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Meet the Young Critics (IV)

Film Critic (Ronald Searle, 1952)

We asked the participants in the fourth edition of the Young Critics Workshop at Film Fest Gent three simple questions. Who are they? What is their favorite “cinephiliac” moment? And which three films are they most looking forward to at the festival? Below are their answers.

Visit photogénie from October 13 until 21 to follow the Young Critic’s exploits at Film Fest Gent!

Cláudio Alves

I’m a 23-year-old Portuguese cinephile and a graduate from Lisbon’s School of Theatre and Cinema, where I studied set and costume design. Currently, I write about cinema for two online publications, Magazine HD and Filmin PT, while working in small theatre productions. Partially influenced by what I’ve read and seen over the years, cinema is, to me, an audio-visual art form, above all else, so I try to write about it as such. I personally believe film criticism can constitute a way of helping people understand cinema, giving them tools to appreciate it in wonderful new ways.

Cinephiliac Moment

I was thirteen when I watched Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for the first time and I can still vividly remember how the world around me slowly faded into nothingness as I was trapped by claustrophobic teary close-ups and shouting actors. Most of all, I remember a single cut.
At the end of the film’s cruel climax, Richard Burton turns off a lamp and, from a close-up of his exhausted visage, we transition to a wide shot from above, showing us the desolated stage of human misery his living room has become. It seemed the film itself had run out of air and, in this necessary breath, it had reminded me of the distance I had from the suffering people enclosed in its narrative. The film had shocked me awake from its nightmare.
Years later, after I studied classic theatre, I would start to call this moment an example of cinematic catharsis in the form of a single cut. Before this conclusion, though, this moment became a milestone in my life as a cinephile because it made me reflect upon how a film managed to get such a reaction out of me. It made me think, maybe for the first time, how cinema really worked, how images cut together could create meaning and devastate me with their power.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • Call Me By Your Name by Luca Guadagnino
  • You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay
  • Claire’s Camera by Hong Sang-soo.

Charlotte Wynant

I am a young academic and writer, continuously looking to understand and express things in new and unexpected ways. My favorite film, book or poem rarely remains the same for more than two weeks in a row, yet I am convinced that the greatest masterpieces can be watched or read time and time again, successfully telling a thousand stories. Translating fragments of those filmic stories into the written word is a delightful challenge I’d take on any day.

Cinephiliac Moment

Martin LaSalle’s dancing hands in Bresson’s Pickpocket. The melancholy sensuality of the scene never ceases to enthrall me.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

I’m excited about 78/52 by Alexandre O. Philippe, an extensive documentary on the shower scene in Psycho. Maybe a 91 minute documentary on a three minute scene seems a bit excessive, but all the more reason to love it.
Furthermore, I am looking forward to A Ciambra by Jonas Carpignano. This young filmmaker and film festival favorite’s work resonates with the Italian Neorealist tradition in an interesting way.
Finally, I’m always curious about the work of filmmakers at the very start of their career. At Film Fest Ghent I am particularly drawn to the short She, Gis by Thiago Carvalhaes.

Debbie Onuoha

I am a Ghanaian-Nigerian with a passion for words and moving images. I am currently a student at DocNomads – the Erasmus Mundus MA in Documentary Film Directing. Alongside cinema, I have a keen interest in history, literature and anthropology, and hold BA and MPhil degrees in these fields from Harvard University (2015) and the University of Cambridge (2016) respectively.

Cinephiliac Moment

Two years ago, I was at a documentary film festival in London, watching Pietro Marcello’s Bella e Perduta. The entire roomful of people (myself included) was so mesmerized by this film – so transported out of our material realities and into this world of the philosophical, talking buffalo Sarchiapone and his mythical guide Pulcinella – that we were completely oblivious to the fact that a fire had broken out nearby, and was slowly filling up our screening room with smoke!

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • 1945 by Ferenc Török
  • Colo by Teresa Villaverde
  • Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami by Sophie Fiennes

Joseph Pomp 

I am a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature with a secondary field in Critical Media Practice at Harvard University. My film criticism has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Film Quarterly, Little White Lies, Senses of Cinema, and other publications. I have also contributed chapters to books on Delmer Daves and the global road movie. Current projects include a dissertation on France’s culture of cinematic authorship, from the multidisciplinary avant-garde of the 1910s and 20s to the emergence of transnational production in and out of the former African colonies, and a translation of a novel by Sembene Ousmane.

Cinephiliac Moment

There’s an incredible cut at the end of Maurice Pialat’s La gueule ouverte. After following the protagonist and his fiancée driving out of the small town and back to Paris after his mother’s funeral, we jump back to where they left the father – and where, in bidding a tough adieu, the son managed yet again to call his father a pig (cochon). In a way, this devastating conclusion beats Tokyo Story at its own game, forcing us to confront the patriarch head-on (literally) in his abandonment, and denying him any last words. Ozu, in the last shot of a film more concretely about the younger generation’s neglect of their elders, lets the kids off the hook, showing us a sailboat whisking them away into the clear-skied seascape. Pialat’s choice to end with the father shuffling around his shop, head hung low, turning off the lights makes La gueule ouverte one of the darkest – and most affecting – statements on mortality I’ve ever encountered.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • Claire’s Camera by Hong Sang-soo
  • Les gardiennes by Xavier Beauvois
  • Hostages by Rezo Gigineishvili

Susana Bessa

I was a lit geek first, a film school goer second, and I am now finishing an MA degree at Goldsmiths College in Film and Screen Studies after spending a whole year doing research and writing extensively on the topic of ‘saudade’ in cinema. In truth, I’ve been mostly stealing as much as I can from the talented souls the city of London is garnished with. My favorite place on earth is still the tiny theatre in my hometown of Porto where I first saw Bicycle Thieves from the projectionist’s booth. Since I was first published in Premiere Portugal at fourteen, I’ve written for Mubi Notebook and The Rumpus, among many other publications.

Cinephiliac Moment

It is very difficult to name one. There are so many. Or rather, I think many formative past moments have faded with the emergence of recent ones, and now they all exist somewhat blended together in my mind. But if I really had to point one out, I would always highlight the city tracking shots in Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour. I think it was in their compulsive contemplation that I came to know cinema as the creation of the body of memory; cinema as the ritual that yearns for resurrection, observes the death the previous originates and, above all, illustrates just how crucial that process taking place is. The female voiceover overlapping the successive shots through the streets propels a mood, a sensation that creates the emotional topography of a home; the many stairs of memory at last connected. And that is precisely what we all do and why cinema exists in the first place. In its language lie the fragments that survive the mourning and in its gesture, in the projection and communion of strangers as one and the same, the spectral relay of what was had and is now wanted back. And I guess it was then, after those shots and that film, that I became a cinephile. I started to believe.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsey
  • Columbus by Kogonada / Claire’s Camera by Hong Sang-soo (sorry, can’t decide)
  • Robert de Wavrin double bill: Au pays du scalp and Le Marquis de Wavrin, du manoir à la jungle