Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
Mark Cousins writes for Sight & Sound and discusses the limited-outlook on film we all establish for ourselves – creating our own “bell jar” of preferences and “likes”:
“In the past, the movie explorer went on her or his journey beyond the bell jar, was changed by getting there, and wrote or programmed afterwards, having learned from that change. Nowadays explorers blog as they go. The adventure is more live. They try to give those of us who are inside the jar the proxy experience of travelling with them, marvelling with them, unravelling with them, turning into something else with them, looking back at where they came from with them … voices all over the map that combine to provide some sort of picture of the movies.“
Read the full article “Outside the Bell Jar” in the April 2013 edition of Sight & Sound.
As a member of the blogging generation and an art student desperate to learn the history of film, I believe I am one of those explorers. Not an explorer who plans to influence thousands with tales of his travels (not yet anyway…) but a personal explorer who is charting his progress in a diary for all to see, through researched film-specific articles (for Man I Love Films, I write a weekly ‘Classic Columb’) and reflective writing (‘Commenting on the Critics’).
I try to travel the paths of Mark Cousins (The Story of Film), Barry Norman (100 Best Films of the Century) and Steven Jay Schneider (and the leagues of writers who contributed to his 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) when deciding which routes to take. I’m not alone on my journey either, as I speak to multiple film bloggers across the world that uses the same – or similar – tour-guides to map out their journey into the unknown.
Cousins seems to be directing his conversation towards those in a position of influence – completing his article by advising an editor of a student film magazine that they should “watch a film they know nothing about” twice a week, in the hope that they break out of the bell jar they have built, to inspire audiences of the future.
As a writer, I want to explore further; I want to watch the unknown films that have been lost in the dusts of time, but remain powerful. There is a conflict as – though I would be keen to watch two “unknown” films a week – I am also yet to view Nanook of the North or a single Kiarostami film. Alongside many other films, I know that once I view one of these, I will open the door to countless others that equally hold importance and credibility. If I intend to discuss cinema on an academic and critical level, am I restricting myself by expecting to view these first? I hope not.
Born of the blogging generation (paraphrasing The Village, “those the print press don’t speak of”), I want to set myself apart from the hundreds of film-writers of the world by reading and researching the countless film critics Cousins mentions in his article (Indeed, the aforementioned “100” films and “1001” books are by-no-means the only film-writing I own) and using them to effectively build the impossible bell-jar I hope to be able to fully understand in my adult life. Only once this jar is full, will I feel confident to break free and write fluidly and confidently about the state of cinema – as Mark Cousins, for decades, so eloquently has.