For Critic’s Notebook I watched Ben Wheatley’s new film Free Fire, and once again was left trying to work out whether the problem is him or me.
I reviewed Confusion and Carnage, Adam Nayman’s new book about Wheatley, in the May issue of Sight & Sound and looked for some answers in there too. But the book has a fan’s certainty and doesn’t set out to convince doubters.
Back when criticism could still be called niche employment, David Bordwell called for less interpretation and more poetics in film criticism, on the grounds that “interpretation has become easy, but analysis is still hard.” He had enough solid reasons to be going on with in 1989, although couldn’t foresee the one that’s become most pressing right now. When expertise is mistrusted and the voice of authority has become more of a death rattle, ceaseless interpretation of every raised eyebrow and rainbow is just a really bad way to change anyone’s mind about anything.
A rhetoric of musts and onlys, of always alreadys, of dangers and complicities portrays the writer as one guided by certainties.
– Dr Bordwell, fortune teller.