The subject matter I am commenting on in this article is nothing new. The relationship between critics and filmmakers has been a rollercoaster ride across the age of cinema, with the notion of “starfucking” being evident as far back as the professional relationship between Warren Beatty and Pauline Kael in the 1970s, when they enjoyed a kind of symbiotic admiration, before things turned nasty in the years after.
While these relationships have continued throughout the years, the explosion of social media has led to the ability for filmmakers to establish such relationships in easier and far more public ways. Hot man of the moment Rian Johnson is certainly a key figure in this concept right now, with a smart use of social media and close ties with one particular film site that stretches back a number of years, making him feel both approachable but also encouraging an almost obsessive level of fan-worship.
On the flip-side of this is something which caused quite the hubbub on my Twitter timeline yesterday. Jeff Galasso, @londonfilmfan on Twitter, is a committed movie lover who has seen his writing published on a wide range of sites and is making serious in-roads in his quest to become a respected and respectable film journalist. In the interest of full disclosure, he’s also a guy I’ve met in real-life and while we don’t agree on films all that much, is always up for a debate. In a review for the new Noel Clarke film The Knot, which comes out this Friday, Jeff published a 1/10 review in which he basically told everyone to avoid it. Here’s an excerpt:
“The Knot is 90 minutes of non-stop horrible, derivative “comedy” that is never once funny, even in the slightest. With a bare-bones plot fleshed out with hackneyed material that has been done infinitely better by the films it steals from, The Knot is the must-miss comedy of 2012. Save the date for quite literally anything (a root canal, perhaps) other than this pathetic pretender”.
Scathing would be a kind word. Reacting to this, writer/actor Davie Fairbanks had this, among other things, to say:
“You’re quite clearly a sad jumped up cunt that should climb up his own arse and die rather than give your ill advised opinion to the world”.
That’s quite something, to say the least. I have no agenda against The Knot myself. I admire the industrious work-rate Noel Clarke puts in; this is his third co-writing and starring credit this year alone, and I’m a big fan of his film 4,3,2,1. In the nicest possible way, I don’t really know who Davie Fairbanks is, but it has to be said, with two-star reviews in both Empire and Total Film, Jeff is hardly the only person who has found the film to be lacking. But it is interesting that Mr. Fairbanks has responded to a review not affiliated with a publication, instead aiming for a review written on Jeff’s blog where it’s unlikely to personally offend anyone beyond the writer (as opposed to the editor and so on). It would be interesting to know if Mr. Fairbanks is aware Jeff does actually write for a few sites and that people obviously do respect his opinions. But in either case, this is not the point.
Critics, bloggers, journos, whatever you call us, are there because we like to talk about movies, whether good or bad. Films take huge amounts of effort to be made but all things are not for all people. There are many people who may well enjoy The Knot quite a bit, but the job of someone discussing a film critically is not to offer a definitive opinion. It’s about opening a discourse, expanding on the film in order to further explore what is right or wrong with it. This is where I think the closer nature of filmmaker/critic comment can cause trouble. There is a distance that those writing about film should maintain from the filmmakers so as to not influence opinion, but at the same time, filmmakers should understand that those writing about film, and especially when many do so in their own time, do it because they love the medium, want to protect it and want to see it done right. I had a comment on my Facebook page recently where I linked to a review I wrote and a childhood friend said “what was the point in that, you just said the film was rubbish” or something similar. While I’m sure if only positive reviews were written, filmmakers would be thrilled, but what would that do for the medium?
I’d be very interested to read your opinions on this topic.