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You can almost hear a scalpel being sharpened on the Lido as the critics gather their most vitriolic words.Roman Polanski’s verdict is out palaceThe film premiered last weekend at Venice’s 80th annual film festival to disastrous reviews. “a laughless routSo says Polanski’s latest, Variety, a dark comedy about hotel guests at a New Year’s Eve party starring John Cleese and Mickey Rourke. “A Scary, Loose Hotel Farce’, wrote The Guardian.dizzying brutality“, “The Times” said. The British “Financial Times” said that this was “a series of extremely uninteresting jokes.”

palace It has landed on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, and the score is a shocking zero. It’s a shameful honor for the 90-year-old director, who once Repulsion and Chinatown.

For a director whose work is now deeply entrenched in reputation, the comments may be an inevitable outcome. In 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” but fled the United States to avoid sentencing. His continued reverence in the film world — he was awarded the 2020 French César for best director — has been a source of embarrassment and anger for some time.and palace, Polanski gives us a way out: we no longer have to defend cinema.

However, critics may be doing Polanski a favor. Everyone likes to fail. The more exciting the hysteria surrounding the poor quality of the artwork, the more confident it is to watch. There’s nothing more tedious than a three-star critique, the polite acknowledgment that something is largely pain-killing. Comments are only fun when they’re polarizing: tell me what you like or hate.

More recently, criticism has become a less scathing art. As industries of all kinds become more corporate and imperious, reviewers feel less and less free to express themselves. This is especially true for fashion reviews (I’ve been working in this field for five years). Dominated by a handful of luxury giants, a bad review can find one’s “access” brutally limited. I’m still banned from a house in Paris that was rated poorly years ago. I don’t have any relationship with the designer yet. is it worth it I thought, on second thought, no.

Likewise, the film industry, with its grand opening ceremonies and studio conviviality, fosters a more acquiescing critical environment. palace Serves as a handy pressure valve for frustrated critics to vent their grievances. Critical setbacks only really happen when the downtrodden is caught off guard: it’s easier to take on an indie film whose director has been canceled than a big, mediocre film from a powerful studio much.

Still, the role of the critic has a role to play. They can still reset public opinion and guide future sentiment.He was heavily criticized last month for his decision to wear a prosthetic nose to play Leonard Bernstein in the biopic GrandmasterBradley Cooper has since emerged from Venice as an all-conquering director. The actor-director — and his prosthetics — have been praised for their “magical” portrayal of the artist, and the film has a 92 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

Woody Allen at this year’s Venice Film Festival © Alami

It was also curious to watch Woody Allen, 87, shuffle down the red carpet to defend disgraced Spanish soccer boss Luis Rubiales. Despite Notoriety, Allen’s Latest Film ‘French’ a stroke of luckstill hailed by many critics as his best film in years.

This year, critics decided to give Allen a pass: The director has been shunned by the industry since the #MeToo movement over accusations of child molestation by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, which he has always denied. Sure, the movie is actually pretty good, but few critics would parse a movie based solely on its merits. Most people learn about the local cultural milieu before going on a binge.

I rarely take criticism seriously, at least until I see something with my own eyes.But even I can’t help but want to see Grandmaster, A movie I already dismissed because it looked like a TV matinee. As a lifelong cultural contrarian, I take pleasure in despising what other people love. Likewise, a one-star review indicates that a work stirs so many emotions that there must be something to discuss.

In my opinion, the greatest artists—like Lars von Trier, David Lynch, or Jane Campion—created work that was either on the brink of victory or a complete failure. I’d rather see 10 Roman Polanski movies than a single Marvel movie. (Okay, that’s a little untrue, because I like some of the Spider-Verse.)

Aside from being horribly weirdly insane to watch, One Star League is sublime company for artists trying new things.Performance waiting for godot After its English premiere in 1955, it was dismissed as an “ugly little jet of methane”.the 1979 movie apocalypse now Considered an “intellectual void”. nutcracker In 1892, Moscow audiences thought the ballet was so ridiculous that even its composer described it as “rather boring.” (To be fair, they have a point.)

A five-star show is perfect for reflecting the values ​​and vanity of our time. But the one-star show offers a glimpse into darker, more subversive but ultimately funnier hallmarks of the era.

Email Joe: jo.ellison@ft.com

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