Writing the Cinema Experience: The Aesthetics of the Film Review
Tom O'Regan & Huw Walmsley-Evans | CommArts, UQ
- Friday 21 August
- Room 208, Joyce Ackroyd (#37)
- 1pm - 2pm
Film reviewing is often seen as film criticism’s poor relation. The former lacks the developed exposition and sustained deliberation of the latter. Film reviewing is too short and tied to day-and-date screenings; too caught up in the requirements of immediate response, strictures against ‘spoilers’, parent publisher requirements; and too involved in negotiating extra-filmic matters of celebrity and social political comment. But what if these ‘failings’ were recast as attributes of a reviewing practice that routinely managed our two connected but jostling experiences of the cinema: the experience of cinema as an art-like work in a film world and cinema as an everyday object and thing in our social world?
In her book Everyday Aesthetics Saito usefully emphasises that our experiences of everyday objects and practices have an aesthetic dimension to them. Rather than seeing this everyday aesthetics as a lesser kind of aesthetic experience Saito spends considerable time elaborating it as a different sort of aesthetic experience to be judged and evaluated in its own right. Using Saito’s distinctions we argue that the public film reviewing that came into being after the coming of sound in the cinema was one which routinely negotiated both dimensions of our filmic experience. This suggests that film reviewing regularly stages the contiguity of art and art-world and film world considerations and more prosaic experiences and understandings of the cinema. For film reviewers and viewers alike cinema is a mix of art-like, notable films and run-of-the-mill films, a commonplace reality undergirded by an extensive cinema-going habit, and a cultural phenomenon permeating other cultural, social and economic worlds in news, fashion, society and politics. Following Saito we can positively value both aspects—cinema as art and cinema as quotidian cultural object—recognising in their combination a cinema-going experience that combines both.
This paper is part of a larger project interrogating public forms of film criticism and review. It includes studies of individual film critics (see ‘Kenneth Slessor and the Sound Cinema: The “Chief Film Critic whose Reviews are Accepted as the Most Reliable in Australia”’ http://www.screeningthepast.com/2015/06/kenneth-slessor-and-the-sound-cinema/), collections of notable film reviewing (Kenneth Slessor, Selected Film Reviews, 1933-36 http://www.screeningthepast.com/2015/06/kenneth-slessor-selected-film-reviews-1933-36/) and overviews of the history of Australian film criticism (‘Towards a History of Australian Film Criticism’) http://www.screeningthepast.com/2015/06/towards-a-history-of-australian-film-criticism/
Tom O'Regan is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the School of Communication and Arts. He is a media historian currently researching and theorising media and cultural systems as they transform themselves. The research on film criticism is part of this larger interest in media transformation. .
Dr Huw Walmsley-Evans is a Research Fellow in the School of Communication and Arts and Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at SAE QANTM Creative Media Institute. His book “Film Criticism as a Cultural Institution” will be published by Routledge in late 2016. He is the co-director of the Queensland Film Festival, essays editor of online magazine Screen Machine, and contributing editor to Manuscript magazine.