Over the weekend, Madonna brought her documentary on Malawian orphans, “I Am Because We Are,” to Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival. While there, the pop icon offered her unique take on the film festival circuit. From the AP: ” ‘It’s great bringing my movie to a place that I feel familiar,’ Madonna told the audience. ‘Not like the Cannes Film Festival, where nobody’s speaking English, or the Tribeca Film Festival, where no one sits down.’ “
I’ve been a sometimes reluctant attendant of Tribeca for a few years now, and never noticed anything along the lines of that enigmatic observation, but it makes a sort of sense — does the mere logline of a Malawian orphan documentary narrated by Madonna tell you all you need to know about the film, rendering an actual screening unnecessary, or at least less important than glad-handing with other audience members? Is that what film festivals in the future will be like?
Over at this blog, David Bordwell documents a different kind of moviegoing culture, reflecting on what it means to be a cinephile.
The real crux, I think, is this. The cinephile loves the idea of film. That means loving not only its accomplishments but its potential, its promise and prospects. It’s as if individual films, delectable and overpowering as they can be, are but glimpses of something far grander. That distant horizon, impossible to describe fully, is Cinema, and it is this art form, or medium, that is the ultimate object of devotion.
This leads into a look at the social games cinephiles play:
Competitive games: Upsmanship
Jules and Jim leave a screening.
Jules: I loved it. What did you think?
Jim: Well. . . Have you seen earlier films by H*ng S*ng-s**?
This is an opening gambit. If Jules says no, then Jim can say something like: It’s really one of his weaker movies or His films get worse and worse. Now Jules would be playing defense, on unfriendly terrain. If he hasn’t seen the other films, the comparison-strategy will be his undoing. So:
Jules: Yeah, I’ve seen all of them. I thought that this was a strong one.
Now Jim can fight to at least a draw. Maybe Jules was bluffing and hasn’t seen all the films; or maybe Jim remembers them better.
Jules has used what we can call the breadth strategy: I’ve seen more than you. This need not bear only on other films; it can work along other dimensions.
[Photo: “I Am Because We Are,” Sundance Channel, 2008]
+ Madonna returns to Michigan roots to show her film (AP)
+ Games cinephiles play (DavidBordwell.com)