Archive for August 2009

See the rock stars of cinema at the Film Society this Labor Day weekend!

August 31, 2009

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Before the Beatles and the Rolling Stones…the real rock stars had names like Fellini, Hitchcock, Truffaut, Bergman, and Malle.

This Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to get hooked on the classics all over again. 50 years ago, world cinema experienced a “watershed” moment that set the tone for a whole generation of auteurs to come, and in honor of that historical shift, we present Watershed, 13 of the most electric, daring, incendiary, and ground-breaking films that have ever graced the silver screen:

L’avventura
Michelangelo Antonioni

The 400 Blows / Les quatre cents coups
François Truffaut

La dolce vita
Federico Fellini

The Lovers / Les amants
Louis Malle

Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock

Cruel Story of Youth / Seishun zankoku monogatari
Nagisa Ôshima

The Crimson Kimono
Samuel Fuller

The Virgin Spring / Jungfrukällan
Ingmar Bergman

Shadows
John Cassavetes

Check out the whole schedule>>

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Muse of the “Metropolitan:” A (Short) Conversation with Whit Stillman

August 28, 2009

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It wasn’t hard to track down Whit Stillman. Though it was hard to get a word in.

Before the screening of Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, I hoped to find the director, introduce myself and ask for a couple minutes after the screening for a “brief” interview.

But finding the chronicler of the so-called “urban haute-bougeoise” (his term), proved fairly easy: all I had to do was look for the man in the impeccable suit.

“Mr. Stillman,” I asked. “If I could grab a moment of your time, I’m Nicholas, I’m  a reporter for the filmlinc blog–”

“Ah, great.” He told me graciously. “So nice to meet you, Nicholas. This is Tara, she’s in the film.”

A blond woman curtsied. I shook her hand too.

“Ah yes, very nice to meet you, but Mr. Stillman–”

“And this is Mark, the composer.” Mr. Stillman put his hand on the shoulder of a shy gentleman who gave a wave.

I tried to interrupt again.

“And this is…”

And so it went.

This social etiquette is not just a function of Mr. Stillman’s personality, but also eminently of his films. In his Academy Award-nominated film Metropolitan and in the later Last Days of Disco (recently released on Criterion), Mr. Stillman produces portraits of sheltered WASP-y New Yorkers in their mid-twenties growing up on the Upper East Side (Indeed, in Metropolitan, the banishment of one of the characters to Manhattan’s Upper West Side is a source of great shame in the film). These characters, sometimes characterized as “debutantes”, sometimes as “yuppies,” all show impeccable good manners even when savaging each other verbally, as they often do throughout the films. Mr. Stillman’s style is extremely distinct, his films are truly unmistakable, and his characters qualities have more often been compared to the protagonists of Jane Austen novels than other filmic protagonists. His style incorporates both humor and compassion for the hapless/helpless Manhattan socialites he portrays.

And as I waited to speak to him, introduced to his filming companions, I realized that this was more of his style: that he introduces the characters and then let’s them speak for themselves.

When I got to him after a long line of adoring fans had approached for DVD signing, I managed to sneak in a few questions.

“You were popular in there,” I told him, as I snuck him out to the Walter Reade balcony.

“I wish I were that way in Hollywood,” he said modestly, drink in hand.

“I’ve heard you compared to Woody Allen, in terms of your style and intimacy with your well-to-do characters,” I informed him. “But then again, sir, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Jew in any of your movies.”

“Guilty as charged,” he replied. “I love Woody Allen and he’s certainly an influence. But he’s like a savant and I’m like a dyslexic; he keeps up the pace constantly creating, a movie a year, while I seem to come out with them on occasion. But Allen often seems to break reality in his films and I try to stay there”

He continued: “I’ve been accused of naturalism,” he said, as if naturalism were a crime. “But, I’d like to think that people who are “naturalistic” are often on the wrong side of things. When I was making one of my films, we had to have a scene through a car windshield and my director of photography asked me if I wanted to fake the glare that might be in the windshield to make it seem more ‘natural’. I told him no, I didn’t care about that, I wanted to see the actor’s faces. I feel that the stronger part of reality is the emotional truth of how we connect to people, to characters. The expressions on the actor’s faces, that’s reality to me, much more important than a glare on a car windshield.”

“But what about fiction, sir?” I asked. “You got your start there, much like some of the characters in The Last Days of Disco. What’s the difference between a story told in fiction and one in film?”

“Well I got to meet Tom Wolfe,” He said. “And he told me what he thought the difference was. That in fiction you cant talk about someone’s shoes. You can talk about someone’s mannerisms, while if you did that in a film, there’s no room for it, if you lingered on a pair of shoes, people would think you were weird.”

At this point, I was interrupted by more of Mr. Stillman’s guests who came to greet him and say good night, as I realized that he is very much a part of the social community still that he writes about, shoots about, and gently mocks.

“Before you’re swept away,” I asked. “Any advice for the writers and filmmakers of today?”

“Don’t watch too many movies.” He said. “After all, there’s life out there to live.”

At which he was taken away back into the crowd.

-Nicholas Feitel

Exclusive interview with “Taking Woodstock” director Ang Lee!

August 28, 2009
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Before you check out “Taking Woodstock,” check out this exclusive interview with Ang Lee. He recently appeared at The Film Society with cast and collaborators to discuss his film “Ride with the Devil.”

For more exclusive Film Society video, please visit our YouTube channel.

Uncommon times call for uncommon films: join us in saluting First Run Features

August 26, 2009

Let’s face it: sometimes we get tired of seeing the same-old multiplex blockbuster, clutching our corporate coffee-chain coffee, before returning to our apartment filled with whimsical, and flimsily constructed Swedish furniture that all looks the same (even those of us who work at the Film Society!). On these days we hunger for something different, something with grit, something not beholden to invisible but powerful corporate interests.

And those are days we should celebrate the fact that a first-class independent distributor like First Run Features still exists. Boasting a current catalogue of films treating such wide-ranging subjects as burlesque, the incredible true story of the alliance between evangelical Christians and Israel, the first election in a Chinese school, investigations of the Khmer Rouge and Mongolian ping pong, world cinema certainly is a richer place with First Run Features in it.

This week, let’s take a moment to pause and enjoy the truly provocative and iconoclastic with such gems from the past 30 years such as:

  • We Were So Beloved: If you want to take a different, yet altogether moving look at the survivors of the Holocaust, don’t miss this deeply felt portrait of a German-Jewish enclave in Washington Heights. Sunday August 30 and Tuesday September 1.
  • 49 Up: The classic series of films that launched countless imitators finds triumph and tragedy in its seventh and final installment. See it Sunday August 30 or Monday, August 31.
  • Before Stonewall: Before June 1969, the West Village bar was just a bar. But on a pivotal night when a group of patrons decided to demand their right to live as they pleased without fear or repercussion, it became a part of history.  Relive that powerful moment on Monday, August 31, with a special panel discussion afterward.

Get inspired, get energized and get indie with these spectacularly provocative and stimulating films.

Give up toilet paper to save the planet? No Impact Man Colin Beavan did just that!

August 26, 2009

Environmental chic is so everywhere, that it’s impossible to be truly environmentally conscious these days without going to extremes.

Case in point, one Colin Beavan, aka “No Impact Man.” You may remember him from a New York Times feature from last year called “The Year Without Toilet Paper.” The much-talked-about article recounted Beavan’s experiment in no-impact living, which entailed no public transportation, no elevators, and yes, no quilted-soft Charmin.

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This Wednesday, September 2nd, don’t miss the chance to see No-Impact Man himself at the Film Society as he appears with the filmmakers behind a documentary about his ambitious experiment.

GREEN SCREENS PRESENTS: No Impact Man
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 6:30pm Buy tickets

Video: Amreeka director Cherien Dabis talks to the Film Society’s Richard Peña

August 25, 2009

From Erin Crumpacker, a video of the Q&A between Richard Peña and Amreeka director Cherien Dabis.

Be sure to check out Erin’s blog, Briefly Noted, for more.

From the Film Talk, a special interview with Elliott Gould

August 20, 2009
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See Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice this Friday and Sunday

Great new stuff from our friends at The Film Talk, an interview with Elliott Gould who will be appearing at the Film Society tomorrow and Sunday, as a part of our Natalie Wood tribute and screening of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Note to film buffs: the film premiered at the 1969 New York Film Festival, and two of the original actors who were there will be here at the Film Society this week! Check out the podcast for Mr. Gould’s fantastic memories of working with Natalie Wood, as well as other recollections of his impressive careers in the movies.

YESTERDAY’S ANGEL
Natalie Wood
August 19 – 25, 2009See schedule and buy tickets

Listen to The Film Talk podcast here