Stephanie Bunbury studied film the first year it was introduced at Monash University and has been writing about it ever since. She has written interviews with film-makers and analytical pieces for publications including Cinema Papers, Scripsi and Senses of Cinema, but for the last 20 years she has been writing on culture for Fairfax Media from Europe, attending several of the major European film festivals every year as a journalist and on a couple of occasions as a jury member.
Between festivals she can be found catching up with any films she has missed at the Prince Charles repertory cinema in London, because the big screen is always best.
City I call home: London
Type of cinema I am most passionate about:
Thoughtful, innovative, committed – whether it’s a 1920s silent comedy by Ernst Lubitsch or the last thing I saw, which happens to be the brilliantly realised Turkish film Mustang.
A film that changed me/my mind is:
Louis Malle’s Lacombe Lucien because, using the most delicate and least didactic narrative means (as I remember), it made comprehensible the lived experience of a fascist. But to be honest, out of tens of thousands of films I’ve seen, I’m unsure why I pick that one – it just jumped into my head. That idea of films changing you seems more like an ongoing process than a Road-to-Damascus, cataclysmic one-off experience.
Cinema excites me because:
It is a doorway into different ways of seeing, thinking and living in the world; you can either stand in the doorway and gaze at what you see or step right in.
My career highlight was when:
Hmm, difficult when you don’t really see yourself as having “a career” as such. Probably any time I got to do some prolonged thinking, which in recent years would include getting to grips with the Bond films. I have never enjoyed Bond, which actually made it more interesting.
The future of film criticism is:
Scary. Because the likelihood is a fracturing between extremely niche criticism catering to ever-smaller constituencies (including the academic) and online circles of film discussion that may be not much bigger than one-to-one – that’s on the one hand – and increasingly bland puff in what remains of mainstream media on the other. Which means that in the fairly near future, most people - because they are unlikely to have the time or sufficient interest to find those teeny-tiny circles of online discussion - may not get to see anything much beyond news of the next Marvel spectacle.
Film criticism is important because:
Film (by whatever delivery system) is a persuasive, fascinating, potentially enriching but, arguably, also potentially corrosive medium. If it simply rolls past undiscussed – or if the discussion is restricted to the kind of informative minutiae swapped on fan sites – the whole culture is impoverished. Critics are important not because they are always right. In fact, they would still be important even if they were NEVER right (whatever “right” might mean in this context) because they bring a concentrated scrutiny and (we hope) the informed experience of having seen and considered many films to their contributions to a discussion. They cannot and should not be expected to tell anyone else what to think, but they can set the cultural pace with their own thinking, both by bringing informed insights to the film in question and simply by the very fact of thinking seriously in a public forum.
The film I'm most looking forward to at MIFF is:
Evolution by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, who wrote the script for Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void (and is married to him). As one of the few who really admired and liked Noe's film, I am intrigued to know what his collaborator will make of an island of women where boys are not allowed to grow up.