Spartan, modest, unembellished—the homepage for the online magazine Undercurrent gets by without straining for the hard sell, and that’s no small matter. Started in 2006, the publication, a labor of love for its founder Chris Fujiwara, remains in many ways a quintessential small magazine, posting only one or two issues a year, yet still enriching the world of film criticism.
Fujiwara, an occasional FC contributor and author of several thorough and perceptive critical studies (on Jacques Tourneur, Otto Preminger, and most recently Jerry Lewis), says that in many ways he sees the project as “a magazine about film criticism.” Under the aegis of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics, the journal’s focus and its cosmopolitan character seem fitting. Given the setting, it’s a credit to Fujiwara’s editorial hand that the magazine wards off the threat of professional insiderism hanging over critics’ discussions. Fujiwara, who grew up in New York, has lived in Tokyo for the past three years. In future issues, he says he will seek to turn the journal’s focus toward the critical scenes in countries outside North America and Europe, and spur more thinking on “the theory and practice of criticism, the ways it gets written and read, in practical terms, and what critics’ goals and ideals are.” Paying jobs are on critics’ minds too, he might well add.
The site has done especially sharp and enjoyable work through the single-theme tribute format—a special section on John Ford, for instance, and an homage to Danièle Huillet. The last issue offers a section on film festivals, including a reflection by writer Aaron Gerow on a Tokyo Filmex retrospective of Thirties Japanese cinema, essays on Pedro Costa and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and a newly translated interview with Olivier Assayas discussing Guy Debord.