Filmmaker (France)

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"I believe in film criticism as a tool to help me improve as a filmmaker. I’m not just saying that, I mean it. It does happen, even if it doesn’t happen often. I don’t like considering criticism in the same way I would a horoscope, believing it when it supports my films, not believing it when it doesn’t. I don’t care if a critic likes or doesn’t like my film, if it moves them or doesn’t. I’m more interested in someone dissecting my film and explaining it back to me, in having an outsider explain to me what I’ve made, to have a more experienced brain at the service of mine. For me, the work of a critic is to understand the idea behind the film and assess whether or not the film achieves what it set out to do and why. I expect this level of dialogue.

I do feel like after four films and a series there is a level of loyalty shown by certain critics, still bearing in mind that with each film that loyalty might be put in question - which is healthy. Some may really like one of my films and hate another. I remember a critic who’d written a pretty violent article about Grand Central, but it was fair. When I read that text six months later, as I’d found it too brutal and somewhat nasty at the time, it enlightened me. Later, that same critic loved Planetarium. We met then, we talked about his review of Grand Central and he’d said that that’s what had helped him secure a job at his current paper, as they thought his review was cruel, funny, acerbic and brave (because the film had by and large been well received). He must have gone a bit over the top to make an impression. Which is a shame. That’s a vulnerability of our profession: from time to time we have to accept the lack of nuance as that’s what creates buzz around the film. When that’s all it does, criticism only speaks to criticism. Which isn’t the most constructive thing it could do...

There are three categories of film criticism. One which is aimed at viewers and is mainly there to explain and advise. This category is likely due to disappear as increasingly the audiences themselves are offering this to other potential viewers. Then there’s criticism that’s geared at both audiences and filmmakers. That, for me, is the most interesting, which manages to both create an imaginary link with the filmmaker and guide the viewer. Finally there’s criticism that’s only meant for other critics, which breaks that connection between audiences and creators. This approach standardizes the tastes of critics and hinders their freedom, and yet the only thing worth pursuing is freedom. Both filmmakers and critics must above all find ways to freely create, talk, make, counter-argue, dispute and express themselves.

Amongst filmmakers, we don’t talk much about critics. I do think it’s a question of modesty. There’s something humiliating about complaining. Then again, I can see there is a problem with this profession, which is becoming increasingly precarious with the rise of social media. It’s lost its guiding role. Because even when all the reviews support your film, your film might still flop. What does it mean? Sometimes, a certain type of film criticism can put audiences off. For example, sometimes when reviews are unanimous, people start voicing their annoyance on social media, a type of antagonism with a heavy dose of anti-intellectualism grows borne out of a feeling of critics just speaking to each other. So I do feel that critics and filmmakers both sometimes come up against this hatred of reflection. And that’s why they need to look after each other."

As told to Chloé Rolland