ROXANE ARNOLD

Distributor (Pyramide - France)

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CRITICS' (WEEK) AND ME 

1992/1991: secondary school. I would go to the cinema twice a week, with my dad or my friends, usually at the Gaumont Wilson in Toulouse and the Ciné 32 in Auch, usually to watch American films, usually dubbed in French. My bible was Premiere. I had a subscription and read every word. There was no way I’d miss the film featured on the cover. I have never again read a monthly film magazine with the same level of attention. Alongside this habit, I would watch lots of films on TV, French films, those films they broadcast on Tuesday evenings or those my mum would record on VHS. The Télérama review would be carefully inserted in each sleeve and I would read it after each viewing. I really enjoyed this.

1995/1998: sixth form. I discovered the Utopia cinema that opened in the Toulouse city centre. I would spend all my time there, at least three evenings a week. My film paper was their Gazette. I would wait for its release each month with utter delight to read the reviews, find out their coups de cœur, and of course carefully study the schedule around which I would structure the coming month. Years later, I met the Utopia team and overheard them complaining about the fact they had to queue for hours in Cannes without being able to get into screenings as journalists would go in in front of them… “We write reviews for our gazettes, which are read and followed by tens of thousands of people…”
 
1998/2002: Political institute Sciences Po Paris. I was still in love with cinema and had so many new screens to try! I was by then reading Libération every day and Les Inrocks every week. Their reviews guided my outings. I began to focus on who the main journalists were and spot the ones whose work I liked. Of course, Gérard Lefort made me laugh a lot and Serge Kaganski really engaged me. I often thought that I was missing a female gaze. Years later, I found it through the precious words of Guillemette Odicino and Sophie Avon.

2002/2004: Femis film school. I no longer had time to read the press given how much time I was spending watching films, trying to see all the new releases and the re-releases with my fellow students. The chats with them were my new guiding light. At the end of my course, I attended my first Cannes festival in 2004. One day, I went to see CQ2 by Carole Laure at 8.30 in the salle Buñuel, one of the Semaine de la Critique’s celebrated re-releases… I went to sit in the third row as always since I’d read in Premiere that Tarantino would do the same. Five minutes after I sat down, a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked “Sorry, may I sit here?” pointing to the seat next to mine. It was Quentin, President of the jury of the official competition, who was making the most of a gap in his schedule.
 
2004/2007: The Mk2 years. During those years, I was managing the Quai de Seine - Quai de Loire Mk”, one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world. I spent a lot of time at the box office where I was surprised to see that a lot of audience members would turn up without a specific film in mind and would ask our advice: staff members would tell them what they saw, what they’d like to see or point them towards the cinema’s official magazine Trois couleurs. Were staff members more influential than critics? After two months on the job, I created Deux lueurs, a weekly magazine for box office staff, in which I suggested arguments to give to audience members. That would prove to be my one and only incursion in the world of film reviews.

2007/2021: The Pyramide years. I joined the programming team at the end of August. The first film I released on 5 September was LES MEDUSES by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, Caméra d’or winner after its selection at the Semaine de la critique... Three months later, in December, I released XXY by Lucia Puenzo, Semaine de la critique Grand prize winner... Without even having yet met the team or ventured into the Miramar, I already had a feeling that my time at Pyramide would be intimately linked to the Semaine de la critique.
Since then, we’ve been able to mark 13 years of shared memories, of friendship and of common advocacy for films that we like: Eric Lagesse and me on one side, Charles Tesson, Rémi Bonhomme, Hélène Auclaire, Marion Dubois and their teams on the other. The caméras d’or for NUESTRAS MADRES by César Diaz (2019) and LAND AND SHADE by César Acevedo (2015), were won and celebrated hand in hand. In 2017, two films that enjoyed memorable screenings were ours: BLOODY MILK by Hubert Charuel and UNE VIE VIOLENTE by Thierry de Peretti. There were so many films presented at the Semaine, with shared love and pride, it’s impossible to name them all: WILD by Camille Vidal Naquet, HOPE by Boris Lojkine, SNIJEC by Aida Begic, BEAUTIFUL THORN by Rebecca Zlotowski…
At la Semaine, I was able to discover filmmakers whose work I’ve loved and with whom I subsequently worked on their next films: Oliver Laxe, Nadav Lapid, David Perrault… I felt so many powerful emotions watching films such as NEITHER HEAVEN NOR EARTH by Clément Cogitore and SUZANNE by Katell Quillévéré. Thank you to the Semaine team.

Of course, we didn’t always agree. There were films that I discovered at the Semaine as a viewer that I didn’t like at all, films that we offered the Semaine as distributors but that they turned down. How on Earth was LES OGRES by Léa Fehner ignored by the selection committee at the Semaine? It shall remain a mystery…
At Pyramide, I also discovered the winners of awards from the French Union of Film Critics, whose audaciousness and taste I applaud every year. Here again, we’ve been able to share wonderful memories around such gems ANGEL AND TONY by Alix Delaporte, FATIMA by Philippe Faucon, LOVE AFFAIR(S) by Emmanuel Mouret. In 2017, we had a double whammy in the form of «best foreign film / best first foreign film » for LOVELESS by Andreï Zviaguintsev and I AM NOT A WITCH by Rungano Nyoni.

Becoming a distributor has of course changed my own understanding of and relationship with film criticism in general. Now, I read first and foremost literally all the reviews of films distributed by Pyramide. Stress still pricks at me whenever I receive an email and as I open the attachment. I fear the negative review, or worse the political review that doesn’t actually make one want to watch the film. And yet, my faith in film criticism is as strong as it always was. I am certain that it retains a crucial role in the film sector and that we must sustain it.”

Roxane Arnold