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Film Comment, Jump Cut, Criticism

New issues of two venerable film publications have appeared in the last few days, offering plenty to read in these dog days of summer. Jump Cut 52 is an outright honker, comprised of over 60 essays divided into special sections: "experimental documentary, corporate Hollywood today, torture and horror film, round table on Standard Operating Procedure, experimental and artworlds, sex and its anxieties, US and international film and television."

Both Jump Cut and the July/August issue of Film Comment address the current state of film criticism, and even if many of us have become weary of worrying it into the ground, it does indeed carry on evolving. In Film Comment, Paul Brunick goes so far as to argue that "the practice of film criticism is more exciting today than it has been in decades. Yes, really. That might sound like contrarian posturing in light of the many, many essays that have recently eulogized the 'death of film criticism.' (Spoiler alert: the Internet did it!) But I intend it as the sincerely matter-of-fact expression of a view more commonly held than is usually acknowledged."

His piece is accompanied by one hell of a list, "The Top Film Criticism Sites: An Annotated Blog Roll," and while it looks fine at FC's site, you'll likely find the version at it appears at the House Next Door (parts 1 and 2) more conducive to online reading, browsing and further clicking. And of course, we want to thank Paul for including us in his top-notch roll call.

Jump Cut editors John Hess, Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage have decided to articulate their stand on the matter as one opposed to Armond White's, as argued in a piece for First Things, "Do Movie Critics Matter?" For the editors, his "anxieties seem to be based on thinking of film criticism as a zero-sum game: bloggers and impertinent upstarts are taking up his rightful space. But there have always been many types of and outlets for criticism; it's just that today so much more of what's out there can circulate farther and faster."

Which I'll take as a cue to turn to Girish Shambu's most recent post: "Gilles Deleuze's 'Mediators,' published in 1985, is one of my favorite essays. I feel a deep personal affinity for it because I think it captures the way Internet cinephilia works, even though the piece itself makes no reference to cinema, cinephilia or the Internet." Girish elaborates and, as always, strikes up a stimulating (and civil) conversation. That's Deleuze, by the way, in the image at the top.

Meantime, Nick Davis and Tom Shone have had a little back and forth in the past few days regarding film criticism and, more specifically, what the term mise-en-scène means to whom.

Back to the new Film Comment, which gives us not one but two pieces by one of the best critics around, Kent Jones. Here he is on Dick Richards's 1975 Farewell, My Lovely, an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel: "Mitchum is the one who holds it all together. He gives the film a secret force, balanced between resignation and an inner need to keep the light from dying, inevitability aside. In fact, we are not watching Philip Marlowe but Robert Mitchum, confronting the end of both his identity as a leading man and the world that formed him as a star, with bravery and grace. Within this setting of lovingly crafted but excessively self-pitying nostalgia, Mitchum composed a poetic wonder."

In the second piece, a report from Cannes, Kent Jones writes about Andrei Ujica's The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialism, Jia Zhangke's "undervalued" I Wish I Knew and Olivier Assayas's Carlos: "All these shufflings and re-shufflings of the historical cards suggest the high-intensity concentration of forensic investigators studying the shards of a bomb blast." More from Cannes: Melissa Anderson and Richard Peña.

Also in the new Film Comment: Laura Kern on David Michôd's Animal Kingdom, Dave Kehr on Joe Dante's The Hole and Jules Dassin's The Law, David Zuckerman on Jay and Mark Duplass' Cyrus, Andrew Chan on Lou Ye's Spring Fever, Genevieve Yue on Xavier Dolan's I Killed My Mother, Miriam Bale on Jacques Rivette's Around a Small Mountain, Nicolas Rapold on Pedro González-Rubio's Alamar and the 11th Jeonju International Film Festival and half a dozen "Short Takes."

Jesse P Finnegan has an online viewing tip,, Daniela Bajar interviews Isabel 'Coca' Sarli, "one of Argentina's most celebrated sex symbols, an actress all but unknown to contemporary American film audiences," Michael Almereyda remembers Dennis Hopper and there are "Two Blasts from the Past: Ken Russell interviewed by Gene D Phillips, from the Fall 1970 issue, and Russellmania by Stephen Farber, from November/December 1975."

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