How Film Forum Became the Best Little Movie House in New York – Hey Scroller
it’s just before 8 p.m. m. On a final Friday night in Manhattan, and a crowd of moviegoers line up to see “Great Freedom” (2021), an Austrian film that tells the tender and horrific story of a German concentration camp survivor who is imprisoned. repeatedly for his sexuality. Sebastian Meise, the director of the film, and the star of it, Franz Rogowski, will probably give a Q. and an after show, so there’s a palpable sense that this is an occasion.
outside, on west houston street, the glow of the marquee (“film forum” written in curved blue neon letters) beckons like a spaceship. seeing it, I feel the joy of seeing a movie in a particular cinema: it is my first visit to the cinema forum because it reopened in 2021 after a closure of almost 13 months due to covid-19.
In the lobby, there’s anticipation chatter: film college students on the phone and older residents of Greenwich Village and Soho (like me) discussing the state of the world. the reserved seating system, a pandemic-driven measure, ended this month and the first-come, first-served rule resumed, bringing back the hassle of taking the most-loved seat. theater director, filmmaker, and painter andré gregory, a religious film fanatic, once left sweaters on a couple of chairs while he and his wife, filmmaker cindy kleine, went for chocolate egg custards in the lobby and returned to look for individuals sitting on them. “The lady herself said, ‘I don’t care. We’re not transferring,’ and [her date] threw my sweater in my path,” Gregory says with amusement. in 2018, the theater underwent a facelift, prompted in part by a typical chorus, “I love movies, I hate seats,” from friends in a viewer poll two years earlier, and upgraded its chairs, which are actually softer, more wide and infinitely extra. comfortable.
The rest of the interior can also be cozy, with large crimson columns and partitions where movie posters, movie showtimes and unique artwork hang. At the concession stand in the lobby, there is a good espresso and good snacks, both the popcorn and the necessary baked goods, along with a delicious orange and chocolate brownie. theater manager karen cooper, who has run film forum for 50 of its 52 years, might also be fiercely political in her choice of movies — tonight’s movie was her breakthrough — but she’s all sweety with mom As for the candy, most of which comes from Betty’s Bakery in Brooklyn.
The history of motion pictures as art, especially in Manhattan, is, in part, a history of the rise and fall of independent theaters. when i was a baby, there was the art on 8th street, the 8th street theater, and the bleecker street movie theater, all within blocks of each other. by the late 1990s, though all had closed. But the movie forum, which opened in 1970, has always been special and thrives to this day, seeing as many as 400-500 movies a year (a fourth screen was also added in the renovation).
has spawned and nurtured a real group of moviegoers, who come to laugh, cry and argue. viewers sometimes seem like part of the show: I once heard a fight in Russian in the back row. And before a screening of “Amazing Grace,” the 2018 live documentary of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel performances at a church in Los Angeles, I saw a lobby full of middle-aged women of all races singing “Respect ”, as in the event that they were young people about to enter a live rock performance.
for many, the film forum can also be a place to receive training. peter nelson, cinematographer and director, recently of the acclaimed bee documentary “the pollinators” (2019), says, “back in the early 1980s, once i was in n.y.u. film school, their extremely varied program of independent movies, international movies and classics gave me access to movies that weren’t usually shown anywhere else in town.” Adds Nelson, “Once in a while, I might do a ‘movie binge,’ where I can finish watching a movie , leaving the theater and lining up for a special, usually with a delicious brownie to go.” Gina Duncan, president-elect of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, may be a fan, too. “Anyone who wants to run their own movie theater envisions a place like a movie forum: dedicated viewers, good concessions and good programming,” she says. “It’s unpretentious and I think it has a lot to do with Karen Cooper.”
Cooper was a recent graduate of Smith College when she returned to her hometown of New York in 1970 and began looking for a job in the arts. In 1972, she became director of the fledgling Foro Cinema, then housed in a small loft house on West 88th Street with 50 folding chairs. “My annual price range was around $19,000,” she says. “and I made the espresso.” she has had the same title ever since. In 1975, Cooper moved the Downtown Film Forum to the Vandam Theater; In 1980, she built a two-screen movie theater on Watts Street. In 1990, Film Forum moved once again, this time to its current location between Varick Street and Sixth Avenue. Today, the copper price range is around six million.
At 73, Cooper, who lives in the Wild West town and walks to work every day, is vividly articulate and fast-paced, a dynamo overseeing fifty employees (give or take), collecting film funds (film forum is a non-profit organization with a board of 24) and away from programming. It is Cooper who, along with programmer Mike Maggiore and Deputy Director Sonya Chung, handles new independent films and documentaries, while Repertory Director Bruce Goldstein handles reruns with Affiliate Repertory Programmer Elspeth Carroll. Cooper attends at least several international festivals each year, and has rubbed shoulders with everyone from Werner Herzog to Robert Redford, but he never identifies drops. “Nobody really knows about celebrities,” says Cooper. “I wouldn’t fake it in any other case.”
She believes that the most effective documentaries can help change the world. “I grew up in the 1960s, through civil rights action, the war in vietnam, women’s action, gay rights action, everything about human rights, and they moved me deeply,” she says about non-fiction narratives. /p>
Cooper has appeared in such films as Spike Lee’s “4 Girls” (1997), about the girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing, and, in March, “Lynching Postcards: ‘Token Christine Turner’s. of a great day’” (2021), a short documentary about 20th-century postcards showing scenes of murdered African-Americans and bloodthirsty white bystanders, as souvenirs, and how black activists repurposed them to fight back against the horrors of lynching.
“baby yar. context”, the devastating 2021 documentary about the 1941 nazi bloodbath of tens of thousands of jews over two days in the babi yar ravine on the edge of kyiv in ukraine, is scheduled for screening on april 1, but it was scheduled months before the present. Russian invasion. Gregory, who was born in France and fled Europe along with his mother and his father who were Russian Jews just before the Nazi invasion, will no doubt catch him. “I have an identical curiosity about movies about fascism,” he says. Cooper confirms: “André has seen all my Nazi movies,” he says, “and that’s saying a lot.”
10 movies to watch this oscar season
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“don’t look up”. Two astronomers discover a comet headed straight for Earth. when they go along with dangerous news, the president of the united states has other things on her mind to focus on than the looming catastrophe.
“drive my car”. a theater director deals with the death of his wife, while he puts on a performance of “uncle vanya”. a chauffeur assigned by the theater company transports him to and from work while he maintains large emotional reserves of his own.
“liquorice pizza”. in paul thomas anderson’s breakout romance, a baby artist who has dealt with most of the teenage awkwardness is aging out of her area of interest. Meeting her with twentysomething Alana, with whom she immediately falls in love, will make the story flow.
“nightmare alley”. A con artist with empty pockets and a mysterious past joins the seedy world of 1930s sideshow carnivals. he promptly starts riding bikes for ladies, along with a clairvoyant whose husband once had a successful mentalist act.
“the power of the dog”. phil burbank has been enjoying the cowboy all his adult life, raising cattle on her family’s montana ranch for many years. When his brother George marries a widow with a teenage son, a lifelong family dynamic is disrupted.
“west side story”. Steven Spielberg’s remake of one of Broadway’s most celebrated musicals, a contemporary take on “Romeo and Juliet,” is based on the forbidden love between Tony and Maria, who are involved with two rival road gangs on the West Side. Manhattan in 1950.
other notable documentaries that have appeared on film forum, some political and some more in the realm of everyday life, include michael apted’s “up” series of films (1964-2019); “the war room” (1993), directed by chris hegedus and d.a. baker; “Paris is Burning” by Jennie Livingston (1990); and Bruce Weber’s “Let’s Get Lost” (1988), about jazz musician Chet Baker. On the opening weekend of Michael Levine’s “Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream” (2016), the theater gave out free matzo containers. and last month it opened “the automat,” lisa hurwitz’s 2021 celebration of the horn & hardart chain of drive-through coffee shops that flourished in new york and philadelphia. Colin Powell, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Carl Reiner seem like followers of retro-futuristic institutions, as does Mel Brooks, who sings a unique composition: his personal ode to the nickel in a slot machine.
goldstein arrived in 1986, and it’s his choice of repertoire films that will surely have me in the theater more than once a week. Placed in classics from the likes of Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Ida Lupino, Akira Kurosawa and Federico Fellini. has built festivals around humphrey bogart and greta garbo and created sequence after sequence beloved by theater fans, many centered on the city itself, with monikers like “nyc noir” and “madcap manhattan”, featuring films comparable to “sweet smell of success. (1957), “the lost weekend” (1945) and “the naked city” (1948). He is also responsible for showing the big silent movies, most recently by Buster Keaton, and usually has pianist Steve Sterner backing them up live. Next month, he is co-programming a series called “Sidney Poitier and His Pioneering Contemporaries” with film historian Donald Bogle, who will present several of the included films.
although he also founded a film distribution company, rialto pictures, which distributes several of the 4 restorations of ok that are regularly played on film forum and throughout the united states, goldstein has told me that, as a child, he was a artwork. ignorant cinema. “I went to see Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Silence’ (1963),” he recounted. I thought it was an ingrid bergman movie. By now, though, he’s something of a film historian himself, and he can remember almost every movie he’s ever seen. in april 1999, he set up a contest known as “tout truffaut”, dedicated to french new wave director françois truffaut. “At the end of ‘The 400 Blows’ (1959), I told the viewers, ‘Oh, by the way, … Jean-Pierre Léaud is here,’ and they were furious,” he recalled. “Then I said, ‘oh,…and there’s another person here: jeanne moreau,’ and the place fell apart.”
last summer, goldstein programmed “la piscine”, jacques deray’s 1969 french thriller with 4 beautiful dead stars: alain delon, romy schneider, jane birkin and maurice ronet, who mostly bathe and relax around a swimming pool. One night, while the characters burned to the point of fainting by Michel Legrand, Hurricane Ida swept through the city and water began to seep into the theater. spectators had to be evacuated, but the house sustained only minimal injuries and was cleaned for performances the following day.
how fantastic that forum cinema, this living and breathing establishment that shows the world in old, new, tragic, political, historical, classic, humorous and compelling films, has been maintained. some of the movies that i have seen there and that i can always remember are “the third man” (1949) and “mr. klein” (1976), an amazing film about paris, fascism and world war ii, each in beautiful 4 ok decisions; Francesco Rosi’s “Christ Stopped at Eboli” (1979), based primarily on Carlo Levi’s memoir of his time living in exile among impoverished Italians, some of whom lived in caves, in the south of the country; and Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Army of Shadows” (1969). But as heady as Film Forum’s fare is, it’s not snobbish. I also saw Gordon Parks’ clever blaxploitation movie “Shape” (1971) there, and laughed out loud at Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” (1974). There’s something for everyone and, because of the Goldstein Jr. program on Sunday mornings, there are even movies for children and their parents; I’ll definitely be joining them on May 15th for “Follow the Fleet” (1936), with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
gregory has two cats and he tells me that certainly one of them, felix, likes art movies, particularly fellini’s “8½” (1963), while the opposite, pucein, prefers doris day movies. Gregory himself is best known for the 1981 Louis Malle film My Dinner With André, in which he and actor-playwright Wallace Shawn play variations of themselves and discuss the life, philosophy and pleasures of work in the theater, and the cup of espresso. it will probably be tested on may 9, with gregorio doing a q. Already.; on the 11th, kleine’s “andré gregory: before and after dinner” will be screened, followed by a dialogue with the couple. At 87, Gregory just loves the place: the movies, the arguments, the good cake and all. “If new york lost the statue of liberty, it won’t be a real loss,” he says. “but if the film forum disappeared, it would be completely heartbreaking.”