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October 1995, Week 5


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 25 Oct 1995 18:19:49 -0400
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This may seem like ancient history to all you Screen-Lers but allow me
to set the record straight pertaining to a posting from May of this
year.  Mikel Koven warned this newsgroup off of my Internet Cannes
coverage citing as proof of my incompetence an article published six
years ago.  He thoroughly misrepresented my words and, worse, ascribed to
me an empty-headedness that perhaps only he could relate to.  This is his
posting as taken from the SCREEN-L archives, Wed. 17 May 1995:
Warning: Denis Seguin is not exactly the most "reliable" source for
information regarding Cannes.  I know Seguin's work through the Toronto
publication (now defunct) Metropolis, and as a film journalist he leaves
much to be desired.  Two cases in point:
        1. In a full page review of Susan Seidelman's *She Devil*, Seguin
admits to walking out of the film halfway through, in the first
paragraph.  He then goes on for more than three cols of type on a film
which, by virtue of the fact that he left before the end, he is not
qualified to adjudicate.
        2. In an interview with director Denys Arcand (a man quite
devoted to keeping Quebecois culture alive), Seguin opens his interview
with: "I have a French name, but I don't speak French.  That's pretty
funny, eh?" Arcand replied that it was Seguin's loss that he could not
speak French (presumably spoken in Arcand's perfect English). Apart from
the insulting nature of Seguin's comment, much like saying to Spike Lee,
"you are the first African-American I've met that didn't own a gun," he
actually printed it, complete with Arcand's biting retort (which Seguin
was seemingly unaware of its tone).
        I'm not trying to do a character assassination on Mr. Seguin
(honestly, I've met him and he seems like a nice enough guy), but just
warning an academic audience that Seguin's observations on Cannes are
likely to be as informative as Rex Reed's.
        But, as they say, is only my opinion.
Mikel Koven
        Where to begin?
        There is a delicious irony in Koven's reference to me as "not
exactly the most *reliable* source" when it is he who is entirely
unreliable and indeed irresponsible in relying solely upon his flawed
memory to bolster his claim.
        The interview with Arcand was published in the 31 Aug. 1989 issue
of Metropolis, a defunct (Koven got that much right) Toronto weekly.
This is how it actually begins:
        "You must forgive me.  I have a French name but I cannot speak French."
        "You are already forgiven," says Denys Arcand.  A good start,
since we are about to discuss his new film, Jesus of Montreal, soon to be
a gala presentation at the Festival of Festivals.  If Arcand is feeling a
touch beatific, indulge him.  It seems that Fate or God has destined his
film to be...
        Regardless of the quality of the material it bears no resemblance
in word or tone to Koven's version.
        Koven proceeds to double his folly -- extrapolating from his
mistake to presume that Arcand was offended -- and then draws an absurd
parallel between this fictional exchange and a hypothetical exchange with
Spike Lee.  I should point out that Koven's parallel (worthless because
it has no basis in fact) stimulated a Screen-L exchange between Ulf
Dalhquist in Sweden and Lee Parpart in Toronto on whether this fictional
Arcand-Seguin exchange -- complete with "biting retort" -- was indicative
of the relationship between Anglo-Canada and Quebec.
        When I begged Arcand's forgiveness for my insufficiencies in
French I was aluding to the guilt I feel as a thoroughly Anglicized
Seguin, a guilt shared by many Canadians of French descent who grew up
outside of Quebec and are not fluent in French.  Arcand's response --
"you are already forgiven" -- struck me as an appropriate starting point
for an article about a film which takes as its basis the Passion of
Christ.  I also hasten to add that, in 1989, Arcand's English was not
"perfect" as Koven supposes; although it is now much improved.
        As for my review of She-Devil, I wrote it on the basis of 60
minutes viewing -- time enough to get the lay of the land or, if you
prefer, qualify to adjudicate.  I did not mention my departure in the
first paragraph as Koven says but did so only after boring (that was the
intent) the reader with the inanities of the film's first hour.  (I know
that crappy film is a favourite amongst "fabulist" scholars but that's
not my problem).  Elsewhere in the newsgroup, Koven points to Toronto's
John Harkness as an example of a good critic; he might be interested to
know that Harkness is famous for both abandoning films and announcing the
fact in his reviews.  Indeed, you might say I learned the trick from
        Koven rounds up his posting by explaining that "character
assassination on Mr. Seguin" is not his intention when in fact his
criticism is entirely ad hominem.  That patronizing bit about Koven's
having met me is particularly galling (note to Mike: I don't remember you
-- honestly).  The capper is his warning that my observations re: Cannes
would for "an academic audience" be as informative as those of Rex Reed.
        This is pure hubris.  Academic audiences have one thing in
common: a stringent regard for the facts.  Koven has no such regard.
        I do thank him, though, for reminding me of the Arcand interrview:
it was my first-ever cover story and it's quite good.  Pity Koven didn't
read it.
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