Wider screen

Andrei Kartashov

While some insist these days that film criticism is dying, others argue that we're, in fact, facing its golden age. I'm not sure that we should necessarily adhere to any of the two extreme opinions; however, if I have to choose which point seems truer, I'll vote for the latter.

I am a child of the digital age – my first steps into cinephilia were in 35mm at theatres and VHS at home, but the decisive years came with DVDs and digital projection. Quite symbolically, I've never published anything on paper. Quite typically for a Russian critic of my generation, I am self-taught – the availability of film classics that came with home video compensates the scarcity and generally low quality of film study programmes in universities of my country. Another typical thing – I have no preference to domestic films over foreign. Russian cinephiles and critics had been waiting for a generation of strong local filmmakers before giving up hope – now we are content with what we have, which isn’t much; a nouvelle vague russe never happened, though its advent was hastily declared several times. In the digital age we can afford to be cosmopolitan.

Perhaps it is because I belong to this age that I find it ideal for the career I chose for myself. Criticism is a natural extension of cinephilia: for all cinephiles whom I know (and I know many) it’s extremely important to create and share their own canons. And this time’s diversity needs canons to be created – as Jonathan Rosenbaum shrewdly envisioned as early as 1995, in his book Essential Cinema. Back in the day options for film viewers and critics were limited even in global cultural centres, let alone small towns or any places where harsh censorship policies were enforced – such as Russia. Even in Paris the writers of Cahiers du cinéma's glorious nouvelle vague generation were dependent on the repertory of La Cinématheque française. Who knows which directors would be regarded as top classics now if La Cinématheque hadn’t had any copies of Hawks' movies back in the fifties? Possibilities have grown wider along with movie screens, and now, with a much bigger picture available to us, it’s way easier to discover a new Hawks – either among our contemporaries or in the history of cinema.

For those who have the ambition and the aptitude for discovery, it is, indeed, the golden age.