NYFF 2012 Preview: Classics To Catch

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor
The New York Film Festival does such a stellar job with their so-called "sidebar programming" (see last year's Nikkatsu Studio Retrospective) that if you were to opt out of the main slate entirely, you would still be near-guaranteed to have a blast at the fest. And with NYFF turning 50 this year there are plenty of treasures from cinema's past to choose from. Yes, this post is mostly a guide for our NYC readers on what they may want to make some time for at the fest, but that doesn't mean the rest of you have to be jealous of them. (I can't believe I almost considered using the winking face emoticon! What kind of film journalist am I?)    

Now, truth be told, using the word 'classics' may be a bit of a misnomer. It's a clean, sharp-sounding and eye-catching word that looks good in a headline. In the context of this preview I'm using it as a bit of a catch-all term for many types of films across the cinematic stratosphere: some of the films screening at NYFF are, yes, widely regarded classics (Lawrence of Arabia), while others are cult classics (1986's The Little Shop of Horrors, The Princess Bride), and some are considered to be the pinnacle of their genre (Night and the City). Others still may have been considered out-and-out disasters in their own time, but are now starting to be regarded in a different light thanks to restorations and director's cuts (Heaven's Gate). Already sounds enticing, yes? And still there's plenty more ground to cover... So with that, I present six more "classics" to consider catching at this year's New York Film Festival.


sans-soleil_nyff.jpgSANS SOLEIL
30 years on and the late Chris Marker's meditative travelogue still feels like some of the freshest and most radical filmmaking around. Though he is best known for essay-style films (and Sans Soleil is a prime example), Marker was one of the 20th century's most premiere -- and also most elusive -- journeymen artists, creating a wide range of works across several mediums. Twitch readers may be most familiar with his 1962 short La jetée, arguably a watershed event in the development of the time travel genre in cinema, and a direct influence on Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys. Seeing what many consider to be Marker's long-form masterpiece in 35mm should be a fest highlight. And for any high school teachers among our readership, the screening takes place Friday, October 5 at noon -- making it a rather perfect field trip for students of film and/or media literacy classes.


snowwhite_nyff.jpgSNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
The first ever animated feature film turns 75 this year and to help celebrate NYFF has specially priced $10 tickets (which is a bargain at film festivals) for the whole family. Preceding Snow White is John Kahrs' much-talked about black and white short Paperman.


oldczech_nyff.jpgOLD CZECH LEGENDS     
Another fine event for the young'uns (if they can read subtitles or just don't care and want to watch the puppets), and another fine celebration of a most grand anniversary, is this little seen feature from renowned puppeteer and stop-motion animator Jiří Trnka, who was born a hundred years ago. A major influence on fellow countrymen Jan Šjvankmayer and the Quay Brothers, Old Czech Legends is one of Trnka's most ambitious projects. Finding great success with 1950's Prince Bayaya, Trnka decided to adapt six folktales from his homeland for a modern audience raised on the bravado of the cinema rather than that of the stage or page. Old Czech Legends is sure to boast some fine mythmaking on the silver screen.      


satyricon_nyff.jpgFELLINI SATYRICON
Leave it to Federico Fellini to adapt a 1st century novel about male impotence, minotaurs, hermaphrodite demi-gods and pirate ships for the big screen. A debauched fantasy on the grandest of scales -- the U.S. poster's tagline was "Rome. Before Christ. After Fellini."--  Fellini Satyricon has been fully restored under the supervision of the film's cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno: a living legend to be sure -- and that's just for lensing (and living through) the Altman/Williams Popeye!


slipper_nyff.jpgTHE SATIN SLIPPER
Now do you want epic, and I mean EPIC? Then park your keester (meester) for this seven hour adaptation of Paul Claudel's verse on the conquest of both love and continents from master Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira, who at 103 is still working today (his Church Of The Devil is in pre-production as we speak). And With de Oliveira's discerning eye for period detail, The Golden Age of Spain probably never looked so good... and that's including the actual Golden Age.


Overcoat_nyff.jpgTHE OVERCOAT
We all know how radical the Soviet filmmakers of the silent era were. We've all seen Battleship Potemkin, and many of you have probably recently sat down for The Man With The Movie Camera thanks to it being included on that recent Sight and Sound poll for the greatest films of all time. But how many of you have seen Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg's 1926 feature The Overcoat? Well, I know I sure haven't... And with a live score by the Alloy Orchestra, this rarely seen adaptation of Gogol's short story may just be my absolute must-see from NYFF's masterworks program. To bad I'm just the eye in the sky and won't actually be at the fest (Almost used the sad face emoticon there -- dammit!).

For more info on these, and all the films playing at NYFF, mosey on over here. And be sure to come back Friday when Peter Gutierrez, Dustin Chang, Joshua Chaplinsky, and Christopher Borne raise the curtain on the fest proper with over a dozen capsule reviews -- huzzah!          
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  • mightyjoeyoung

    "Yes, this post is mostly a guide for our NYC readers on what they may want to make some time for at the fest, but that doesn't mean the rest of you have to be jealous of them."
    Well....I´m one of those jealous types.
    "the U.S. poster's tagline was "Rome. Before Christ. After Fellini."--
    Good tagline, very strange, odd film.
    Thanks for the list Mr Umstead.

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