Saving, Projecting & Celebrating Cinema at MoMA
Published on October 13th, 2011 | by Ryan Wells0
This year marks MoMA’s ninth annual To Save and Project, the international festival of film preservation. The festival runs from October 14 – November 19 and comprises over 35 films from 14 countries. (Leadership efforts were made under the watchful eye of Joshua Siegel, associate curator in the Department of Film.) The vast majority of these films are having their New York premieres, and some shown in versions never before seen in the United States.
About those films – it really makes for the perfect follow-up to the New York Film Festival (NYFF), which ends on Oct 16. The films Siegel and his collaborators have selected are all in their own right extraordinary gems in terms of the historical and cultural depth they bring to the table. While NYFF displays some of the finest works in cinema over one year, To Save and Project sifts through hundreds of troves to give us obscure works from the farthest reaches of the earth that have recently been given the restoration attention they thoroughly deserve. (Not to mention that there are multiple events taking place at the festival that are worth the price of several tickets.)
Here are some particular highlights to make note of (but certainly look beyond them!):
- “The Movie Orgy” (1968), dir. Joe Dante. Dante’s explosion of a film is a scream. Full of marvelous pop culture, social critique and pleasurable camp. It’s really a film all on its own. Think Kenneth Anger meets Bruce Conner (who had a fabulous showing at Film Forum earlier this year) meets John Waters. Dante will be in person to introduce the film and kick off To Save and Project. (Oct 14)
- “The Honeymoon Killers” (1969), dir Leonard Kastle. Not exactly as poetic as “Badlands” but in the same psychological wavelength, Kastle’s (who died earlier this year) wild film is a portrait of Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez, the real-life “Lonely Heart Killers” of tabloid infamy who in the late 1940s posed as sister and brother in order to swindle, and occasionally murder, the widows and spinsters they seduced through the personal ads. (Oct 15)
- “Tres tristes tigres” (1968), dir. Raúl Ruiz. Presented in a rare archival print courtesy of the Cineteca Nacional de Chile and Arcadia Films, “Tres tristes tigres” is the late Ruiz’s first feature film, which proclaimed a short-lived but influential “new wave” of Chilean cinema to international audiences after winning the top prize of the Locarno Film Festival. Adapted from a play by Alejandro Sieveking about shady doings among Santiago’s marginalized underclass—including a brother who prostitutes his sister—the film has a playful, self-referential style that incorporates Brechtian elements of alienation and class consciousness, dissolving the barrier between the actors and the camera. In Spanish; English subtitles. (Oct 19)
- “The House Is Black” (1962) dir. Forugh Farrokhzad. The only film made by the famous Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad (she was 27 at the time), “The House is Black” is a haunting and tender portrait of a leper colony outside Tabrz, the capital of Azerbaijan. The film would go on to have a profound impact on the development of the Iranian New Wave, especially on Abbas Kiarostami, who used one of her poems in his 1999 film “The Wind Will Carry Us,” and Moshen Makhmalbaf. In Farsi; English subtitles. (Oct 22) NOTE: Introduced by Eric Le Roy, chef de service at the CNC and president of FIAF, the International Federation of Film Archives.
- “Jean Rouch: Early Films from West Africa, 1946-1951.” A program of rarely screened ethnographic films that Rouch recorded in the West African countries of Mali and Niger, preserved by the Archives françaises du film du CNC, Bois d’Arcy. Additionally, “Jean Rouch: On Architecture” screens later in the afternoon, showcasing several short films Rouch shot in the 1970s. (Oct 22)
- “Zigeunerweisen (Tsigoineruwaizen)” (1980) dir. Seijun Suzuki. “Zigeunerweisen” inaugurated Suzuki’s Taisho Trilogy and achieved instant cult status, earning the awestruck admiration of Wong Kar-wai, Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino, and hailed by many critics as the best Japanese film of the 1980s. According to its description, the film is “set in a 1920s Japan saturated with decadence and nihilism. It’s the tale of a disparate quartet drawn together by unseen strings of fate—and nearly driven mad by their own fears and desires. Aochi, a Japanese professor of German, vacations in a seaside town and discovers Nakasago, a former classmate, full-time vagabond—and suspected serial killer. During their reunion, they both fall hard for the beautiful local geisha Koine. But when Nakasago marries—and abandons—eerie Koine-lookalike Sono, the men’s mutual obsession for Koine escalates into paranoia and treachery spiked with undercurrents of witchcraft and the sinister presence of supernatural denizens.” In Japanese; English subtitles. (Oct 23)
- 3-D Is Coming to This Theater! An Illustrated History of Stereoscopic Cinema In this richly illustrated lecture, Stefan Drössler, director of the Munich Filmmuseum (who is one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of 3-D) traces 3-D technology back to stereophotography, the magic lantern, and the origins of cinema, with fascinating examples from Lumière, Skladanowsky and Méliès, and brings it up to the digital cinema of today. Drössler will also delve into the technological challenges that have led to the development of modern digital 3-D cinema. (Oct 29)
- Cruel and Unusual Comedy from the Desmet Collection of the Eye Film Institute, The Netherlands: A Special Concert. Two outrageous, groundbreaking programs of early European film comedy from the Dutch film distributor Jean Desmet, featuring original music performed live by maestro Donald Sosin and his NYC Eclectic Electric Band. Produced by prestigious companies like Ambrosio in Italy, Messters in Germany, and Gaumont and Pathé in France, this body of work was, on the whole, more psychologically inclined, self-consciously surreal, and in some ways edgier than American slapstick. Long deserving of better recognition, particularly in the U.S., these films can now be rediscovered after 90 years thanks to painstaking preservation efforts. (Oct 30)
- Alejandro Jodorowsky presents “The Holy Mountain.” Alejandro Jodorowsky introduces his 1973 masterpiece “The Holy Mountain.” Following the screening, which is presented in conjunction with MoMA’s Modern Mondays, Jodorowsky will take part in an onstage conversation with Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art; and Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art. “The Holy Mountain” is an absurdist and picaresque satire depicting the journey of a Christ-like figure, the Thief, to a symbolic mountain. (Oct 31)
These are just a few to chew on. I never got to mention, for instance, the screening of a hand-painted color version of George Méliès’s “A Trip to the Moon,” a screening of a newly restored “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” introduced by Martin Scorsese, a tribute to George Kuchar or a night dedicated to Saul Bass. There’s so much to take in. And MoMA, in their typical, classy, well-thought-out manner, has orchestrated a heck of a festival that gives its contemporaries with their red carpets and step-and-repeats a run for their money. Go exploring.