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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

The first impulse of any good film critic must be of love.

The cinema/love love/love letter the late Alexis Tioseco wrote to his partner Nika Bohinc in 2008 is quietly impassioned. The original website is down today; these excerpts from the first of three pages come from the Google cache for “The Letter I Would Love To Read To You In Person.” “My Dear Nika, I’ve been asked to write a column for this issue of Rogue, and the topic given to me was myself. I’ve always felt it awkward to write in public spaces about personal motivations behind the work I choose to do, so I have decided to use you as an excuse: there are things that you must know, that you may sense but not understand unless I tell you, and so I shall use this opportunity to put them on paper. Besides, how could I say no to this offer when just the other day you recalled how an essay that was written by the solicitor of this column—in a previous incarnation of this magazine—played a central role in our being together? One must pay back one’s debts…
When we met in Rotterdam last January there was something about you that struck me immediately. It was not your beauty, or rather, not just your beauty, but your manner of speaking: which now sixteen months later still demands so much of me. There is a precious intensity in your gestures, the way in which your eyes dart and hands reach out to grab the right word, that illustrates how strong a desire you have to communicate, especially when the conversation turns toward the things that matter to you—the integrity of your work, the importance of nature, the concern for your brother. (I know what you’re thinking—shut up! I’m not a native speaker!—but this isn’t a question of familiarity with language.) …
I wasn’t in a very good place the months before we met, reckless and hurried in my interactions with new acquaintances, but in Rotterdam it was hard not to fight for clarity and calm when the person before you, beleaguered and weary as they were, would still refuse to let their words slip carelessly… I know sometimes you may think that it was the fact that we worked in the same field that attracted me to you, but I must tell you that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Why? Because one of the greatest joys I believe one can feel is to share that which they find beautiful with someone who otherwise wouldn’t have noticed it, and to see it appreciated. This is the main reason why I love teaching and why I refuse to show Lord of the Rings to my students (no matter how fervently my co-teachers insist). It is also the evidence that cinema isn’t what brings us nearer to each other: because in this regard, we are on equal footing, and I must instead find other things in me to share with you. For anyone who knows me, they know how difficult that is… Does a place mean more than a person? Does my work in the Philippines mean more than the possibility of a life with you, somewhere, anywhere else? …
“I never wanted to be a film critic. To this day I abhor using the term for myself, but I’ve begun to do so regularly, just because it makes life easier. Many filmmakers, especially filmmakers in the Philippines, have a problem with the word critic. We have little to no culture of healthy polemics in the country, as any attempt to consider fault is taken as a personal attack. Rare are those that are able to deal with it properly. One particular filmmaker took objection to the idea of a publication that I was to edit using the title “Criticine”: he had a problem with the word critic being included. A nasty term, I suppose he thought. The first impulse of any good film critic, and to this I think you would agree, must be of love. To be moved enough to want to share their affection for a particular work or to relate their experience so that others may be curious. This is why criticism, teaching, and curating or programming, in an ideal sense, must all go hand in hand.” There’s more at the cache link; the original link is here. Here’s Tioseco’s blog: final entry August 29. Another friend, Francis Cruz, remembers his Alexis.

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster