Last October, Richard Peña announced that, after 25 years as programming director for the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the New York Film Festival, this year’s NYFF, the 50th, would be his last. Yesterday, the FSLC announced that he’ll be replaced by not one but two programmers, and what an outstanding pair of selections executive director Rose Kuo has made. Kent Jones, whose piece on The Master we were marveling over just the other day, will take over programming the NYFF, and Robert Koehler, probably best known as a critic for Variety, though I’d recommend his dispatches to filmjourney.org, will take on the year-round programming at the FSLC.
For Film Comment, Kent Jones, who, as Felicia R. Lee notes in the New York Times, is currently working “on a book about 20th-century America as seen through a handful of films,” talks with Peña about his work over the years: “I always say that I’m in the film history business, and that the New York Film Festival represents a way of providing a snapshot, or a look at what I and the committee feels is happening in cinema that year…. I think I participated in the opening up of people’s ideas about cinema. I didn’t cause it, I didn’t invent it, but we were there at a crucial time to be able to say, ‘Hey, look at China, look at Taiwan, Iran, South Korea, Argentina…’ To simply show people that there was extraordinary work happening in these places. I think the festival was founded in that spirit.”
The other big story to break since the last news update is the release of Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia. As B. Ruby Rich notes in her dispatch from Toronto, his abduction in Damascus on August 23 “cast a shadow on the start of the festival.” That shadow lifted yesterday, when, as Lawrence Wright reports for the New Yorker, a civilian court acquitted him: “The charges remain obscure, but others in similar circumstances have been accused of weakening the national morale or spreading false accusations.” Here‘s a list of participants in the “Free Orwa” campaign.
New York. “Marieke Wegener’s portrait Mark Lombardi: Death-Defying Acts of Art and Conspiracy takes its title from the business cards that the late artist dispensed, giggling, at parties and openings,” writes Courtney Fiske for Artforum. “True to his self-conferred epithet, Lombardi was at once artist and sleuth, striving to distill the unseen, ubiquitous networks of power and corruption that structure our world. Wegener limits her scope to the series for which Lombardi is best known: his Narrative Structures (1994–2000), large-scale compositions of small circles and sweeping arrows, at once restrained and confoundingly dense, that furnish a visual catalogue of the international intrigues that rocked the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.”
Film After Film, the screening series curated by J. Hoberman running in conjunction with the exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image, opens tomorrow and runs through September 30. The idea, of course, is to explore the ideas raised by his new book.
Steve Macfarlane for the L: “If diluted somewhat by the sunshiney J. Crew commercial at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, there is still no mistaking the lone idea surging through the still-young Christopher Nolan filmography: man’s tragic inability to improve his lot through brain power. You can see it in his student short Doodlebug, obviously in Memento, at its most flippant in The Prestige, blown up to operatic heights in Inception. The congenital flaw in the auteur’s Bat-trilogy, maybe, is its unwavering insistence on triumphalism, even when the villains are the only interesting characters: Nolan can’t help but seem a lot truer to himself when he’s splashing around in the muck. Following, his debut, is a morality tale: it posits theft as the only logical conclusion to an unchained curiosity.” Mind Over Matter: The Films of Christopher Nolan runs from today through Tuesday at the FSLC.
“Expertly crass and masterfully deranged, Phantom of the Paradise is a hilarious comedy about how merit has nothing to do with succeeding commercially as an artist,” writes Simon Abrams, also at the L. “Brian De Palma’s inspired 1974 rock musical goes to great lengths to joke that everyone, even the ghoulishly insouciant music impresario Swan (Paul Williams, who also scored the film), is ‘under contract.’ This wouldn’t be so bad if the Devil weren’t the second party that owns the contracts binding the first party’s (i.e. every talented artist’s) body, soul and talent.” Phantom screens tonight and tomorrow at midnight at the IFC Center.
Los Angeles. The Cabinet of Jan Švankmajer, a season currently running at Cinefamily through September 27, “is a big deal for a few reasons,” blogs Lenika Cruz for the LA Weekly. “One, it’s the first Švankmajer retrospective to come to Los Angeles, ever. Two, domestic prints for a majority of Švankmajer’s features don’t exist, so all of the 35 mm prints (real and gorgeous for all you filmophiles) were flown in directly from the Czech Republic, with the help of Irena Kovarova of The Czech Center New York. Third, the guy is totally nuts, in all the right ways.”
San Francisco. “Get ready, Damon Packard fans,” announces Cheryl Eddy in the Bay Guardian, “the mad genius behind underground cult sensations Reflections of Evil (2002) and SpaceDisco One (2007) unfurls his latest, Foxfur, at Other Cinema‘s fall season kickoff (also on the bill: Marcy Saude with a slideshow on ufologist George Van Tassel, free champagne and VHS tapes, and more). I spoke with the Los Angeles-based Packard, who hopes to attend in person, ahead of the event.”
Seattle. The Grand Illusion Cinema‘s third annual fundraiser features a screening of Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953). “Please come out and support Seattle’s only 100% volunteer operated non-profit cinema!”
Portland. Battles Without Honor and Humanity, “a yakuza-eiga inspired art show, curated by Sloane Leong,” opens tomorrow at Floating World Comics. The art’s on view through September 30, but Seijun Suzuki‘s Branded to Kill (1967) screens only once, tomorrow at 9:30 pm at the Hollywood Theater.
London. Peter Watkins: Films, 1964-99 opens today at the Tate Modern and runs through October 14. Bert Rebhandl has an overview for Cargo, but for those that don’t read German, let me refer you again to Jonty Claypole‘s excellent piece in the current issue of frieze.
Catherine Grant, the senior lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex who runs the always amazing Film Studies for Free, will explore the influence of Michael Powell‘s Peeping Tom (1960) on Michael Haneke‘s Code Unknown (2000) on Sunday, starting at 11:30 am, at the Rio Cinema.
Guy Maddin‘s Keyhole opens at the Renoir and BFI Southbank today. “The movie will be crystal-clear upon your third viewing,” Maddin tells the Guardian‘s Andrew Pulver. More from Wally Hammond (Little White Lies), Tom Huddleston (Time Out, 3/5), Anthony Quinn (Independent, 3/5), and Steve Rose (Guardian, 3/5).
In the works. Mélanie Thierry says she’s joining Christoph Waltz and Tilda Swinton in Terry Gilliam’s Zero Theorem, reports the Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth. What’s more, Denys Arcand has a new project and she’ll be in that one, too.
Obit. “British film-maker Stanley Long, known for directing a string of low-budget sex comedies in the 1960s and ’70s, has died aged 78,” reports the BBC. “Dubbed the ‘King of Sexploitation,’ Long directed such films as On the Game and Sex and the Other Woman.”
Viewing. Two new trailers, one for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, of course, one of the Chicago Reader‘s “ten best bets for fall movies,” and the other for Stand Up Guys with Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin.