Introducing: Slow Criticism

  • Datum 14-04-2011
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Illustration: Typex

‘I dreamed, that I was living slowly’, the Dutch poet M. Vasalis wrote in Time (first published in 1940). In that poem she recalls a horrifying world, in which ‘everything around her sprouted, shook and shivered that normally holds still’.
Sometimes it seems that as film critics we’ve entered that bolted world. The past year showed an alarming decline in the editorial space for film criticism in traditional media, whereas on the internet the speed of recycled opinions was approximating the grotesque. Critics were fired, others were syndicated, some were replaced by sports reporters (or threatened to be banned to the sports section for that matter) since some distant marketing exec had the idea that, oh!, that scary anonymous reader was no longer interested in expert journalism. Funny how you never hear this about the finance department, or foreign correspondents, but we’ll leave that aside. Besides, you get the picture, as that’s what you’ve been getting in most newspapers lately.
So, in our traditional English language special for the International Film Festival Rotterdam issue, de Filmkrant decided to take Vasalis’ dream as an inspiration and put ourselves at some distance from current affairs. We love to swim against the tide, but this time we just held still and let ourselves drift slowly with the flow. We took some time to reflect on what was urgent, but perhaps not breaking news and therefore never made it to print. After dossiers on political cinema, the future of film festivals and the state of affairs in world cinema, we now focused on the un-written.
As film criticism is becoming a commodity and a marketing tool, — you name it, we’ve got it —, it’s no longer the film critic who sets the agenda, it’s the festival calendar, the release schedule, the availability of stars and ’talents’, and the favours of publicists. And of course we’re not supposed to talk about this, because it’s not corruption, it’s pragmatism. But what are the observations, the passions, the cries of the heart that never get published?
Instead of lamenting this so called crisis in film criticism, we choose to resist and create and consolidate our continuous counterbalance. The following pages are a refuge for wayward articles that too seldom find their way to print, because they are considered too philosophical, personal, political or poetic. The only guideline we gave the authors in our little query amongst friends and comrades, was that their words had to be burning. The world had to stop turning if they would not be published right here and right now. They had to be dragged from the gates of hell (and heaven alike). And they should revise our filmic eyes all over again.
And in some blissful serendipity with the IFFR some of the topics (‘Benvenuti, Benvenuti, always Benvenuti!’, ’the haunted houses of Europe’) one way or another turned out to be parts and counterparts of this year’s line up. Others (‘Just in time for de Filmkrant I (re)discovered William Klein’) perhaps will be at another occasion.
We dreamed. And we woke up in a world that dared to reflect.
To dream. Perchance to sleep. For ‘ay, there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come’?

Dana Linssen

Dana Linssen is the editor in chief of de Filmkrant.