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Meet the Young Critics (V)

Film Critic (Ronald Searle, 1952)

We asked the participants in the fifth 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 10 until 19 to follow the Young Critic’s exploits at Film Fest Gent!

NJ Nuñez

I graduated with a degree in Film and work as a freelance writer. I also dabble in various production jobs in film. In the past I worked as a video editor and production design assistant. Outside of film, I’m into yoga, fresh memes, and watching too much Youtube.

In film school, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a gamut of films from different genres. It was there I realized that I like writing about film almost as much or more than I liked making them. Previously, I was also a finalist for The Far East Film Festival Campus program for young film journalists. It was a great experience and my first time ever in Europe.

I’m looking forward to the Young Critics Workshop even though I fear my criticism must be a little rusty now, but I’m sure the mentors will take on that challenge effortlessly.

Cinephiliac Moment

My favorite cinephiliac moment is a montage in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) set to Cat People (Putting Out Fire) by the late, great David Bowie (In fact, I am listening to the song as I type this). It’s the perfect song to an amazing scene. Shoshanna, played by Melanie Laurent, prepares for the premiere night of a Nazi propaganda film where they (spoiler) massacre every Nazi in the audience, including Hitler himself. It’s irreverent and a lot of fun. The montage sets the perfect tone for the eventual bloodbath to come.  Perfect editing, perfect acting, perfect score.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

Of the films in the Film Fest Gent lineup, I’m most excited for three films, only because the instructions said I should pick three (very difficult to narrow it down to three!).

First is McQueen by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui. I’m a fan of documentaries about artists and visionaries. Alexander McQueen is one of my favorite designers and his untimely passing affected me as a teenager. I have high hopes for this documentary and I hope it won’t disappoint.

Next is At Eternity’s Gate by Julian Schnabel starring Willem Dafoe and Oscar Isaac. Willem Dafoe is an actor’s actor. He’s piqued my interested in The Florida Project (2017) but before Sean Baker’s film, I’ve only seen him in the OG Spiderman trilogy.  Every film Dafoe is in, I’m willing to watch, no questions asked. The fact that the film will be directed by Julian Schnabel is an added bonus.

Lastly, I’m very excited for The Favorite by Yorgos Lanthimos because I am a sucker for period films, comedies, and Emma Stone. Yorgos Lanthimos keeps churning out interesting films and I’m happy to follow his body of work as it develops.

That said,  I also look forward to meeting everyone and eating all the waffles and chocolate humanly possible in a two week period.

Patrick Preziosi 

My name is Patrick Preziosi, I am 21 years old, and I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I am currently in my senior year at SUNY Purchase, where I study literature with a minor in French language. I’ve been an avid fan of film all my life, but within the past few years, I’ve begun to pursue writing more professionally, contributing both film and music criticism to Irish Film Critic, Toy Records, and the Purchase Phoenix. Aside from writing criticism, I write short fiction as well, and am also a musician.

Cinephiliac Moment

At one point in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf, 1974), the ostracized, mix-raced couple, Emmi (Brigitte Mira) and Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) sit outside at an overcast cafe, the two completely alone amidst nearly a sea of yellow tables and chairs. They sit still, though Ali occasionally peers over his shoulder, and the camera reveals a group of customers and employees (all German, all white), staring at the two, not moving at all. In this moment, it’s as if Fassbinder has frozen the world around the couple in time, while still allowing his camera to move, as Emmi and Ali cycle through a series of emotions, from hate to sadness. It’s a moment of pure perfection, Fassbinder’s beloved realism and melodrama coming together seamlessly in a moment that remains thrilling on a technical level, and heartbreaking on an emotional one.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • Winter Brothers by Hlynur Pálmason
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Bi Gan
  • Climax by Gaspar Noé

Savina Petkova

I’m a fearless academic by heart, upgraded from a Philosophy B.A. to Film Studies at University College London. My reading and writing interests intertwine philosophy as phenomenology and political studies, to reflect on film’s significance as a historical and cultural epiphenomenon. Aesthetics and metaphysics of cinema summarize my research fields and I’m still unlearning to intellectualize films. As a film critic driven by spectatorship studies, I do not discriminate ‘high’ from ‘low’, and my analysis is always issue-driven. I do believe film is the highest art and I do my best to serve at its altar.

Cinephiliac Moment

I remember I was opened up to the self-reflexive quality of cinema while watching The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2015). Towards the end of the film, after hours of following an epic strive for survival, after witnessing inhuman strenghth and will on DiCaprio’s character Hugh’s side, we witness an ardent combative sequence between him and his adversary. As the stakes are life and death, Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera shows a close-up of Hugh’s face, panting, and we see the corner of the frame blur by his breath. This, for me, altered my whole perception of the film — the idea that this epic is conscious of its own artificiality, and this opened up my perception of film as a heightened reality: film as self-conscious magic realism, which automatically gives it a higher ontological position.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

I’m most excited to see The Favourite, since I wrote my BA and MA Thesis on the films by Yorgos Lanthimos, and I have followed him through festivals and Q&As most ardently. Not to exaggerate, but my academic interest is so deeply rooted into Lanthimos that I hope to be able to be the first to write a book on his work.  I’m also extremely excited to see High Life, since Claire Denis has comprised a big part of my studies, and as far as I know, the film hasn’t got the UK distribution before Ghent Film Festival. I can’t wait to see Loro, since I feel tightly connected with Sorrentino, my deep interests in Italian culture in its contemporary traits, as well as his touches upon magic realism.

Ruairi McCann

I’m twenty three years old and hail from a little county in the northwest of Ireland called Sligo. I am a graduate from University College Dublin where I studied literature and film and have just recently completed an MA in film at Queen’s University Belfast. Outside of academia, I have written criticism for various small university-bound publications and have programmed for the Sligo Film Society. I’ve also made a couple of short films and hope to make a few more.

Cinephiliac Moment

This is perhaps perverse because I’m plucking from a work made for television but a shot towards the end of Maurice Pialat’s La maison des bois (1971), in which a recently bereaved character envisions their lost loved clutching chicken wire and smiling. It’s brevity — the shot dissipates after a single second — and unreality is in such sharp contrast to Pialat’s regular adherence towards long takes and the spark of reality, as opposed to fantasy, that it reminded me that marvels can occur when an artist makes a uncharacteristic creative choice.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • High Life by Claire Denis
  • Ash Is Purest White by Jia Zhangke
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Bi Gan

Souky De Wolf

I’m a 22 year old cinephile and sporadic writer/journalist. I’m currently both finishing my masters in Theatre and Film Studies and starting a masters in Culture Management. I’m a sucker for musicals and anything featuring deadpan humor. I love almost anything that floats between minimalism and trashy baroque, as long as it (re)uses the cinematic medium in an interesting and refreshing way.

Cinephiliac Moment

At a certain point in Robert Bresson’s Le Diable, Probablement (1977), a few adolescents assemble around a table. I cannot recall the how and why of this specific scene; it might’ve been a political gathering. It probably was. The only thing that caught my attention, that struck me as suspiciously unusual: an apple. The piece of fruit, casually lying on the table, looked almost rectangular. It felt like an insult. The thing just lied there, aggressively, in all its rectangular-ness. Like an unresolved mystery, an unsatisfying joke, maybe, Bresson’s rectangular apple still confuses me.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • Hotel by the River by Hong Sang-Soo
  • The Gentle indifference of the World by Adilkhan Yerzhanov
  • High Life by Claire Denis