By Mark Peranson
Perhaps it’s premature to proclaim “Cinema is back!” to quote a certain French festival director, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that it never went away. Even though theatres are only now reopening in many countries (at the time of writing indoor cinemas remain closed in Toronto, unfortunately), I dare say that over the past year we were all exposed to more moving images (and alcohol) on a regular basis than at any other moment in human history…some of it, yes, not exactly cinema as we are used to defining it. More to the point, films in fact were produced, released, exhibited (yes, mainly online), so to say that cinema is back is restricting oneself to a very antiquated idea of “cinema.”
But look who’s talking—namely, a guy who persists in pleading with an unforgiving public to buy print copies of a magazine devoted to highfalutin’ cinema. Over the past year I’ve had lots of time to consider why print is necessary, why it might make a difference, as many of us I’m sure have had to re-evaluate priorities due to (not only) financial reasons. Why does print make a difference? I’m not sure how much attention the average reader pays to the care devoted to assembling any magazine (or this magazine, in particular); after all, the pieces can each stand alone, and, in fact, that is how it is read on the internet, where one is not bound to follow any curatorial initiatives proposed by the basic concepts of magazine layout. (Also, not all of the pieces in this magazine are online, so you’re missing out!)
But let me take the time to assure you that there is a certain amount of thought put into things. For example, is it a coincidence that Bertrand Tavernier is from Lyon, and following the tribute to him in these pages one can read about Claudia von Alemann’s Blind Spot, which takes place in Lyon? Or the through line proposed regarding horror cinema new and old, independent, big-budget, and underground? Or, if one were to take the expanded Currency section in this issue (a tip of the hat to the return of cinemagoing) and chart the premiere date/place of each film, one would travel throughout the past year of the pandemic, from the most recent (which took place online in Berlin) back to the earliest premiere, which took place in person, again, in Berlin…and over the course of that journey see the various means by which films came to us over that annus horribilis.
I hope that some of these small coincidences/linkages are apparent (and I could go on, as there are many in each issue), but I don’t want to ruin all of the fun. Maybe it means nothing to you. But, and I guess somehow I’ve reached my point, maybe just as cinemagoing is, when it comes down to it, fun—and that’s why we’ve missed it for all these months, and that’s why we all like Koberidze—so a certain amount of pleasure can be derived from reading film criticism, in print, cover to cover, an experience that is not the same as staring at a screen. I even recall, in my early days of getting into this business, actually printing up online reviews from some of my favourite critics and collecting them in binders—does anyone do that anymore? (And are those reviews still on the internet, or, if so, behind some paywall?)
So as things get back to some kind of normal—which, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, might happen with next issue’s Cannes round-up: Will your faithful and trustworthy correspondent think that Cannes has saved cinema? Place your bets now—all I can say is, at the risk of sounding a bit reactionary, there’s a benefit in doing things the hard way, even if today the hard way is as simple as turning off your computer.
P.S. Looking forward to the return of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Global Discoveries on DVD column next issue!