I just stumbled across a piece I wrote in 2014 and I think it is an apropos take on all criticism- particularly film criticism which says don't take what we say as gospel but rather only as a friendly suggestion. I have tweaked it slightly from its original form.
I recently had someone comment to me that my pieces were very personal. They were not happy that the pieces were not merely a statement of facts but they talked about me and where I was coming from. I replied that was the only way I could write, I can't write about how I feel about something without explaining where those feelings were coming from. I added that I always liked that in reviews because it gave me a handle on where the person writing it is coming from.
Unseen Films is not typical film writing, then again I'm not trying to be a real critic rather I'm just trying to tell you what I thought and felt about a film.
Of course that doesn't mean that I and many of my fellow film writers aren't full of shit. I say this because after watching the reaction of some of my colleagues after several screenings at NYFF (the Godard film in particular) I was horrified at the thought that people actually take what we say seriously.
Please stop that. Don't take us seriously.
No offense but the way people will discuss the deeper meaning of anything is ridiculous. Movies are what they are, just as works of literature, and any meaning or resonances you find there are because of the connections you make to them and what they may or may not be saying. There is no deeper meaning unless you put it there and want it there.
I have had several conversations about the deeper meaning of a couple of NYFF films and to be honest the people telling me why watching a tiger wander around an apartment for an hour is an orgasmically intellectual experience had me biting my lip so as not to laugh in their faces. Its a tiger wandering around a room for an hour while someone reads bad poetry...its pretentious twaddle. It means nothing.
I freely admit that I am full of it a lot of times, but I hope that I, and the other guys and gals at Unseen will always explain to why a film hits us a certain way. We try to clue you in to our own personal biases which make it less an intellectual pronouncement of why something is great on a higher level, but rather a personal experience as to why we feel so strongly about a film.
We film writers are not gods buts we're just a bunch of film nuts who just started writing about something we like and never stopped. Many of us, myself included, have no lives, we just have films, which means we don't really know from real life, we only know film life.(And having met several "important critics" you too would suddenly stop taking us seriously if you knew what they were really like)
If you decide to listen to us don't take our strict ratings as the be all and end all and instead read what we are saying and look at the words beyond the its good or bad. I say that because the true value of what we write is there and not in the thumbs up or down its in the expression of what we say and how we say it. Read a lot of reviews by a particular author and get a feel for how they write and what they really mean. Sometimes a phrase taken at face value will mean something else if you know an author. You have to get to the point where you know what a writer is saying like you know how some of your friends explain a movie.
We don't know anything more than you do, we just may have seen more films than you have (which means nothing if they aren't a broad spectrum of types and genres).
Ultimately take what we say on advisement. Let it help steer you but don't let it be the deciding factor, after all all we know are our own personal tastes, you on the other hand are a perfect judge of your own.