Rediscovering Cinephilia 2012

Do we really know what cinephilia is? Or is this a rhetorical question: cinephilia is the community of film enthusiasts that evolved after the Second World War, which had a premature debut in the twenties with Delluc and Epstein, was further developed by “Cahiers du Cinéma”, later branched out into various forms, and today oscillates between fanatical tendencies and a spirit of resistance. This definition would be acceptable if things had not changed so rapidly in recent years. The problematic aspect of cinephilia over the past two decades was that it gave the impression of being stuck in a nostalgia, both conservative and authoritarian, even when this was not the case at all. To the contrary, the development of new technologies (which according to some may have spelled the end of cinephilia) has allowed new formats and subjects to come to light that have revitalized the love of film. On the one hand, the spread of blogs and online platforms has eliminated perceived amateurism replacing it with an information culture, passionate encyclopedism, and remarkably high quality discussion. On the other hand, the traditional elements of cinephilia have embraced new media to revive the love of cinema in unexpected forms. A few examples: the increasingly accurate and impeccable digital re-mastering by the major film history labels, the digital restorations and subsequent 2K screenings in theaters of some of the most important film festivals (beginning with Il Cinema Ritrovato), the online sites of important film institutions, the web and blog presence of some of the main European and Anglo-American critics, and the birth of remarkable open access digital magazines dedicated to film studies. Thus, as film migrates from the theatre to new screens, there is an exciting and surprising cinephilia ‘in the movie theatre’ movement. This development is not based on a mistrust of all that is ‘new’, or on the so-called decline of the influence of film. On the contrary, it is based on a re-launching of cinephilia in new forms. The vitality of a new or (re)discovered cinephilia is possible also because its main advocates today are considerably younger than their counterparts in the past.
Il Cinema Ritrovato 2012 provides an initial investigation of this universe, with the aim of establishing a permanent center to review the ongoing transformations. These transformations appear to affect all aspects of filmmaking and conceptualizing. Just as recent technological evolutions have altered the very foundations of filmmaking, to the point where no new film is without myriad digital effects, the same evolutions have profoundly altered the ways movies are conceptualized and distributed. In other words: film culture. Everyone who works in the industry, or is associated in some way with cinephilia, is impacted by these momentous changes. Take film critics, for example. Their profession was seriously threatened by the spread of free reviews and other related resources on the web. Many, however, found new avenues online and are able to provide more in depth reviews than was previously possible. More generally, after years of persistent marginalization, the entire ‘film discussion’ sector, especially critics, have demonstrated that there is a large global public that wants to not only watch films, but also to listen to commentary and analysis of them. This flies in the face of claims by some over the ‘death of critics’. University professors have to contend with digitized social and mobile cinephilia in the age of YouTube, and to review their position vis-a-vis historiographic norms and the challenges posed by the new love of film. Festivals, an integral part of the revival of the cinephilia experience, are premised on the search for and selection of films in a global context where titles proliferate and grow every year. At the same time, specialized festivals structure interesting alliances among digital publishers, the web, and new audience communities. The role of the curator, able to deftly maneuver between film history, archives, and new technology, is increasingly present in professions linked to film events, from film libraries to preservation organizations. Self-taught and armed with entrepreneurial know-how, curators are able to offer content across the board to different customers. Producers of DVD, Blu-Ray and home video, besides offering high quality products and digital re-mastering of the classics, have multiplied their distribution channels thanks to the web. Nowadays it is possible to download or watch in streaming their most important films, often with the input of active users: a motivated and serious audience of cinephiles who in large part determine and affect the distribution choices of producers.
Furthermore, the main online platforms like IMDB or MUBI are essentially structured like social networks of cinephiles. In some cases, users are engaged as fact checkers for the encyclopedic data provided. Other times their passion for cinema brings them to discover and share previously unknown movies, independent filmmakers, rare pieces, becoming the primary alternative distribution channel for works that never make it to movie theaters.
The scenario is tumultuous. Film as a language and collective imagination is livelier than ever. A vibrant catalog for other nineteenth-century forms of expression such as modern art and live performance art, the historical legacy of film is in an excellent state of health. For this reason, the ‘cinephiles’ heaven’ must carefully analyze these phenomena and propose itself as a meeting point between classic and modern cinephilia, welcoming the main representatives from all the sectors of the film world for a preliminary and comprehensive review of the experience of cinephilia in the digital age.

(Roy Menarini)

Programme curated by Peter von Bagh, Gian Luca Farinelli, Roy Menarini e Guy Borlée