Posted tagged ‘martin scorsese’

Scorsese to LACMA: Film Matters (via the Los Angeles Times)

August 12, 2009


Last month, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art decided to scrap its four-decade-old-film program. We here at the filmlinc blog were saddened to see our left coast brethren lose such a precious venue through which to experience cinematic rarities. And we’re not alone. An active “Save Film at LACMA” page on Facebook is gathering steam, a petition has over 1,500 signatories, and film lovers coast to coast are up in arms.

Today, the Los Angeles Time blog printed an open letter from Martin Scorsese protesting LACMA’s move. Because we think it’s so important to read, we reprint it in it entirety below, but you can read the original post here:

“I am deeply disturbed by the recent decision to suspend the majority of film screenings at LACMA. For those of us who love cinema and believe in its value as an art form, this news hits hard.

We all know that the film industry, like many other institutions and industries, has to be radically rebuilt for the future. This is now apparent to everyone. But in the midst of all this change, the value and power of cinema’s past will only increase, and the need to show films as they were intended to be shown will become that much more pressing. So I find it profoundly disheartening to know that a vital outlet for the exhibition of what was once known as “repertory cinema” has been cut off in L.A. of all places, the center of film production and the land of the movie-making itself.

My personal connection to LACMA stretches back almost 40 years to when I lived in L.A. during the ’70s and regularly attended their vibrant film series, programmed by the legendary Ron Haver. It was actually at LACMA, during a 20th Century Fox retrospective, that I first became aware of the issues of color film fading and the urgent need for film preservation. Ian Birnie, a programmer of immaculate taste and knowledge, has continued in the tradition of Ron Haver, who was so well-versed in cinema past and present. I do not understand why this approach to programming needs to be re-thought. I am puzzled by the notion of pegging future film programming to “artist-created films,” as stated in the letter announcing this shift – to do this would be tantamount to downgrading the worth of cinema. Aren’t the best films made by artists in the first place?

Without places like LACMA and other museums, archives, and festivals where people can still see a wide variety of films projected on screen with an audience, what do we lose? We lose what makes the movies so powerful and such a pervasive cultural influence. If this is not valued in Hollywood, what does that say about the future of the art form? Aren’t museums serving a cultural purpose beyond appealing to the largest possible audience? I know that my life and work have been enriched by places like LACMA and MoMA whose public screening programs enabled me to see films that would never have appeared at my local movie theater, and that lose a considerable amount of their power and beauty on smaller screens.

I believe that LACMA is taking an unfortunate course of action. I support the petition that is still circulating, with well over a thousand names at this point, many of them prominent. It comes as no surprise to me that the public is rallying. People from all over the world are speaking out, because they see this action – correctly, I think – as a serious rebuke to film within the context of the art world. The film department is often held at arms’ length at LACMA and other institutions, separate from the fine arts, and this simply should not be. Film departments should be accorded the same respect, and the same amount of financial leeway, as any other department of fine arts. To do otherwise is a disservice to cinema, and to the public as well.

I hope that LACMA will reverse this unfortunate decision.”

–Martin Scorsese

Save LACMA film — sign the petition here

Bigger Than Cinema: Nicholas Ray

July 28, 2009

Was Nicholas Ray the perfect Hollywood genre director?

This was what came into my mind as I headed out from the screening of Johnny Guitar, a film playing in the Nicholas Ray retrospective at Film Forum. That movie, which is not in fact about “Johnny Guitar” is difficult to categorize because of the avalanche of contradictions it embodies. It is a western, with requisite elements of the frontier, the railroad and the returning, retired gunslinger. It is a deconstruction of the western presenting outlaws as posers and scapegoats, non-violence as admirable and a woman gunslinger, Vienna (the enthralling Joan Crawford) as more of a hardy character than any man in the film. It is also, by turns, a satire, a gaudily-colored “B-movie” and one of the most potent and articulate films about McCarthyism.

Sound impossible?

The “me” who was waiting in line to see it would have agreed with you. As for the “me” who came out, well, he was compelled to write this.

But it’s not just Johnny that defines Nick Ray’s career: he is in Scorsese’s massive compliment to him, the best of the “smugglers”, filmmakers like Sam Fuller and Fritz Lang who snuck messages and interesting aesthetic ideas into their films unbeknownst to the studio heads that employed them. A great example of this in Ray’s career was Bigger Than Life, a film independently produced by its star, the great James Mason, but later sold to a studio. In that movie, a schoolteacher and all-around virtuous man (Mason) enjoys a good son and a beautiful wife, but can’t make ends meet. He works odd-jobs in his off hours for more money for the family. But despite his apparent virtue and all-American work ethic, he is struck by a rare heart disease and, given a death sentence by his doctor, embarks on an experimental treatment. The treatment works and he survives, but strange things begin to happen. He starts noticing injustices in his life, he starts harkening back to the bible. He sees corruption and wrongness everywhere and complacency and idiocy in his schoolchildren, as well as his own son. At one point, his wife, who becomes the protagonist of the film as he degenerates, tries to avert him from his plans to sacrifice his son ala Isaac and Abraham, pointing out that God stopped Abraham, Mason utters the epic words of the movie: “God was wrong.”

There’s obviously something going on here beyond the wild mood-swings of experimental treatment. Bigger Than Life, made in 1956, is in many ways a scathing indictment of the false pretenses and complacency of 1950s America, an attack on the idea of the American Dream. But what is so brilliant is that unlike contemporary examiners of American malaise, like Lars Von Trier or Sam Mendes, Nick Ray makes his message oblique, giving his film a “happy” ending where the aforementioned filmmakers’ Dogville and Revolutionary Road respectively, make their criticisms all too obvious. By the end of Bigger Than Life, Mason’s character is “cured” and can go back to his wife, son and life. But while some viewers may see this as happy, for Nick Ray it is the ultimate subversion: suggesting that the return to complacent 50’s lifestyle is really a tragic defeat.

In those films and in his others, like the spectacular In A Lonely Place, Nicholas Ray proves himself the American version of acclaimed Japanese filmmaker and contemporary Kenji Mizoguchi. Like Mizoguchi, who also made genre films for studios, Nick Ray was an auteur before auteurs, a filmmaker that put his brand, his indelible mark of a quality on each of his films. Like Mizoguchi, he also gave women their due, as women are the strong-willed and independent protagonists of both Johnny Guitar and Bigger Than Life, as well as In a Lonely Place, showing a sensibility transcending the times. But even to compare Nicholas Ray to Kenji Mizoguchi, a master of cinema, is misleading: he is his own beast, an auteur in his own right and style.

Was Nicholas Ray the perfect director of Hollywood genre films? Perhaps that’s not even a question anyone can answer.

A simpler question might be: should you see his movies?

The answer: a resounding yes.

The Nicholas Ray Retrospective at the Film Forum continues through August 6th.

Nicholas Feitel also writes for his own blog, Feitelogram.

Kids rule in A Week Alone’s surreal suburban vision

March 4, 2009


There are few visible adults in Celina Murga’s A Week Alone, playing tomorrow night at the Film Society as part of Young Friends of Film. The film is a meditative, perplexing look at the life of young kids left alone for a week in a gated community outside Buenos Aires. With the adults on vacation, the kids are left to roam free.

Sounds like a fantasy doesn’t it? What Murga churns out is a soda-guzzling, chip-eating, TV-watching study in the lives of tweens and teens in the new millennium. Gone are the simple days of make believe and games in your backyard. The new reality is much more sobering. A girl asks the one parental figure, the housekeeper Esther, how old she is. When Esther answers she is 22, the girl tells her she looks older. “I had a baby when I was 18,” Esther responds.

Secure from this real world, the kids of the gated community pillage with no consequences, their only threat being the cops that roam the streets like cyborgs. Framed like Peanuts parents (we never see their faces), these authority figures are easily evaded by sneaking into brush. But an odd light shines down on this gated community, an almost Twilight Zone light. Young bodies run half naked through a lush manicured tree lined path. They romp through beautiful darkened houses, decadent swimming clubs. This is the greatest vacation anyone could ask for. The monotony of suburban living, which I know very well a child of the suburbs myself, is only broken by a fit at the end complete with ripped clothes and kissing cousins. Murga is great at capturing these idle moments, and her casting and use of color are so engaging that we get lost in the moments and do not become bored by the repetitiveness.

-Michael Masarof

Buy tickets to A Week Alone: Wed March 4: 7:30

Like Quentin Tarantino, maybe you have some questions for legendary filmmaker James Toback

January 28, 2009

Who is more challenging to direct: supermodels or the members of the Wu-Tang Clan? Who would be more intimidating to go three rounds with–Mike Tyson or Neve Campbell?

But seriously folks, the Film Society is excited to announce that James Toback will be appearing for this Saturday’s screening of his gripping 1978 drama Fingers, and for a Q&A afterward. As Quentin Tarantino wrote in his interview with Toback for the January-February 2009 issue of Film Comment: “in the late Seventies there was a kind of New York milieu in film with a certain kind of New York actor and a kind of fucked-up-in-the-head psychodrama. For a long time the only game in town was Martin Scorsese, but then came James Toback and after him Abel Ferrara. They comprised a trifecta of out-there balls-to-the-wall filmmakers on point with their obsessions. One of the things I always admired about Toback is that he was coming from a complete writer’s background. He is the real writer-director of the group.”

Fingers is the perfect illustration of what Tarantino is talking about–and you can see it during our series Mavericks and Outsiders: Positif on American Cinema.

And be sure to pick up the latest issue of Film Comment to read Tarantino’s complete interview with Toback. In it, they explore how themes that took shape in Fingers can be seen in Toback’s latest film, the documentary Tyson, as well as Taratino’s favorite Toback film (it’s surprising).

Buy Tickets:
Fri Jan 30: 2
Sat Jan 31: 4:30* Q&A with director James Toback

An early Scorsese film to whet your appetite for the classics

December 17, 2008

Back when I was a film student at NYU, Martin Scorsese was not just admired and respected, he was spoken of with a reverence usually reserved only for deities. Marty actually walked these halls, we would say to each other, as though we were on a first-name basis with our idol, and even though the NYU film schools of the 60s was likely in a different building than the NYU film school of the 90s. But we watched all of his films carefully, trying to find the best shots and ideas to steal in our own scrappy productions. A heartening discovery from those film school days is The Big Shave, one of the earliest, widely-known Scorsese shorts. It was a reminder that even a titanic talent of Scorsese stature had to start somewhere, namely in this small bathroom. Though this transfer leaves something to be desired, check it out to see an early combination of jaunty pop music and shocking violence that would reappear in some of Scorsese’s most iconic films.

And be sure to check out our Scorsese Classics series screening this December 26-31. Taxi Driver, Casino, Mean Streets and more, all the best films are included!

Tuesday roundup: Fincher contest, mujeres to watch, and a very Scorsese Xmas

December 16, 2008

Craving some strong female Spanish performances? Guest blogger Christian Del Moral from the essential Cine Latino en Nueva York picks “Mujeres On the Verge,” the five films from the Spanish Cinema Now series you must see if you love strong Spanish women. And you can catch several of the screenings this weekend.

Still looking for last-minute gifts? Check out the Film Society’s handy-dandy gift guide, full of unexpected picks and great ideas, including eighteen hours of Fassbinder and a way to frame those beloved movie posters on the cheap.

Don’t forget to enter our Fincher Contest! For your chance to win a pair of tickets to see a conversation with David Fincher on January 4th, all you need to do is write the question you’d like to ask Mr. Fincher on the Wall of our Film Society of Lincoln Center fan page.

You talkin’ ta me? Don’t forget, our Scorsese Classics series starts right after Christmas!

Snapshots: Martin Scorsese at the Film Society

October 14, 2008

New York Film Festival Snapshots sponsored by:

Martin Scorsese discusses Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

Photo: Godlis