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!

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From the Magazine

  • Issue 87: Table of contents

    Alexandre Koberidze, Dasha Nekrasova,Radu Jude, Amalia Ulman, Monte Hellman, TV or not TV, Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen, Azor, New Order, Siberia More →

  • Remembering Women: Claudia von Alemann’s Blind Spot

    Cherchez la femme, they say. It sounds nice, but what this expression actually means is that woman is the root of all (male) problems, always to blame. Claudia von Alemann’s extraordinary Blind Spot (Die Reise nach Lyon, 1980), recently restored by the Deutsche Kinemathek in cooperation with the Institut Lumière, is a rare film that puts the pursuit of a woman at its heart—not so that she can be punished, not so that a man’s troubles can be explained, but so that her achievements might be rescued from oblivion and might, in the process, change another woman’s life. More →

  • Common Sense Connoisseur: The Critical Legacy of Bertrand Tavernier

    The two most cherished film books in the pile on my bedside table are in a language my command of which is rudimentary at best. But since both Jacques Lourcelles’ Dictionnaire du Cinéma – Les Films as well as Jean-Pierre Coursodon and Bertrand Tavernier’s 50 ans de cinéma américain have never been translated from French into either English or German, I gladly make do, filling the gaps with a mixture of autodidactic guesswork and occasional dictionary consultation, which for all its drawbacks has proved to be a viable method. More →

  • “I prefer, where truth is important, to write fiction:” On Radu Jude

    In the name of the popular, delighting in reduction and obviousness, a boring assertion: the common ground of every film movement christened a “new wave” over the last 70 years has tended toward revision, a self-conscious desire to provide a true image of the people in opposition to the distorted picture given by whatever relevant iterations of official culture. The banality of this claim can be measured by the volume of cant and platitude produced in support of it, often by the artists themselves. There is, I hope, little need to rehearse these arguments regarding realism, myth, and so on. Who today can help but squirm when faced with the phrase “true image of the people?” More →

  • Siberia (Abel Ferrara, Italy/Germany/Mexico/Greece/UK)

    Abel Ferrara is a changed man. While the evidence suggests that this is very good news for Ferrara himself and his immediate family, it could result in a minor schism in the manner in which his films are received. For most of his career Ferrara has been the subject of a Romantic cult that glorified his legendarily self-destructive behaviour, and often read this (literal) lawlessness as an integral part of his renegade creative vision. More →