Past Masters

A rich repertory selection saves the year for cinephiles

The whisperings have begun. Blame it on a weak Cannes, the demise of Wellspring, a generalized cultural malaise, or just the law of averages asserting itself after the banner years of 2004 and '05, but there's a definite sense emerging that 2006 may wind up being a down year for art movies. The fall festival lineup promises better things to come, but one of the great things about living in New York is that even in these days of DVD, HD, and other sundry acronyms, there remain plenty of opportunities, of a range unmatched anywhere else in the country, to see great films of the past on the big screen. Last fall's repertory calendar was distinguished by its Japanese programs, including the New York Film Festival's Shochiku series and retros devoted to masters Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse. Mizoguchi makes another pass this year (September 8 through 21, Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street), but overall the season has a decidedly more "traditional" (read: Eurocentric) feel.

Which is certainly not to imply that this fall's rep house offerings are safe or boring. Au contraire, this fall will see the first ever New York screening of a legendary leviathan of French cinema: Jacques Rivette's 12-hour-plus Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (1971), showing as part of a complete Rivette retrospective (November 10 through December 17, Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Avenue and 36th Street, Astoria, Queens). Edited down from some 30 hours of improvised footage, Rivette's magnum opus (showing in two parts December 9 and 10) comprises hours of Living Theater–like rehearsals interwoven with the conspiracy-minded machinations of two inscrutable loners (Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto). The footage also yielded a second film, Out 1: Spectre (December 17), which runs a mere four and a half hours, sculpting the same raw material into an elusive four-way narrative that slips insidiously into a Pynchonesque morass of epistemological terror.

This year's NYFF retro takes on the formidable catalog of legendary arthouse distributor Janus Films (September 29 through October 27, Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street). A fair number of the usual suspects are present ( The Seventh Seal, The 400 Blows, etc.) but the series features a surprising proportion of less-obvious choices, including Roman Polanski's acerbic feature debut Knife in the Water and Serbian filmmaker Dusan Makavejev's underseen W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism. Also making a welcome appearance at the festival is Warren Beatty's Reds (Alice Tully Hall, West 65th Street and Broadway). A canny early-Reagan-era mixture of radical politics and old-school Hollywood romance, Beatty's biopic of American journalist John Reed may be the most unabashedly pro-Communist film ever released by a major studio. A quarter-century on, it remains as politically unfashionable as ever.

Out 1: Spectre (1972) Directed by Jacques Rivette Shown: Juliet Berto
photo: Photofest/courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image.
Out 1: Spectre (1972) Directed by Jacques Rivette Shown: Juliet Berto

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