Maria De Medeiros' docu "Je t'aime ... moi non plus," sprinkles directors among a who's who of contempo crix to deliver a discussion of the hows and whys of movie criticism. Shot during the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and premiered in the market there this year, Medeiros' adroit, if admittedly specialized attraction will be of chief interest to cinephile crowds, portending a long life on the fest and cinematheque circuits.
Maria De Medeiros’ docu “Je t’aime … moi non plus,” sprinkles notable directors among a who’s who of contempo crix (including Variety reviewers Todd McCarthy and Lisa Nesselson) to deliver an oft-illuminating discussion of the hows and whys of movie criticism. Shot during the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and premiered in the market there this year, Medeiros’ adroit, if admittedly specialized attraction will be of chief interest to cinephile crowds, portending a long life on the fest and cinematheque circuits.Best known in America as the petite, round-faced star of such films as “Henry & June” and “Pulp Fiction,” the Portuguese-born Medeiros has previously directed one feature (“April Captains,” which screened in the Cannes official selection in 2000) and a couple of shorts. “Je t’aime…” reps her first foray into documaking and, as its playful, Serge Gainsbourg-derived title suggests, it’s less an academic investigation into critical ethos than an x-ray of the love-hate dynamic between artmakers and tastemakers. Scottish director Ken Loach, for instance, analogizes the filmmaker-critic pairing as “the relationship between a lamppost and a dog. It is, as Medeiros sees it, the story of a grand and turbulent romance, full of dramatic peaks and valleys. (As such, pic is divided into chapters headed by such provocative, Pauline Kael-esque titles as “Foreplay,” “Apres L’amour” and “The Caress and the Dagger.”) Medeiros (conducting interviews comfortably in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese) excels at getting critics to speak openly about a profession that is often shrouded in an air of members-only clubbiness, resulting in the airing of more than a few closely guarded trade secrets. To wit: The odd physical and psychological effects of seeing movies at film festivals, where the combination of odd screening times and sleep deprivation can result in abnormal critic behavior — including falling asleep during movies and even “remembering” scenes from a given film that don’t actually exist. The relative dearth of female film critics is pondered too, along with the attempts by some reviewers to influence others’ opinions during post-screening powwows. At the same time, Medeiros allows filmmakers themselves to weigh in on what critics and reviews do or don’t mean to them and their films. Putting things most eloquently, Palestinian helmer Elia Suleiman posits that a good critic can become, in effect, the “second writer” of a film, translating meanings and metaphors that may not even be entirely clear to the filmmaker himself. Atom Egoyan humorously recounts the ways in which an appreciative critic can lead an impressionable young director to believe that a single review might change the course of his career. And before long, the inimitable Pedro Almodovar pops up to state the obvious: that many critics are themselves failed or frustrated filmmakers. After all, he suggests, no child says, “I want to be a film critic when I grow up.” In the department of critic-filmmaker contretemps, the prize for best war story goes to the late “Evening Standard” critic Alexander Walker who, speaking in elegantly Irish-accented French, recounts being scolded and then slapped in the face by Ken Russell — on live television. Elsewhere, the ever-quotable Walker, commenting on his habit of never walking out of movies before they’re over, reasons “Like a prostitute, I never refuse a client.” Medeiros remains an alert and curious journalist throughout, with a knack for addressing some of the key issues facing the future of the craft — including the rapidly diminishing space afforded to serious critics (except for in France) — in newspapers and magazines the world over.