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Cannes Heads: Twitter Reviews Are Killing Film Criticism

Cannes Heads: Twitter Reviews Are Killing Film Criticism

In separate interviews, Cannes Film Festival head Thierry Frémaux and festival president Pierre Lescure have both expressed extreme displeasure with critics posting instant reactions to social media. The interviews were first reported in English by Screen Daily.

Fréumaux, speaking to Le Film Français, said: 

“The attitude of certain newspapers who were, in the past, supporters of the Festival is stunning. The degree of fantasy that Cannes arouses does not authorize them to write no matter what. Pierre Lescure, who comes from journalism, was shocked. On the Internet, an article is judged by the number of clicks — civilization progresses! It was the first real ‘Twitter festival’ where everyone decided to say whatever happened to pass through their heads. This created a permanent race against the clock between journalists and these amateur neo-critics. The practice of criticism is about formulating and putting down a thought, and can’t be summarized in 140 characters before the credits have stopped. In Cannes, I am not sure the social networks do any good for the general spirit.”

Lescure, speaking earlier this week to La Croix, said:

“Everything is accelerating. The instantaneity leads to hasty, excessive, definitive judgements. The critics are tweeting during screenings. The nature and the function of the profession are changing. By acting like this, I’m not sure the profession is doing itself any good.”

It’s only fair to note that, banning red carpet selfies notwithstanding, the festival courts and benefits from social media buzz, and that most of the critics who post insta-reactions online go on to write longer, more considered reviews. It can be alarming, watching from several thousand miles away, how quickly a movie like Gus Vant Sant’s “Sea of Trees” — which Frémaux himself admits was shown “too early” due to the need to synch up with star Matthew McConaughey’s schedule — goes from one of Cannes most-anticipated titles to a dead duck. But it’s not clear that greater consideration would have done that film any good; the longer reviews, when they came, were no kinder than the initial flurry of tweets. Festival fever can just as easily lead to films being overrated as unfairly slammed, as baffled non-Sundance critics trying to understand how “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” became one of the festival’s most buzzed-about films are finding out now. Is Twitter good or bad for film criticism? A better question might be what role it has to play, and what’s left for a film once Twitter is done with it.

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Comments

Rick

Oops I meant to write @James A Lee in my previous post.

Rick

Is having a first impression not part of allowing art to grow?

Rick

Something funny about Cannes, infamous for booing movies, angry about instant opinion-expressing. Could twitter really be quicker than booing from the goddamn seat you were watching the movie from? Frankly, it all just reeks of "how dare they not like the movie" anyway whenever someone talks about something "killing" criticism.

Reini Urban

So he is preferring Le Film Français over Twitter links? He already lost my respect over the vonTrier affair, but Le Film Français is a joke.
Those critics there do not criticize the Cannes movies, they are only arguing about their internal political struggles against each other only. No single Le Film Français reviewer ever got to the basics of the movie.
Le Film Français reviewers constantly got the worst statistical ratings, so I have to provide outlier detection to get rid of their infighting, which skew film ratings.

On the other hand Twitter is of course not a proper medium to criticize movies. That’s obvious. Only 2 critics are doing that, and they are experts in this short art form, Mike d’Angelo and Blake Williams.
Criticizing those two is a shame.

To the others: Twitters is an aggregation medium, not a content medium. It makes it easy to get links to reviews. You can for example easily avoid the sinkhole of Le Film Français 5 star or 0 star hype/bashings, and get other more reliable opinions from professional critics, as well as amateurs.

He wants to get rid of amateurs? Well, amateurs are those who are watching the movies in the end. Distributors are very keen to hear early amateur opinions also. He is very successful in keeping amateurs out of his festival, but this a necessity out of practical reasons. Bashing them does not help him and his sinking reputation. How about watching the movies he selects for the competition as an first idea? Then Sea of Fears would not have been this disaster. Selecting by name is good for distributors, but rarely for film festivals.

Richard Horgan

There’s another element that has taken hold. When a gathered group of journalists (TCA, Sundance, Cannes, Avengers red carpet premiere) all tweet out at the same time, about the same event, it devalues the information. There’s no discovery of it anymore. It’s just an avalanche of simultaneous response. And when the majority reaction is a rave or a slam, that then ping pongs around Twitter into a MEGA-rave, MEGA-pan. The only option is to selectively tune out, at the consumer and-or attendee end.

McGuffin

What does he mean about Sea of Trees? That he programmed it too early in the quinzaine and it would have fared better at a later date, or that he rushed Van Sant to finish the film, presumably because Fremaux wanted an international A lister like McConaughey on the red carpet?

Kurt

It depends on the type the relationship you want with a film in question, and the audience it deserves. If it’s good for a quick fling, or long term, garrulous marriage, you check out the gossip, or proper and even unorthodox counselors’ second opinions to gauge their place in your life.

James A Lee

Art is a Seed that is planted and growing before our eyes to Take In. Experience. Process. Feel. And Absorbed . Art should be ALLOWED to EXPRESS a message. To be Allowed to enter our unconscious mind,and impact. Not be judged on quickly…discarded…pushed aside…or…diminished in any way…by Quick judgments… Please give ART a CHANCE TO GROW in this New Fast Paced World of Ours if Instantaneous Results…

Drewseph

I think with Twitter fest reviews, as with any response to a film, it’s important to keep things in context. Reactions to films typically come in waves: First there’s the pre-release buzz, which you have to keep in mind is coming from people who usually aren’t disinterested parties. Then there’s the instant festival Twitter reactions, which are coming literally the second after the film ends, immediate impressions without any room for rumination. Then there are the early festival reviews, which do have the benefit of some thought, but are also being written rather quickly by sleep-deprived critics who are in this weird bubble where they see five films per day. Then, much later, comes the general press reviews, and finally the reactions from actual paying audiences. All of these responses are worth considering — and they often build on one another, reinforcing or disputing the earlier reactions — but you have to take them for what they are. Anyone who dismisses a film (or anoints it an early Oscar contender) based solely on one of the earliest types of responses isn’t being fair to the film, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value. As long as you don’t prioritize some random reporter’s hyperbolic Tweet over a full Manohla Dargis review, it’s fine to take it into consideration.

Josh

They aren’t wrong. The issue is not only are the films competing, but all the critics, pseudo-critics and bloggers are competing for hits. How do you summarize a film in 140 characters or less? "It’s amazing!" "It’s a train wreck!""It’s a world-shattering masterpiece!" The truth is always somewhere in between. Anyone with access to twitter now turns into a reviewer if he has seen the film (or pretends to have seen the film). Everything has to go so fast, no time to ruminate over what a film meant, to see it twice, now every reviewer wants to be like the first jerk on YouTube: "I’m first!" It’s ridiculous. Meaningful criticism is being lost in the shuffle, any serious analysis of a film is not being made. Every tweeting "critic" is like a stockbroker who only wants his big-time money for Friday, with no eye on the long-term assessment that will be made in future years of the film and of their reputation as a critic. In any case, how can they seriously review a film? They are all sitting in a darkened theater composing tweets rather than paying attention to what the filmmaker is trying to say.

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