Bertrand Tavernier on the critics in France
This is my translation of some remarks made by director Bertrand Tavernier on critics which appeared in l'Humanite on the 13 November 1999. The French original is available:
Les excès de la critique
What is targeted is not the critics but the excess of the critics, in brief the triangle, Les Inrocks, Le Monde and Liberation. We are getting tired of certain insults, of being more poorly considered than politicians, of being treated like complete jackasses, like dinosaurs, like collaborators, like vichyists, to public pannings before the film's release. As for myself, I was panned twice in the dailies for "It All Starts Today" on Thursday was released on Friday as though there was a public health emergency warning against the film. When, at Le Monde, Jean de Baroncelli did not care for a film which he judged merited a minimum of consideration, he wrote his review on Monday. A segment of our spectators still the critics while those of the major American films do not read them. When Armageddon gets panned, this does not lose it one spectator, it goes differently for the films by Claire Denis, Emmanuel Finkel or me. This makes us vulnerable.
From all of this is born a kind of frustration with some people who want to say watch out, fire off a warning shot, to tell the critics, start asking yourselves questions. Catchy headlines like “the Cretins to the Lions” when Resnais is at Venice or “a Chronicle of Bullshit Heralded” when Francesco Rosi is at Cannes are insufferable. Of what point is a negative review of “star Wars” if it sits beside six pages of feature writing. Having a critic dare to write that the idea of having to watch “Captain Conan” makes him want to change professions when I am still editing it is not tolerable. When Robert Benayoun was slashing and unjust with Godard, it was in the name of the films he was going to make when he became a filmmaker, not to apply for a job as the minister directing the Cannes Festival or to have a broadcast in preparation for radio or television. A war on critics is not being made, just on critics who, to defend one film, strike out at six others. In that époque, Eric Rohmer would say, “Let’s begin by talking about films that we like. The person who likes the film the most should cover it.” So reasoned Jean de Baroncelli, Jean-Louis Bory and Michel Perez. Everyone benefits when a strong critic defends strong films. I ask the critics to become passionate again. Directors are united to defend illegal immigrants, to combat against the AMI, to go to Seattle for the meetings of the World Trade Organiztion, Fantastic new films are being announced, I am proud to be one with these people. Patrice Leconte’s anger is born out of a text which accidentally came into public hands, but it still exists, from errors which show the critics to be rougher than the patrons of Gaumont or the UGC. That is why the Society of Writers, Directors and Producers is going to denounce people who ask to see films on cassette, the critics who it is impossible to get to come to projections or an enormous place dedicated to interviews, which makes the directors do the work of the critics.
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