critic shouldn’t undercut the value of criticism.
One other thing in reference to one of Polaris’ points. To my mind the easiest thing to do in criticism is to make fun of an artist’s work, to snark or snidely toss aside a movie as being somehow unworthy. One well writien or well thought out piece of criticism that can enlighten a viewer as to what the work may be doing will outweigh a hundred sloppy attacks given a little time. People want to understand and respond to a film much more than they want to simply throw it away. They want their time to have been meaningfully spent and to gain something from the experience. In this way the critic is best served by seeking to really work with the artist in trying to explicate the work and show something of meaning or value that might come from it. One of the most difficult aspects of criticism is to really engage with a work, understand it and still provide some salient comments to where it may have been lacking or providing a meaning that is problematic without giving in to reductive dismissal. To criticize a film and still provide a richer understanding of it is something that shouldn’t be avoided, but it is something that needs to be done carefully and with respect for any work that is attempting genuine engagement with the audience. This is the area where critics seem to most often falter to my way of seeing. They fail to fully engage with the work and write that failure off as being the fault of the work itself rather than something that might be at issue in their viewing. In this way I think a critique that takes issue with a film needs to be thought out much more carefully than one where the critic feels in harmony with the film.
@Robert: Hmm, well I disagree that in this day and age (the internet), the critics are the only audience an experimentalist has. That’s also sort of elevating experimental art to some sort of intellectual pedestal that only the learned can understand. That kind of kills it for experimentalists, don’t you think — unless of course their work IS only to be understood by the intellectuals (i.e. in speaking only to them), in which case they’re getting exactly the audience they want. I don’t know about other experimental filmmakers, but I’d like to think that many kinds of people from different backgrounds can appreciate my work, and I know for a fact that they do. I wouldn’t want to be put on some unreachable pedestal, talk about doomed to a life of obscurity. What makes Cockburn think that the only audience experimental artists wants to reach are critics??
@Greg X — why don’t critics take the time to interview artists, so they get to know them better, and what they’re trying to do better, and by doing that start a conversation with an artist, instead of just writing about their work blind? Do critics reach out to artists when they are interested in their work, in writing about their work?
“You mean they have a “schtick?”
Well, I wouldn’t call it schtick because to me that connotates a lack of seriousness that doesn’t necessarily always apply—you know, there’s a difference between Woody Allen during much of the 90s and “Tarkovsky doing Tarkovsky.” Bergman’s point, I think is that, even among great artists, there’s a tendency to self-select from among the elements of one’s personal style things that are responded to strongly by one’s audience. Why it’s certainly true that there is artistic compromise somewhere in this process for some artists, I wouldn’t say that “Bergman doing Bergman” or “Tarkovsky doing Tarkovsky” is compromise, I’d say it’s “ongoing dialogue.”
( . . . a couple of hours have passed since I typed the above and resuming typing now, so pardon me in the conversation has passed me by)
To give you an example from another area of the arts, Jon Landau was a excellent rock critic who had been writing for Rolling Stone since issue #1. He got to know Bruce Springsteen. Landau introduced Springsteen (who is a brilliant guy, but didn’t have many of the cultural advantages that Landau did) to a lot of the sort of archetypical American artists—John Ford, to Steinbeck, to Flannery O’Connor, etc. Somehow Springsteen begins to assimilate all this into the “next Dylan” thing he’d been doing since Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. while he’s stuck on Born to Run, and then proceeds to rip out a series of four or five more albums (with Landau eventually producing and managing him) that are just, for me anyway, absolutely brilliant.
“But I still don’t understand what Cockburn is wanting here. A conversation about what? Of what benefit to whom? What makes him think there aren’t conversations of a kind going on already?”
He’s really, I think, just talking about a culture where there’s a mutual engagement between artist and audience. This already exists, of course, to some degree, so I think the point that would need discussion is what exactly should the nature of the engagement be. Many artists are hesitant to even have a conversation about the possibility of contaminating their art, which I totally understand as a mindset (it’s a vestige of the Romantic conception of the artist), but . . . there’s a tendency to think of critics as some kind of special enemy of artistic expression, which s/he isn’t. Criticism is just a particular kind of experience of the work, one that, if done well, should be more engaged with the work that the average bear, so to speak.
“Directors like Assayas seem to even make that link explicit as times.”
Yeah, Greg, that was the next name I was going to toss out there as a point of reference.
_"why don’t critics take the time to interview artists, so they get to know them better, and what they’re trying to do better, and by doing that start a conversation with an artist, instead of just writing about their work blind? Do critics reach out to artists when they are interested in their work, in writing about their work?"
It depends on what they’re writing for and their particular approach, but often, yes, they do. Now, if you’re just a reviewer for a daily or a weekly, it’s rare that you’re going to have the time to do that, and of course there are all kinds of practical barriers—time, distance language differences, the interest of the artist in doing this kind of things, etc.
@Matt — hmm. Interesting about self-selecting for response from the audience — done consciously, or sometimes maybe even, subconsciously?… But of course artists want people to enjoy their work, but maybe it also has to do with refining one’s voice?
I’m not sure the non-interest of the artist in engaging the critic necessarily stems from them being perceived as an enemy of expression, so much as an enemy of their career! Don’t you think? I think that’s more the nature of what’s going on there…
“maybe it also has to do with refining one’s voice?”
Sure, I think it’s all bound together.
Ah. Well it’s certainly true that getting an objective (as in someone who does not know you personally) view of yourself can help you see yourself better, assuming of course that what they say IS true. That goes for what you create as well.