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Meet the Young Critics (bis)


We asked this year’s participants in the Young Critics Workshop at Film Fest Gent three simple questions. Who are they? What is their favorite “cinephiliac” moment? And which three films are they most looking forward to at the festival? Below are their answers.

We’ll be teaming up with Festivalists to bring you more coverage of the workshop. Launched at the end of 2012 as a platform uniting aspiring youngsters with well-established authors, Festivalists explores the possibilities of web 2.0 in search of new film criticism forms and formats.

Tobias Burms

I am a communications graduate and law student who has just moved to Brussels after spending a quarter of a century in the ever quiet Louvain. Cinema has always been important to me, because I am fascinated by the power of images and the ability to project ideas. I appreciate filmmakers – and people in general – who dare to be radical. Things that are chaotic, erratic or incoherent usually don’t bother me. My admiration for auteur cinema is balanced by an addiction to trash, pulp and Hollywood genre movies. I consider myself to be an eclectic person, but maybe I just have bad taste.

Cinephiliac Moment

There’s an interesting shot in Pasolini’s Accattone where the eponymous protagonist is filmed standing on the Ponte Sant’Angelo, ready to take a dive in the Tevere river. While this is only a brief moment of little narrative significance, the scene is a great example of the film’s highly provocative nature. The setting, one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, displays a majestic beauty and evokes the legacy of the greatest empire of all time, but is now degraded to a playground for boorish thugs. And yet, Pasolini has no intention to stigmatize his characters. On the contrary, Accattone is filmed in poetic harmony, vulnerable, wearing only his bathing suit (and of course his golden necklace) and juxtaposed with Bernini’s angel statue. Is this lowlife Borgata pimp the embodiment of the ‘real’ Rome? Pasolini seems to imply so. The idyllic postcard image of the Eternal City is forever shattered – and with good cause.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

1. The Assassin

2. Carol

3. The Green Inferno

Anuj Malhotra 

I am a New Delhi-based film critic and festival programmer. In the last five years of my work in the field, I have actively collaborated with leading filmmakers, critics, film society professionals, cultural institutions and students to institute an atmosphere of meaningful and rewarding engagement with cinema in the city. My work has been cited/published in prestigious national and international forums such as, Film Studies for Free, Bright Lights Film Journal, Cinema Without Borders, Transit Cine, The Seventh Art and Shadowplay.

I am at present the publisher of Projectorhead, an online journal of film criticism that features writing on a wide range of national cinemas, alternative Indian cinema and premier practitioners of the film form from around the world. I also curate an annual set of programs for Lightcube Film Society.

Cinephiliac Moment

Terence Davies’ The Long Day Closes introduced me to the very limits of criticism; we must submit that we have not yet instituted a vocabulary that can completely describe all of its vast accomplishments. At best, writing on the film can evoke its general feeling, but that’s about it. It is perhaps, therefore, good to start with a grand declaration: Davies manages to locate a method by which to make time visible.

His film exists as a mythology-scroll: passages of time arranged in neat, clean, adjacent shelves arranged horizontally – as if in the neighborhood departmental store. Much of this is a question of basic alignment: lateral tracking shots, flat compositions, characters that stand in queues or sit as if posing for a family photograph – but Davies’ film is founded on a higher, more profound organizing principle, that of the oneness of all time; a belief in the essential continuity of human experience that renders its splintering into the past, the present and the future arbitrary and convenient. Instead, The Long Day Closes imagines time as a single, autonomous, embroidered banner, all of which is visible, at any given point, to its weaver. To engage this metaphor, the film employs a mysterious cycle of repeated motifs: a staircase, open windows, the broadcast on the Sunday radio; or of patterns and textures: classroom desks, seats in a movie theatre, umbrella-canopies in rain, cloud formations and wallpaper designs.

A single image, however, allows this belief in the continuous, tightly bound, inert nature of time to manifest literally: the young boy, our protagonist and the director’s proxy, wakes up from a cinema-induced nightmare (cinema too, a device that renders the effects of time inconsequential) and screams as a result. His mother rushes to him and holds him tenderly – as they embrace, Davies’ camera turns slowly to the carpet on the floor and fixes itself onto it. Suddenly, we notice the pattern on the carpet dissolve slowly into another, new one, which cues the camera to begin swooning over its surface, until it reaches the boy, now seated in front of an open window, comforted, staring out at an oncoming Christmas. Through this brief interlude, Davies makes his process transparent and acknowledges the plasticity of the underlying mechanism of his own film, where a brief journey across a singular fabric – in this case, a rug on the floor – will allow the viewer to toggle to a different point in the tapestry of the film’s protagonist’s existence.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

The AssassinThe Green Inferno and Chuck Norris vs. Communism

Maximilien Proctor

Greetings, my name is Maximilien Luc Proctor. I am half-French, half-American, and spend most of my time in Germany. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Media Studies from the University of Oklahoma (my home state) and since graduation I have spread my efforts across filmmaking, film criticism, music, and prose fiction. In February I attended the Berlinale as a critic and it was remarkable. I applied for this program in an effort to keep attending festivals that excite me as much as that did, and to hone my writing into a professional and legitimate career path.

Cinephiliac Moment

I feel I have had almost too many filmic moments which struck me to my cinephile core – to the point of having difficult recounting them. That said, one of my earliest and most impactful movie moments came at 18 when I finally sat down and watched Breathless. From the opening seconds, it all made perfect sense. It was a movie I’d been seeking out unknowingly for years. So many visual ideas I’d had in my youth were brought to life here, in a film older than I could imagine being alive. Breathless has a reputation now as a classic recognized by most of my peers as ‘important’ for doing what it did at the specific time that it did, but for me it has always been more than a relevant relic. Every time I re-watch Breathless, I am swept away in its fervor, sensuality, and street-smart wisecracks. This is a film I can safely say completely changed the way I look at cinema.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

Three of the films I am most excited about seeing in Ghent are El Club, The Lobster, and The Forbidden Room. El Club was the biggest film I regretted missing out on in Berlin. I had to catch up on sleep during the initial press screening, and when I tried to get a later ticket to the last screening, it was sold out. When I first saw Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2009 film, Dogtooth, it startled me in an impressive manner. Since I first heard about The Lobster, I became very excited to see it, and the inclusion of John C. Reilly in the cast is a personal highlight. I know virtually nothing about The Forbidden Room, but a fellow critic told me I couldn’t miss it, and I feel fortunate enough to have a strong recommendation for a film that could be about anything. Going into a film with no expectations – other than that it will be at least ‘good’ – is a rare treat these days. I am thrilled for this year’s festival and the line-up seems remarkably diverse. Surely I won’t quite get to see every film I want to, but I am happy enough just getting to attend.

Irina Trocan

Irina Trocan is a Romanian film critic and short film programmer for the NexT Film Festival in Bucharest, as well as the coordinator of the online media & culture magazine Acoperişul de Sticlă. She has written in Romanian and English for several publications: Film MenuFilm ReporterClose UpFestivalistsMovie MezzanineFandor. Her essay on fragmented narration in the films of Adrian Sitaru was published in the 2015 critical anthology Film Policies: Contributions to interpreting contemporary Romanian cinema. Since 2015, she is working a PhD study of video essays to argue that they are the missing link between film criticism and filmmaking.

Cinephiliac Moment

There’s a scene in Robert Altman’s 1973 The Long Goodbye where Marlowe (Elliott Gould), the (updated) noir detective, waits in front of the house of the feisty couple he has under surveillance. He’s on an idyllic Los Angeles beach (although this doesn’t do much to help him unwind) and the sand and palm leaves reflect on the glass walls of the luxurious house. The spectators’ attention is inevitably drawn to what is happening inside, since they are given glimpses and sound bites of a domestic fight (partly washed over by the tranquil echoes of the wind and waves), but the camera stays by the side of the detective, as it does throughout the film. Contrary to his job description and wise guy attitude, Marlowe seems here to be pretty clueless and powerless in enforcing moral correctives among the irresponsible rich. He is the only one who can go in and participate in solving the fight – and Altman makes it clear that if he doesn’t, the spectators don’t –, and he doesn’t. When J. Hoberman theorized the lethargy and seediness of ‘sunshine noirs’, he might very well have gotten his inspiration from this single self-contained scene.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

Todd Haynes’s Carol is the outcome of a collaboration between a great director and two talented actresses (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara), using source material from a crafty suspense writer; it absolutely cannot go wrong. Kent Jones’s Hitchcock/Truffaut appeals to the auteurist critic in me that will never be put to shame, no amount of left-inclined film theory I read. Jayro Bustamante’s  Ixcanul Volcano is a film I missed in Berlin and I just knew we’d have another chance to meet.

Nana Van de Poel

As a recent graduate in journalism and theatre and film studies, I am fascinated by the exercise of trying to translate feelings caused by images on a screen to words on a page. In the past year I have found myself especially intrigued by films with unconventional or challenging narrative structures (for my thesis I took a closer look at the unreliable narrator). Proud idealism and incurable escapism would be accurate descriptors of both my writing and personality.

Cinephiliac Moment

I would like to cheat a little by selecting a line in Assayas’ brilliant Clouds of Sils Maria that in a way describes all the great moments in film that have resonated with me over the years. While rehearsing a play with her assistant Val, veteran actress Maria gets frustrated at what she perceives to be phony dialogue because it’s too straightforward. Val’s response: “It’s theatre. It’s an interpretation of life. It can be truer than life itself.” Indeed, this goes for film as well. The heightened realities we experience in our plush red chairs oftentimes ring more true than our own. Much like a good quote, the right film at the right time can give us more perspective than we ever thought possible.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

The Lobster