Feb 24, 2013

A diverse and desultory film festival

Who goes to watch a film shot in 1973 on a movie theater, and why? With its Indie restaurant packed, and the movie theater looking half occupied, the Film Comment selects festival, which takes place from February 18th thru February 28th, proved to be and event that gathered all the resilient cinephile viewers in New York City. But at the beginning of each session I have attended, I was surprised how crowded it got just before the initial credits.
The exhibition of the 13th edition of Film Comment Selects curated by Gavin Smith and by the others magazine’s editors, it’s an eclectic festival that this year consisted of twenty films completed from 1973 to 2013, that according to the curator represent the best movies you would have a hard time watching in the big screen if it weren’t for the festival. The festival describes and advertises itself as “a lineup of the coming soon and the never-coming-back, the rare and the rediscovered, the unclassifiable and the underrated”. Though there were some sold out sessions, when visiting Lincoln Center for this specific festival it became clear that this was a cinephile event.  I have only attended the festival one day, when I have watched four of the movies scheduled for the day: the drama Dormant Beauty, the romantic excerpts of Nights with Theodore, the eccentric and disturbing White Epilepsy and the horror-indie movie Here Comes the Devil. And by the short number or pieces that I have watched I can surely state that eclectic might be the best word to describe the experience.
Different from other film festivals and showings, where the audience can’t break the half of a dozen viewers, Film Comment Selects had quite a good audience last Friday night in all the four sessions I have attended, but still, pretty small compared to a national flick opening night. The audience comprehended from people in their late 60’s early 70’s to young adults who looked like they have just began undergraduate studies in fields related to film and media, but all of them regardless the age or the work of field, knew what they were about to see, most of them even attending for specific films where there was a Q&A with the director, such as White Epilepsy’s session.

Although the curators succeeded to bring a diverse (probably the festival’s strongest goal) and significant selection of films, there were two distinct flaws that if avoided could have had enhanced the viewer’s experience. The first is that the session of White Epilepsy for instance was added as a last minute film to the selection, so the selection was not organized and well prepared, and also the presence of its director, Philippe Grandieux, was not announced properly, it looked like he just happened to be there, by chance. The second flaw has to do with content. Whilst I was very pleased with the movies I have seen at the festival, I am sure that there was lots of other movies that could have been screened that would have equally fit the proposal, so for me, the event lacked a more clear argument of the selection made.
By the time I left Lincoln Center – and I must remind you that I’ve watched four movies in a row – I was tired and there was still a strong scene in the restaurant but now I was sure that on the next day the festival would be as packed as its local Indie competitor.

For more information: http://www.filmlinc.com/films/series/film-comment-selects-2013

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