Last year at the Venice Film Festival, legendary movie critic,
, who is all of 84 years old, told this writer that it was ridiculous that the newspaper he worked for then was asking him to file a 300-word review of a movie within 20 minutes of the credits rolling in! He said other critics from major newspapers were also being asked to file 200 words of 'their first impressions' of a film within 10 minutes of the curtain coming down. The result is not hard to guess. The reviews are often inaccurate and sans a sense of balance. After all in such a mad race, where is the time to check facts or present a valued judgment.
This is exactly the concern that the chief of the recently-concluded Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Fremaux, voiced the other day during an interview with the French cinema industry journal, Le Film Francais. He lamented the fact that this year's 68th edition of the Festival was adversely impacted by social networks.
“It was the first real ‘Twitter festival’ where everyone decided to say whatever happened to pass through their heads,” Fremaux regretted.“This created a permanent race against the clock between journalists and amateur neo-critics. Writing a review is about formulating and putting down a thought, and can’t be summarised in 140 characters written as soon as the credits have stopped rolling. In Cannes, I am not sure the social networks did any good for the general spirit.”
In even more harsher words, he quipped that the degree of fantasy which Cannes aroused was not a licence to write any old thing.
Frémaux’s comments echoed what the new President of the Festival, Pierre Lescure, had told the media a few days earlier. He was angry with journalists who were freely tweeting during Press screenings -- which was distracting, to say the least. This was highly annoying in a Festival which had for many, many years been able to maintain etiquette and respect for public space.
Lescure said that this need to accelerate and for instantaneity led to hasty judgments, and such erring on the part of critics was doing no good to the media they were representing.
The Festival, according to a study just released by the social media analysis firm, Way to Blue, attracted one million mentions -- with movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Carol and The Lobster garnering most of the hits.
Sadly, the Festival's ban on selfies on the Red Carpet this year did not quite succeed -- with even some of the top actors and directors allowing themselves to be photographed in this manner. The question now is, will the Festival ban Twittering during screenings next year. This will be most welcome, but, like many other aspects, this too is easier said than done.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 26 years, and since those times when texting, Twittering and instant reviews were virtually unknown.)
Read: Cannes Diary 2015: Not only about films, much talk on rights too