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Film Criticism; a Pure Form of Art?

A reflection on Jean-Michel Frodon’s masterclass.

Much like any other art form, the artist recognise for whom the audience for their art is for and also need to recognise if changes need to be made to cater to that specific audience. The art of film criticism is very much the same. One must know who and what they are writing for in order to adapt their writing style to produce the best possible “art” and this is one of Jean-Michel Frodon’s key ideologies when it comes to the realm of film criticism.

Jean-Michel Frodeon masterclass at the French Institute, Athens

During the 4th altcineAction festival, renowned French film critic Jean-Michel Frodon shared with us his wisdoms and philosophies on film criticism. One of philosophies that Frodon shared with us, is that film criticism should be treated as a pure art form; be it an art form that breeds from the life of other primary art form. Frodon argues that despite being secondary, vampire art form, criticism should be treated the same as more recognised art from such as film and literature. The age old question in the realm of film criticism is; are we writing for those who have seen the film or those who have not seen the film? The answer is both, however, if it is true that we write also for those who have not seen the film, then the writing itself stands as the primary and pure art form. He also discusses that film criticism is in fact a work of literature, though some may argue that it is minor literature. Nevertheless, no matter how much of minor form of it, it is, if literature is classed as an art from then why can’t film criticism?

In order for film criticism to elevate itself to status of “art-form”, the critic needs to know for what and for whom they are writing for. Back when criticism was purely print-based, the main priority for a critic would be to recognise who would be reading the critique and what publication would it be for; is it a for a teen girl magazine, a general populous newspaper or a magazines for cinephiles. All different types of publications require a different style of writing, and a very different writer’s voice in order to cater to the readers of said publication. However, with the rise of the internet, and online based publications, the critic must now adapt even more and also now must consider all the different platforms when writing a critique, as well as audiences. If a critic manages to master this, then they are aiding the progression of criticism becoming recognised as art.

Frodon also recognises that there is a problem that is enabling film criticism becoming an art form, and this is what he calls the four “bad masters” of film criticism. The merchants who are using criticism as an advertising business, criticism acting as a consumer guide, journalists who take a fact over opinion approach and the professor who focuses too much on analysis. Frodon believes that these four “bad masters” are using criticism for purposes other than the pure and for film criticism to be fully considered a work of art, the criticism must be pure,