The Encyclopedia of Film Criticism: Michael Pattison

Michael Pattison
Just as the cinematic landscape as a whole is peppered too sporadically with outstanding works, so on a micro level, unremarkable films frustrate precisely because otherwise fine technical rendering is undone by an apparent unwillingness to confront prevailing political currents.

Contributed to: Sight & Sound, MUBI, Fandor, Grolsch Film Works, Jigsaw Lounge, IndieWire, Film Comment, Senses of Cinema, Slant Magazine, Eye For Film, Front Row Reviews, Permanent Plastic Helmet, The Big Picture, Beyond the Green Door, Festivalists, New Empress, So Film UK, de Filmkrant.

Noted Champion of: The Sopranos, Patrick Keiller, Story of My Death, Ken Loach, Russell Crowe, Alfred Hitchcock.

Influences: "My inner teenage completist-auteurist was influenced by annual Halliwell’s and Time Out Film Guides. I attribute much of my cultural taste and knowledge to the small message board community I hung out with between 2005-2010 (political sensibilities are definitely indebted to this period). I don’t read many critics. Nick James’s monthly editorials and Nick Roddick’s former ‘Mr. Busy’ column in Sight & Sound were influential for a number of years after I began reading that magazine in December 2004, aged 17."

The road to Gateshead-born Michael Pattison (October 12th, 1987-) publishing his first paid review for de Filmkrant in 2013 was long and storied. While in high school he co-founded an international online message board focused on politics and the arts (this would eventually become the foundation of idFilm, where Pattison collects his writing). From 2005-2009 his accolades are innumerable. In 2005 he's "awarded second prize in a writing competition that culminated in a published anthology of site-responsive prose." He was a member of the inaugural Northern Stars Filmmakers Academy, in Northeast England, where he began making films and playing many roles (writer, director, editor, actor). Directs and co-scripts Road which picks up a National Young Filmmaker’s Award at the Leeds Young People’s Film Festival. He graduates from the University of East Anglia, BA Honors in Film & English Studies. And during this time he never stops writing.

He writes prose, a dissertation on The Sopranos, is selected to be part of Words & Music Review, a music journalism initiative, and is President of the University of East Anglia Film Society for two years running, contributing regular reviews to the student newspaper. He begins contributing to Front Row Reviews before getting his MA in film at Newcastle University and just before moving into professional film journalism and reviewing writes a dissertation on Patrick Keiller’s Robinson Trilogy. Since his first review appeared in de Filmkrant, he's juried for and covered a dozen film festivals for various publications (first dispatched on behalf of Neil Young's Jigsaw Lounge), become a member of the Online Film Critics Society and FIPRESCI, has contributed to dozens of serious film journals, continued to make films, started programming for the Bradford International Film Festival and earned a regular column at Fandor's Keyframe. In other words he puts most of us to shame.

Pattison is a pragmatic stylist, someone who never flaunts his formidable intellect unnecessarily. Much of his writing, specifically his latest dispatches from the Rotterdam Film Festival for Mubi, contains the overwhelming sense that he not only hopes for the best from film artists, but will draw blood if necessary in defense of an ideal (and politically engaged) cinema. He holds everyone to a higher standard and believes that every gesture, articulation and decision can be the best imaginable. It's a genuinely exciting point of view and it makes his reviews all the more engaging.

On Classe Tous Risques:
Belmondo’s the kind of actor who imbues in his characters an inscrutable edge; as long as he’s in the scene, nought can go wrong. Classe tous risques was released the same year as Belmondo’s breakthrough, Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle, and while in that film he’s the happy-to-go-lucky, Bogey-admiring, footloose wanderer, here he’s a pro till the end. It’s somehow apt, then, that Classe tous risques fell into relative obscurity alongside its hipper, flashier counterpart. The nouvelle vague had fashion on its side. But this is the brawnier, burlier, bulkier and in some ways brainier film by far. 

On Bastards:

In Bastards, France is a top-to-bottom nightmare of all-consuming corruption. But its deeper, more troubling implication is not that big business is the bad guy, but that its position is enabled by more systemic evils. And just when you think you’ve dealt the beast a deathblow, the extent to which it has corrupted the innocent into aiding and abetting it is revealed. The lasting feeling here is one of absolute despair.

On Side Effects:

Following Contagion, Haywire and Magic Mike, Side Effects is apparently Steven Soderbergh's final feature as director - an announcement that has no-doubt overshadowed this intriguing and experimental work, as critics struggle to come to terms with what they'd like to be a kind of summary statement. But Soderbergh was set to do his own thing from the off, and the unfussy way in which he has gone about an experimental and prolific output for the past few years is something indeed to admire. Suffice to say, at a time of crisis with regard to the funding, distribution and exhibition of independent film, the apparent retirement of its one-time king says more than any film could. 

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