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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 1. March 4, 1953

Why I Write About Films — A Statement by Our Critic

Why I Write About Films

A Statement by Our Critic

I love going to the pictures, talking and arguing about pictures and writing about pictures. I am not a frustrated journalist on a daily newspaper pushed into the job of film critic by a desperate editor. I applied for this Salient position hoping to persuade its readers to the same enthusiasm that I have. I want people to think about the cinema, and at the same time get more enjoyment out of it. A cricket broadcast is more entertaining to those who know something of the game.

I want to get rid of this misconception; that films are merely Saturday night entertainments. Two types of students say that: Philistines and the offspring of picture-theatre managers. The offspring are probably suffering from a heriditary complaint so there's nothing much I can do about them. But I will warn the Philistines that I'm in for the attack.

My Approach to Film Criticism

I haven't written a script or directed a film, but I go to the pictures at least 60 times a year, listen to "Focus on films" once a week, read during the day at least two chapters on some aspect of film art and spend almost every lecture hour thinking about films. On Saturday night or Wednesday night I pay my 2/3 and sit in the stalls; not in the circle with the high-brows, or in the front row with the low-brows. After the coloured lights have disappeared from the screen. "I let the film wash over me." take the Kelburn cable car to Weir and then "examine the markings in the sand." I ask myself. "Have I been entertained.?" If so, how and why? in order of importance these are my main considerations.

(1)Have the script-writer and director shown subject-sympathy? Is their film truthful and sincere?
(2)Has the director used appropriate technical resources with taste and restraint? ("La Rondo" received full marks in this department.)
(3)Apart from technical considerations, have the actors keyed their performances to fit into the director's conceptions?

If I can give any type of film top grading for (1), (2), and (3) I call it "great." I haven't had to use that Word yet but I am still hoping.

Am I Wasting My Time?

I'm longing for an argument. If anyone thinks I am wasting my time, please write. But perhaps I'm expecting the impossible; anyone who thinks that systematic criticism is worthless, is hardly likely to be a leader in discussion either on paper or in the drawing room.