This week, during a screening at the Berlinale, I happened to sit next to a film critic whom I recognized and whose opinion I respect. He dozed off during the movie, and I was curious to see whether or not he would destroy it in his review the next day. He did not do it. While other critics complained about the feature’s length, he offered a particularly positive view of it. It probably didn’t feel that long when you first slept.
Film critics at a festival have the extraordinary privilege of seeing a large number of films in a short time. It’s not always as easy as it seems, however. Ideally, they’ll treat the 20th work of the contest with as much patience as the first – though many of the world’s finest cinematic gems can test anyone’s ability to stay awake.
Critics working for the daily press must then form an opinion extremely quickly and write a review that covers all the main aspects of the work in a few hours. Even if they are professionals well equipped to analyze a film, in the end, their opinions remain absolutely subjective, like those of anyone else.
Compile the stars
This subjectivity is well exposed in a useful festival tool for film industry insiders, provided by the magazine International Screen. Every year at the Berlinale — as well as other major film festivals, Cannes and Toronto — the magazine asks a number of international critics to rate each competition entry: the highest rating is four stars (“excellent” ), and it goes all the way. to zero (“bad”). The results are published in Screendaily print edition.
Since these ratings are not accompanied by reviews, one can only gradually try to guess a critic’s cinematic tastes.
In this year’s grid, for example, the notes of the Italian critic, journalist and festival programmer Paolo Bertolin stand out among the rest. He gave Fatih Akin the highest rating of four stars The golden glove, while 50% of other reviewers rated it as “mediocre” (one star). To this day, he is also the only one to think that certain films do not deserve any stars: François Ozon By the grace of God and Agnieszka Holland Mr Jones.
Thursday, the three films at the top of the ranking Screen list are A tale of three sisters (top photo) by Emin Alper, God exists, his name is Petruniya by Teona Strugar Mitevska and Öndög by Wang Quan’an. However, there are still three films to add to the grid – that of Isabel Coixet Elisa and Marcelaby Nadav Lapid Synonyms and Wang Xiaoshuai Goodbye, my son.
While the Screen grid is useful for providing a quick overview and helping journalists realize that they may have missed a potential golden bear, even the unanimous enthusiasm of this group of critics is no guarantee that the official festival jury will see the things the same way.
When Ken Loach is I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2016, he surprised many, since he had obtained the very average score of 2.4 on the grid of the day, while the German candidacy led by Maren Ade, Toni Erdmanhad recorded the highest score ever recorded in Screen of historical: 3.7 out of four possible stars, based on average ratings from 11 reviewers.
The 2018 Golden Bear winner also defied the odds set by the daily grid. At Adina Pintilie Do not touch me only obtained an average of 1.5; there were only two other characteristics with lower average scores that year.
The decision was harshly criticized. “Shallow and Stupid Golden Bear Winner Do not touch me is a calamity for the festival,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. TIME Magazine critic Stephanie Zacharek, who served on the competition’s jury that year, said DW that although Bradshaw is a critic she admires and enjoys reading, his opinion did not affect hers: “It probably goes without saying, I love the film and I stand by our choice. It’s empowering and direct as few movies are.”
What They Said: The Art of Film Criticism
Star-based ratings, as well as compilations of a film’s “freshness” or “rotness”, as the Rotten Tomatoes website does, are popular today because they sum up an impression of a film. in an easily digestible icon. However, good film critics are known for their voice and their ability to nuance their assessment.
A documentary presented at the Berlinale, What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael, pays homage to the art of film criticism by portraying one of the most influential voices in the history of cinema. In a field dominated by men, Pauline Kael managed to change the way of writing film reviews and became nothing less than a cultural icon.
“It didn’t matter if you hadn’t seen the films she was writing about: they came to life with her prose,” said Zacharek, who also appears in the documentary.
Pauline Kael: “Without doubt the greatest film critic who has ever lived”, according to Variety
After a series of film reviews for a radio show and various attempts to earn a living as a writer, Kael becomes the film critic of the new yorker in 1967, after the publication of his rave review of Bonnie and Clyde. The feature film had also divided critics and had been poorly received by the public, but its article made it a success at the box office.
The Rob Garver-directed documentary revisits film history, demonstrating how Kael was influenced by early 20th-century films, and later became so influential that she became the one who “made” directors such as Martin Scorsese and Brian de Palma.
Even if her readers have confidence in her voice and have therefore always wanted to know “what she was saying” about a film, her personal approach has allowed her to reject certain works which had been almost unanimously hailed as masterpieces. , like Stanley Kubrick’s film. 2001, A Space Odysseywhich she described as “a monumental film without imagination”.
At the Berlinale awards ceremony on Saturday, the jury could decide that a film that most critics consider a goofy, unimaginative disaster is actually the one they selected for the ‘Golden Bear. And that’s only going to open up the discussion more – which is what movie critics like to do in the first place.