Producer (ARP Sélection - France)
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« Creators learn a lot from reviews of their films. It’s always interesting to know how one’s film is watched, how it is received and understood by its audience. Critics often are the first audience a film encounters. Film criticism operates as a sort of initial filter.
As filmmakers, producers and distributors, we have to accept the freedom film critics enjoy. We must accept that level of risk. Because film criticism can be scary, it can be brutal when it’s negative and we therefore are often tempted to guide it and influence it, which is a mistake. We must all stay in our lane.
The job of a critic is one of conveyor: it requires curiosity and generosity. Critics shouldn’t be attention-seeking or pointlessly verbose, they must serve the work. Critics should never lose sight of the film. They are not here to exist on the back of films, to show off their prose and get noticed. Even if they don’t like a film, they mustn't forget that the director made this film with sincerity, not cynicism and pure self-interest. Filmmakers tend to take filmmaking seriously.
Critics sometimes find it hard to reach audiences, to convince them to go to the cinema, to encourage them to watch this or that film. A good review is one that will provoke eagerness and curiosity in its reader. It should encourage them to watch the film to see for themselves if they agree.
Film criticism can make or break a film. It can traumatise filmmakers and discourage them from working. David Lean stopped working for 10 years after he was torn to pieces by the New Yorker’s film critic Pauline Kael, who’d panned Ryan’s Daughter back in 1970. That’s not an isolated case. I remember when in 2007 Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights had opened the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Two days later, he’d called me, shaken by reviews that had called him old hat.
It’s obviously great when critics like a film. Without the Semaine de la Critique and the subsequent support of critics, Dwelling In The Fuchun Mountains by Gu Xiaogang, a young Chinese filmmaker, would not have stood that much of a chance. Without critics, this hereto unknown film made by a director nobody had heard of would have remained in the shadows. »
As told to Nathalie CHIFFLET