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Meet the Young Critics (VII)

Film Critic (Ronald Searle, 1952)

We asked the participants in the seventh edition of the Young Critics Workshop at Film Fest Gent (October 13 to 24) 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.

Wiebe Copman

I am a Belgian graduate student at Columbia University. I write about documentary, experimental film, poetry, and food.

Cinephiliac Moment

The coffee cup cut from Robert Bresson’s L’Argent (1983).

Top three anticipated FFG Films

I look forward to rewatching Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, which I saw last year in New York. I rode my bike to Lincoln Center despite a light drizzle that evening. Halfway there it started to pour, and I was completely drenched by the time I arrived. I decided it really would be too inconsiderate to take off my wet shoes once I sat down in the cinema, but the dampness eventually contributed to an enriching, multi-sensory experience of the film. Ghent is usually quite wet in October, so I will come prepared and bring an extra pair of socks.

I am happy to see Hong Sang-soo’s The Woman Who Ran on the schedule. During my year studying music in Brussels, I wasn’t practicing so much as running off to the CINEMATEK at every opportunity. My then-roommate and I went on-and-off to screenings at Hong’s retrospective, occasionally on our own but most often together. We became best friends. Hong’s cinema is intertwined with that period of my life, echoing in some sense its emotional implosions of the variational rhythms of the everyday. I haven’t seen any of his new films after the retrospective, so I’m excited to tap back into his work.

I have to include Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (1968). My days of early music at the conservatory might be over, but I am still a fiend of historical performance practice and its anti-romanticist methodology; the early music scene is one of radical aesthetic and political reinterpretation, working off of historical research to inform musical choices as well as busting enduring myths of musicianship. I imagine a collaboration between Straub, Huillet and period music pioneer Gustav Leonhardt to be the culmination of two complementary artistic practicesall I’d ever wish for.

Stefan Goncharov

I am from Sofia, Bulgaria. My academic background is in Scandinavian studies and at the moment I am doing my MA in Cultural studies and Contemporary art. As a film critic I have written articles for several Bulgarian outlets throughout the years and have had the pleasure to cover several big festivals like Berlinale and Festival de Cannes. I am also a poet with two published poetry collections under his belt.

Cinephiliac Moment

The sequence in Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg (2007) where the narrator/director recounts the story of how eleven race horses got frozen in a river with their heads bulging above the ice, thus becoming a local winter attraction where lovers go to “spoon beneath the moonlit dome” of Winnipeg. The story is a great example of Maddin’s knack for creating poignant myths drenched in modernist nostalgia and black humor. For me the arresting imagery of the horses frozen in time works on two levels. On the one hand, there’s what we see above the ice—their contorted quasi-expressions and the inhuman gaze of death made flesh. At the very end of the sequence the camera even zooms in on one of the horses’ eyes diving straight into the heart of darkness where Eros and Thanatos are mysteriously intertwined. On the other hand, there’s what we don’t see—the animal’s torsos forever “galloping in place” beneath the ice like distant echoes of Muybridge’s legendary photographs. These horses’ everlasting race towards death perfectly conveys Maddin’s ironic and obsessive nostalgia for the interwar period when all the different ‘-isms’ where at their peak and technological progress went hand in hand with modernism’s naive but powerful utopian thinking. It’s also interesting to note that the frozen horses in the story are eleven while the twelfth photo in Muybridge’s sequence is the only one that shows the horse resting. In other words, Maddin has rejected the possibility of rest, maintaining that cinema is death in motion.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • Vitalina Varela by Pedro Costa
  • Servants by Ivan Ostrochovsky
  • I Was at Home, But… by Angela Schanelec

Joseph Owen

I am currently writing up my doctoral thesis on Carl Schmitt, literary modernism and sovereignty at University of Southampton while teaching undergraduates about power and ethics before Machiavelli. I’m UK-based and have worked as a journalist at international film festivals since 2016. The first film I saw at a festival was Woody Allen’s Café Society (2016) in Cannes; the most recent was Lav Diaz’s Lahi, Hayop (2020) in my living room. I have written several hundred first-look reviews in the interim.

Cinephiliac Moment

To rehearse something I’ve written for MUBI Notebook, I particularly like the shot of an employee polishing the floor in Frederick Wiseman’s 2014 film National Gallery. Not only does it function as Wiseman’s cinematic signature and illustrate his eye for ironic detail, the image encapsulates his acute and sometimes misunderstood editing process, bringing into relief the montage of exalted artworks which preceded it.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

  • Nomadland by Chloé Zhao
  • There Is No Evil by Mohammad Rasoulof
  • Undine by Christian Petzold

Camilla Peeters

I am an MA student in theatre and film at the University of Antwerp. This is the second time I am participating in a Young Critics workshop, which I am very excited about, because the first one (at the MOOOV film festival, Bruges, 2018) was the singular event that made me start writing critically—on film—in the first place. Since then I have written at a range of different workshops in different places. Since last year, a very precious year that I spent in Berlin, I have started writing pieces on music as well. I like fringe film, cult/horror film, charged film. And the things in between, if the feeling is right.

Cinephiliac Moment

If I had to choose an all-time favorite ‘cinephiliac’ moment, it would have to be the enchanting moving image in Chris Marker’s otherwise ‘motionless’ La Jetée (1962). I still have not been able to put into words just what it makes me feel.

If I had to choose a recent favorite moment, it would have to be the monumental work Love is the Message, the Message is Death (2017) by Arthur Jafa. It is the most charged piece of art I have recently had the opportunity to watch.

Top Three Anticipated FFG Films

First, Maria Clara Escobar’s Desterro. Second, Tsai Ming-liang’s Rizi. Third, The Fall by Jonathan Glazer. Since I have already seen the third pick, I will add a fourth one: Servants by Ivan Ostrochovsky.

Kathy Vanhout 

I just finished my Masters in theater and film studies at the University of Antwerp and am currently studying philosophy whilst preparing a PhD-proposal around the notions of tragedy and figura in the cinema of Werner Schroeter (wish me luck). I am a sucker for beautiful shot compositions, lyrical dialogue and films that show a visible understanding of textures and materiality. My heart also goes out to les beaux arts and music, which—when all is well—are also readily available in good cinema.

Cinephiliac Moment

What hit me right in my cinephiliac core when I saw it for the first time, was Gena Rowlands blowing raspberries and throwing back her thumb in John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (1974). Any theater stage would be too big, any photograph would be too still to capture this gesture—it solemnly and solely fits the silver screen.

Top three anticipated FFG Films

Among many others, three movies I certainly look forward to seeing at Film Fest Gent are Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, Tsai Ming-liang’s Rizi and Stories from the Chestnut Woods by Gregor Bozic.