EIFF - Day 2: Project New Cinephilia

Submitted by Al Innes on Sun, 19 Jun '11 4.06pm

My second day was almost entirely consumed by the day-long symposium that was Project: New Cinephilia. This seminar-esque attempt to create meaningful debate about the future of film criticism had been lauded as one of the flag-ship events of the EIFF 2011 calendar and so I was anxious to check it out. So anxious, in fact, that I turned up at ten to nine (the programme had said it started at 9am) to discover that I was an hour and fifteen minutes early (it actually started at 10.15am). So I had a coffee, mourned for the hour in bed I had just sacrificed to the gods of dodgy programme copy and decided to get on with the day.

The premise is that we are living in a world of new film ciritcs, new movie buffs, new cinema geeks and that we are now all called cinephiles. So Inspace played host to the culmination of a month long blogging project, which if you've been keeping track of you will know all about it and if you haven't I guess it's my job to try and explain it to you.

For anyone not familiar with the project I suggest taking a look at the blog. On top of that, a familiarity with Little White Lies and Reverse Shot would be a good place to start. The day started with a series of ‘provocations’. These, I perhaps mistakenly assumed they were, were not exactly wild-eyed polemics that shook the very foundations of the film world, but in fact they were a series of questions. Mark Cousins appeared by pre-recorded video to pose the cryptic: "What do you not know about cinema?"

I didn’t feel terribly provoked.

There then followed a series of guests, mostly film critics, who talked us through clips of David Lynch films telling us things we presumably already knew, and singularly failing to answer any of the questions we had been posed. By the time the first break came, I was more confused than I had been at 9am.

Things did pick up though. Jason Wood and Kate Taylor (who curated the event) both came across as having a real grasp of the subject and never failed to make salient points throughout the day. Well, I say ‘never’ failed but Jason did suggest that Nicholas Cage’s career after ‘Raising Arizona’ was a “cavalcade of shit”. He has obviously never seen ‘National Treasure’…

Joking aside, it would have seemed far more engaging if they had reduced the number of speakers so that the messages coming through were clearer and better put. Despite one of the opening provocations suggesting that new cinephiles "embrace originality", are "no longer solipsistic or furtive” and "are inclusive and welcoming" - citing the State of Cinema Project and its "child-like innocence" - some panellists seemed to get lost in a sea of their own inarticulacy. What exactly is an ‘opening coda’?

Matt Loyd's 'provocation' asked 'What is the space of New Cinephilia?’ By the end of the day we were still no closer to an answer. This was a bold event, one that I think was a brave attempt, but it seemed slightly rootless. Far better, I would have thought, to put on a series of events over the two weeks and make the idea of cinephilia into a strand. I spoke to a lot of established film critics who wouldn’t dream of referring to themselves as a cinephile, nor even a cineaste. What is so wrong with film buff, or movie geek?

Is that a provocation?

For more information the Project New Cinelphilia blog can be found at the link above, and you can follow it at twitter.com/ProjectNC.