Slowish Obsession, ter
The misunderstanding sinks in deeper...
Steven Shaviro fully endorses Nick James' quote in my previous post, and agrees that CCC is already a goner. But then again, he praises "new technologies", "digitalization" and "new media"... which explains where he's coming from. I beg to differ with the obtuse idea that art cinema MUST position itself against the dominant Hollywood format (the raison d'être of art was never to "oppose" commerce), that there shall be only ONE alternative style to THE dominant style, that this alternative should have to incorporate something technological or else would fail to address contemporary issues... None of this makes sense, culturally, theoretically or historically.
Vadim Rizov abunds : Slow Cinema Backlash (IFC, 12 May 2010)
"The problem isn't the masters. It's the second-tier wave of films that premiere at Berlin and smaller festivals, rarely get picked up for distribution, and simply stagnate in their own self-righteous slowness.Outside the festival circuit few will ever see them. But those that do instantly understand why someone would wish a pox upon the whole movement. Earlier this year, a few American cities were treated to one such specimen: Jessica Hausner's "Lourdes." This is a movie that really does feel like it's slow because it doesn't know any better: shots go on but they're not particularly complicated. There are no visual riches worth taking in slowly and the drama fails to rise. The whole thing just feels dull. I have no idea how this got distribution [..]"
First : he assumes that the fact a film is bought by a distributor is significant for its cultural value. Which means he takes aesthetic cues from the commercial industry, or at least finds evidence to support his critical stance there! Apparently he expects the crowd of audience to tell him if a film "works" or not. This is mercantile talks. If you want to chip in on the aesthetic relevance of a film movement, you need to bring aesthetic arguments to the table, not Box Office numbers!
He would like to be a critic, and he publicly states that that film, a bad film according to him, shouldn't get distribution! You could rejoice that the film didn't get money from admission (if you're that kind of guy), but denying distribution (i.e. VISIBILITY) to a cultural good, BEFORE it could get criticized by critics and the audience, is called censorship (whether it is operated by the market or by an institutional certification).
Reviewers nowadays are merely pawns of the industry (proudly or inadvertently), they don't think for themselves! They believe Cinema is whatever the industry wants it (allows it) to be.
Second : his vocabulary betrays his taste bias. Typical of the detractors who don't GET what CCC intends to achieve. The shot is not "complicated" enough, as if complexity was a seal of greatness... "visual riches", not enough "drama". What can I say? He wants mainstream action and doesn't find it in CCC, thus discards it without trying to figure out if there are legit reasons to develop an art form WITHOUT these century old clutches inherited from Theatre and Literature.
But then again, this is the guy who believes that "slow criticism" sucks...
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I regret that this debate stagnates on where critics would like art cinema to head towards, as if they were in a position to dictate how artists should respond to the new paradigms of our modernity... Critics forget their place and their role, which is to explicit what happens, not to boss artists around. Tell us whether the artists of our generation do a good job or not (because these articles don't address aesthetic issues, don't prove the failure of CCC, they just state that they got bored with the trend), but don't suggest them where to go!
Shaviro only reinforces the mentality outlined earlier by Gavin Smith in Film Comment, and now by Nick James in Sight & Sound : somehow "La Tradition de Qualité" is in artfilm festivals (which is a complete misunderstanding of what conformity Cahiers opposed in 1954!) and the real great cinema of today is in Hollywood (which has no Hitchcock or Selznick today to save it), or who knows where else, in digital cinema and exploitation...
I believe this is a MAJOR debate of today's cinema aesthetic. Not the only one, but without doubt one of the main questions that critics should address and explore to mark the film culture of our times. Incommensurably more important than Mumblecore, or the decline of the press!
I'm not saying that the pertinence of film criticism necessarily resides in defending CCC, because there is room for sound theoretical examination of its shortcomings.
But History will remember that Film Comment and Sight & Sound took a stance against this trend! I hope you won't feel embarrassed for taking the wrong side when the dust settles. But that's what timely criticism is all about : taking chances.
And I predict a big blunder of the institutional press for dismissing this aesthetic (while only keeping the safe bets on top masters). The debate mistreated, misunderstood, underestimated, neglected in 2010. CCC dates back as far as 1970ies and the various films were systematically colluded with Modern Cinema, Minimalism or other political side-issues, without ever appreciating its main aesthetic component that differs from Antonioni or Tarkovsky.
Just like the critics of the 60ies rejected the breakthrough of Modern Cinema, just like the conservative art critics of Classicism failed to welcome Impressionism, just like the established critics of Figurative Art rejected Cubism and Abstract Art... this is the old tune of shortsighted witnesses.