When I first started my “Film and TV Production” degree I was sufficiently terrified and overwhelmed by the amount of films that I didn’t have a clue about. In fact, even now, three years later, I’m only marginally less overwhelmed.
Back in 2010 I had not watched countless classics that have been blathered on about from Bonnie and Clyde to Some Like It Hot. I hadn’t made a single film either and we were suddenly dropped in the deep end with irritable camera’s, lazy tripods and temperamental hard drives. In a heat of panic I made my way to the library, instantly deciding to become a film critic rather than a filmmaker. I checked out more books than I was ever going to read and then, disheartened, sat in bed reading one with a packet of Sainsbury’s basic chocolate digestives, as students do.
The first book I started reading was Widescreen by the film critic Mark Cousins. I took the liberty of actually reading the introduction since I had decided I was never going to leave my room, let alone enter the bright lights of a film studio, so I had plenty of time to spare on introductions.
Coincidentally, Cousins begins by posing the question “Why be a filmmaker rather than a critic?” This question seemed fairly reasonable but this rather overconfident critic goes on to to call criticism a “purer job”… I hate to point out the painfully obvious but if everyone jumped on the bandwagon as a film critic then there would be no films to critic! I suppose you could move on to food criticism, literature criticism or fashion criticism but again, each of these has an artist to critic.
Critics are not the artist. I’m not denying that criticism and the form of presenting an argument tastefully and clearly is not artistic in itself (although honestly some are just a bit of an overly-intellectual rant) but that’s beside the point. The minor creation of presenting an opinion in comparison to the scale of the hours of determination spent creating a film seems like a very minor part in light of the bigger picture of cinema (pun totally intended).
A good film can cover enough human senses and emotions that it can immerse an audience completely and can even change some sweet souls lives! So, for Mark Cousins to high and mightily imply that his job is ‘better’ than that of the filmmaker is ridonkulous. Maybe I’m being over the top, maybe I misinterpreted his offhand comment but even so, I can’t describle how stupid I think this comment is!
Don’t get me wrong, reading through the rest of Widescreen I’m learning a drastic amount about culture and directors from all over the world, my knowledge of history is even becoming a bit more impressive but despite all this dazzling insight, Cousins seems to have been misled by one silly delusion… The audience is not more talented than the artist just for watching the film, Mark! However unique and insightful their interpretations are, the artist thought of it first, didn’t they? They would have to, to have made it in the first place. Before you even think it, lets not try and get on to the ‘subconscious intentions’ debate! Maybe another day, Freud.
Even if I entitled myself a film critic, who has that impressive status of a ‘respected opinion’, I would probably be subconsciously aware that I’m actually just a filmmaker who was a little bit scared to be the real thing, to make the real thing. Maybe that’s what Mark Cousins is too?