Anyway, I think one point that seems to be getting underplayed is the role of major film critics in the demise of foreign film. I wrote a piece last year for TNR about that subject, using the National Society choices—the cream of the critics’ groups—for best picture and director as a rough guide of how far we’ve fallen (look at their choices in their first ten years and compare them to the last ten—no contest).
I agree that the key is getting the city-dwelling, college-educated, book-reading, museum-going crowd to see these movies. Unfortunately, that crew invariably takes its cues from the New York Times and the New Yorker and similar outlets, and God knows we can’t expect help from Denby and Lane on that front. (To its credit, the Times‘s film coverage and taste are now vastly superior to what it was when Maslin and Elvis were wasting space there—but the damage done was lasting.)
I hang out with a lot of smart, cosmopolitan, New Yorker-reading folk who couldn’t tell me who Claire Denis or Hou Hsiao-hsien or the Dardennes are. (Thankfully, Wong Kar-wai has now entered their consciousness—I can’t help but think that that NYT Magazine profile of him from a couple of years ago helped raise his profile in that demo.) It’s going to be a challenge getting those people back, but it’s not impossible (I hope).
Along those lines, the two most fulfilling pieces I’ve done to date were my overlooked films lists for The New Republic. It’s a real thrill when someone tells me that they went and saw Primer or Kings and Queen—movies they’d “never even heard of!”—on my recommendation and liked it. (Happens rarely, but hey, I’ll take it.) I think the crowd we’re talking about can be reached, and they can be receptive to good movies. We just have to keep plugging away, and it’s as much bringing them to something like Reverse Shot as it is bringing Reverse Shot into their field of vision (through the Indiewire connection, etc.). (Also, kidnapping Denby would help.)
This is a long way of saying keep up the good work. Rant over.
—Elbert Ventura, Reverse Shot Staff Writer