Great essay on film criticism by Chris Fujiwara

from May this year:


In reducing criticism to evaluation, Bordwell is performing a gesture that is characteristic of academics. I’ve had more than one exchange with film-studies professors or grad students in which, when it’s established that I care more about film criticism than about studying films in relation to culture and society, my interlocutor (no doubt relieved to be able to close the subject) concludes confidently that what I do, then, is “textual analysis.” If I have difficulty accepting this label, it’s because I’m not sure that what’s in front of me on the screen, much less what I remember and contemplate later, is a text. A text is (1) a body oflanguage: it is all of one material; but a film is not all of one material, and not all the materials it has can intelligibly be called “language”; (2) a body of language, determinable and anatomizable; but what mainly draws cinephiles to cinema may be the instability and evanescence of its forms, rather than anything that ever becomes solid; (3) something objective, but what interests many critics is the interplay of consciousnesses, different at different times, in the encounters between the film and the viewer, between the director and the various other elements acting in and on the film, between one viewer and another. Not an object, but a process, and not the process as an object, but the process as what the critic, too, is inside. This is neither “textual analysis” nor “evaluation.”

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