Monday, September 29, 2008

What I Took from 'Film Criticism in Crisis?'

The New York Film Festival hosted a seven critic-panel on Saturday afternoon called “Film Criticism in Crisis?,” moderated by Film Comment’s editor-in-chief, Gavin Smith. The purpose, Smith said, was not to discuss the print vs. Internet debate; “that argument is over and done with.” Instead, the talk was intended to focus on the “larger picture.” Like the fact that David Denby and Richard Brody sat next to each other in the audience?

Film criticism is not in crisis so much as it’s the victim of the many crises going on all around it. Kent Jones, editor-at-large of Film Comment, noted, of course, the economic crisis happening in newspapers and magazines, which has a direct effect on the health of film criticism. But as long as people take criticism seriously, Jones said, the practice itself won’t be in crisis.

But that’s the issue—what role does film criticism play in our culture today? Seung Hoon-Jeong, formerly a writer for the Korean film magazine Cine21, noted that in his native country people look to criticism as a consumer guide, the equivalent of a recommendation from a friend. “They don’t want to suffer from any headache,” he said. Jones noted the same thing happening in this country: “there’s a lot of reviewing,” he said, “not necessarily criticism.”

“Criticism is writing and re-writing,” Jones added. Increasingly, however, editors are encouraging critics to move in the opposite direction.

Film criticism might be in crisis because the national, even international, film culture is in crisis.

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