Friday, March 24, 2023


Mehrere Wochen lang er da und ich habe ihm ein- bis zweimal die Woche einen Besuch abgestattet: einem einsamen Gegenstandpunkt in der Würzburger Bahnhofsbuchhandlung. Nicht, dass ich je in die Versuchung kommen würde, das Heft zu kaufen, aber der Gedanke hat doch etwas Tröstliches: er hält durch, der Gegenstandpunkt. Zwischen zwei Merkurs und vier Tumulten liegt eine Zeitschrift, deren Titel auch an jedem einzelnen anderen Ort der Bahnhofsbuchhandlung seine Rechtfertigung hätte. Vermutlich sogar an jedem einzelnen Ort am Würzburger Hauptbahnhof. Einen Gegenstandpunkt braucht es immer und überall, auch zwischen Brat- und Currywurst.

Das "Politik und Gesellschaft"-Regal der Bahnhofsbuchhandlung befand sich bis letzte Woche hinter einer Säule, einer die Bahnhofshalle tragenden vermutlich, denn eine schmückende kann es nicht sein. Um sie herum hatten die Ladeninhaber Regale trapiert, in denen Handschuhe, Schals und Ähnliches zum Kauf angeboten wurden. Halb verborgen und von den wenigen Interessenten, denen die Säule dann auch noch den direkten Zugriff verwehrte, in Unordnung gebracht, erschien mir die Auslage wie der Katzentisch des Ladens, als tragikomische Rahmung des gesteigerten Mitteilungsbedürnisses der hier ausgelegten Zeitschriften. Die ja nicht über die neue Produktreihe der Firma Audi oder Erdbeerkuchenrezepte Auskunft zu erteilen meinen, sondern zum Beispiel über den Krieg in der Ukraine. Einmal lag, das brachte mich fast zum lachen, die Sitzmatte "Krabbelkäfer" über der unteren Reihe der Auslage. Direkt vor, natürlich, dem Gegenstandpunkt.

Dieser Woche wurde die gesamte Auslage umgeräumt, "Politik und Gesellschaft" hat nun einen weithin sichtbaren Spitzenplatz, direkt neben den Getränken.

Sunday, March 05, 2023


I am not all that much invested in listmaking these days, but since this one special mega list only comes around once a decade ... here's my contribution to the 2022 Sight & Sound poll:

1. Johnny Flash (Werner Nekes, 1987)

2. Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995)

3. Sylvie (Klaus Lemke, 1973)

4. The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch, 1931)

5. A Moment of Romance (Benny Chan, 1990)

6. Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 1968)

7. She Was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1955)

8. History is Made at Night (Frank Borzage, 1937)

9. Vanessa (Hubert Frank, 1977)

10. Lac aux dames (Marc Allégret, 1934)

I was not part of the 2012 poll. The one time I compiled a similar list was a bit earlier, in 2011, for the by now defunct German film magazine Splatting image. This was my selection back then:

1. An Inn in Tokyo (Yasujiro Ozu, 1935)

2. Cheyenne Autumn (John Ford, 1964)

3. Europa ‘51 (Roberto Rossellini, 1952)

4. A Time to Live and a Time to Die (Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1985)

5. Death in the Land of the Encantos (Lav Diaz, 2007)

6. Obsession (Brian de Palma, 1976)

7. Orapronobis - Fight for us (Lino Brocka, 1989)

8. Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)

9. Utopia (Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1983)

10. I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)

There obviously is zero overlap, not even in terms of directors (the only one of the older list I seriously considered for the new one was Lav Diaz, with Evolution of a Filipino Family this time). One might even ask if these lists were compiled by the same person. And yet, I still adore all 10 films I chose in 2011. (The only one I'm not 100% sure about anymore is EUROPA '51 - I clearly would go with a different Rossellini today; with a different de Palma too, to be sure).

So what happened? It certainly is true that to me "dark, devastating masterpieces" lost a bit of their appeal somewhere along the way, while what I might tentatively call the erotics of cinema and also the surfaces of pop filmmaking gained in importance. That's just what happened, I do not have any more thoughts about it right now. Also I'm afraid my taste for the ornamental often gets the better of me these days, because the 2022 selection had a lot to do with choosing ten film titles (rather than just ten films) that sound well together.

In fact, now that I read it again: a beautiful feature of my list is that the combination of almost any two titles promises an even better picture than the ones already on the list: "Johnny Flash - History Is Made at Night", "Danger: Diabolik. Lac aux dames" or "The Smiling Lieutenant in: A Moment of Romance" - who would not want to watch films like these?

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Blessing and curse

Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

11 Post-Cinephile Cinephilia

Auteurist obscurantist. Decentered version of Cinephage Cinephilia: In theory interested in everything, in practice mostly focussing on more recent popular cinema, especially disreputable forms. Not quite as adventurous when it comes to older and less approachable forms. Only type except Cinephage Cinephilia to consider pornography and non-Hollywood mainstream comedy, only type to celebrate those. Asymmetrical investment as a feature rather than a bug, film history no longer something in need of proper "representation", but rather a playground meant to be built and rebuilt at will. Invested in polemics of the "our cinema vs their cinema" type, but in principle everything can be salvaged.

Tends to build its own institutions, level of organisation usually low, though. At times approaching self-sufficiency, probably not as stable as Movie Nerd Cinephilia, though. Does make inroads into bigger institutions here and there.

Mostly enthusiasts, some spillover into journalism, less so into academia. Anti-woke sentiment present to limited degree, political alignment generally not a major factor though empirically mostly to the left.

Only true heir of MacMahonism. Also rooted in smaller, for example punkish strands of off cinephilia.

Writing tends to be free-form, sporadic and small scale, though huge singular efforts also are part of it. Most of it never leaves social media. Stylistic idiosyncracies as blessing and curse. Best when using freedom to draw from multiple, at times conflicting sources, worst when taken over by inner troll. Sometimes in dire need of copy editing. Only type to seriously challenge reality principle.

End of typology.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

No further institutionalization

Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

10 Troll Cinephilia

Obscurantist-topical. Again, I do not know much about it, a weird bunch and often borderline incomprehensible lingo. Can encompass all types of film but mostly centered around Hollywood blockbusters, horror and a few choice name auteurs. Big subtype centered around anime. Polemical in nature, though polemics mostly not of "our cinema vs their cinema" type. Focused on idpol / culture wars topics instead. Shading off into generalized fandom of the youtube kind.

Strictly social media centered, no further institutionalization existing or to be expected.

Mostly enthusiasts and bots, maybe a few frustrated film studies majors, too. Only type with major right-wing (especially alt-right) participation. Biggest cluster probably still tankie left.

Roots in stoner humor tradition, student papers etc.

Not much writing in the stict sense of the word. Shitposting and memes and social media wars. Films / aesthetics weaponized as talking points, no further consideration especially of contextual factors. Some level of originality present though most of it getting lost in noise.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Non-intuitive embrace

Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

9 Vulgar Auteurism Cinephilia (minor type)

Auteurist-genre-centered. Discourse limited to a small number of euvres related to American post New Hollywood action filmmaking. Links to more expansive canon and wider aesthetic concerns are acknowledged yet seldomly followed up on. "Our cinema vs their cinema" is important although scope and identity of "their cinema" are subject to change. Clear preference for formalism if of limited scope, often expressed as fetishization of craft.

Never had much institutional backing. Might not even exist anymore outside of more localized auteurist fandoms. Rise and fall probably related to early social media adaptation.

Mostly enthusiasts, with some (including biographical) spill-over into academia and maybe film schools. No clear political alignment. Rejection of some leftist orthodoxies, yet most practitioners empirically still solidly left-wing.

Roots in classic auteurism/MacMahonism and also in tech-centered fandom.

Writing free-form, sometimes borderline experimental. Biggest limiting factor is scope of discourse, another one buying into one's own bullshit regarding self-produced orthodoxies. Best when combining analytic approach with phenomenological pov in non-intuitive embrace of cinematic surface pleasures. One of few types able to sometimes move beyond reality principle.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Natural outgrowth

Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

8 Festival Jetset Cinephilia (minor type)

Auteurist-topical. Centered almost exclusively around new releases by name auteurs or emerging arthaus trends. Fixation on most recent releases, no interest in film history beyond a generalized affirmation of the canon, with a few reservation about inclusivity mixed in in recent years. General preference for realism and alignment of form and content, which also includes shocking content presented shockingly. Disinterested in yet moderately tolerant of formalism. Rejection of mainstream important for self-image, yet almost every mainstream formula can be integrated into own agenda almost without modifications.

Natural outgrowth of institutional cinephilia, especially festival scene. Would not exist without institutions, has to exist because institutions continue to exist. Some shading off into extra-institutional space of generalized arthouse audiences, yet those for the most part do not share the same lingo. preferences etc.

Mostly journalists, festival programmers and similar types. Some enthusiasts participate on the margins.

Roots mainly in mainstream cultural journalism. No fixed political alignment aside from leftist liberal proclivity of cultural scene.

Writing tends to rely heavily on platitudes and received wisdom. For the most part seen as an afterthought and possibility for brand building - see manic text production during festivals vs not much follow-up afterwards. Some good matter-of-fact-criticism still exists, especially in trades.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Remnants may remain

Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

7 Avant-garde Cinephilia

Elitist-obscurantist, some auteurism of the hero worship kind present. Don't know much about them, a weird bunch. Self-selecting scene centered around self-selecting body of work. Centered around set of aesthetic choices, yet no fixed aesthetic canon. Opposition to narrative cinema and "middle" realism important anchors, yet even those might not always hold. Probably mostly defined by culture / self-image rather than aesthetic preferences. "Our cinema vs their cinema" basis of discourse, yet almost no interest in the particularities of "their cinema" beyond the broadest of generalizations.

Partly self-sufficient, yet also existing at periphery of larger institutions. No interest in moving to the center, tendency towards self-isolation.

Mostly practitioners, enthusiasts and a few academics. Political alignment might differ along sub-types, though mostly to the left, often hard-left.

Roots in 60s/70s sub-culture / radical politics mostly cut, yet remnants may remain, especially in sub-types focusing on identity politics issues.

Writing tends to be free-form and hermetic. Often somewhat gossip-centered, too, which mostly is a plus. Best when influenced by phenomenological traditions, worst when falling prey to its own messianic tendencies. Only type interested in film as material object. Not really welcoming to newcomers / visiting outsiders.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Alignment does matter

Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

6 Cinephage Cinephilia

Obscurantist-auteurist leaning, yet open to any approach. Refusal to pre-order cinema according to other than highly personal criteria. Main goal generalized knowledge of everything about cinema, implicit bias for periphery rather than center. Often subscribes to "Maverick" narratives, yet "individual expression" just one entryway into films among many. Context (mode of production, sociological) often takes center stage. Cinephilia itself as a practice of mapping. Polemical edge targeting middlebrow favorites present though not a main objective.


Exists at the periphery of institutions. Can neither move towards the center nor disentangle completely, because dependend on (yet also providing) resources.

Olaf Möller probably only true practitioner. Less radical examples (this is a mapping of types of cinephilia, not of cinephiles) among enthusiasts, journalists and academia. Political alignment does matter and is probably almost always to the left.

Grew out of rats of the cinematheque type of cinephilia.

Writing tends to be free-form and individualistic. Strength: multi-directional approach, surprising insights from off-beat angles. Limiations: Sometimes tendency to get "lost in context", not necessarily all that interested in inner workings of formalist aesthetics.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Afterthoughts at best

Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

5 Radical Cinephilia

Elitist-activist. Mostly mode-of-production-centered, increasingly suspicious about formalism. Film considered as vessel for and actor in radical politics. Canons of both political issues and films considered as relevant more expansive yet also more specialized than in the case of Social Justice Cinephilia. Political canon mostly boils down to center vs periphery issues and identity politics. "Our cinema vs. their cinema" still main motivational factor, though "their cinema" is more often ignored rather than truly engaged with. Conformity with established rhetorics of radicalism and academic buzzwords de facto acts as gatekeeper, so movements outside of its scope like Nollywood are afterthoughts at best.

Most critical of institutions yet most dependend on them. Institutionalized mostly in academics but making inroads into cinematheques, archives etc. Probably this type's biggest blind spot / paradoxy: depends on self-description as periphery / fringe / subject to suppression, yet in reality already a dominant mode at least in academia. Very good at institutional and discoursive power play.

Almost exclusively academics, almost exclusively hard-left.

Heir of 1970s hard-left cinephilia, Screen theory school etc. A more interesting wing of non-academic radicals centered around worship of euvre's like Straub's did exist and still does in diminished form.


Writing at its best centering on historiography in fields Film History Nerd Cinephilia would not touch, including works branching out into other arts, at its worst trenched in jargon and citations of ever-same intellectual heroes, approaching automated writing. Some intellectual curiosity present, yet always channeled in similar ways.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Often fearful

 Mapping of a Medium in Decline

Types of Cinephilia

4 Film History Nerd Cinephilia

Auteurist-genre-centered (older generation), genre-mode-of-production-centered (younger generation). Used to be the default mode of any serious engagement with moving images, "film history" as prime term of reference, subscribes to the notion of a fixed canon + various extensions. Was always more interested in production and cultural context than auteurist-modernist types, more recent practitioners distance themselves even further from primacy of individual impression. Identification with cinema as a whole, not parts of it. Center vs periphery bias often, yet not always implicit.

Still dominant in most cinematheques and similar insitutions of a more traditional type. Discourse not necessarily tied to institutions. The more populist wing used to be self-sufficient (see commercial players like Criterion Collection, TCM etc), probably increasingly less so.

Used to be mostly enthusiasts and journalists, now mostly academics and a few choice enthusiasts. Some anti-woke sentiment present, especially in older generation, yet mostly bubbling under the surface. General political alignment same as mainstream academia (liberal, left).

Heir of classic auteurism and generalized film enthusiasm of the rats of the cinematheque type.

Source of the majority of worthy historiography and probably scholarly literature in general in the field. Writing mostly integrated in conventions of contemporary academia, yet less annoyingly so than in some quarters (see: Radical Cinephilia). Often fearful of intellectual and stylistic experiments of any kind. Mostly adverse to the kind of polemics classic auteurists cultivated.