If you ask the average moviegoer what he’ll be seeing over the weekend, nine out of ten times his answer will be a generic mainstream film that, while offering a cheap thrill, does little to raise the bar or exceed the already low standards held for movies today. It is unlikely for one to mention a film’s artistic merit or historical significance, even though there are many theaters in New York that play revivals of old gems obscure to the mainstream eye.
One such place is the Museum of Modern Art, or MOMA, located at 11 East 53rd Street. Besides providing New Yorkers with its striking art collection, its independent theater offer movie buffs a diverse collection of films that range from silent European classics from the 1920s to more recent art-house movies, at the cheap price of five dollars a ticket. MOMA holds film exhibits on a certain theme that play over a period of several weeks, during which works of a common director, time period, or artistic movement are screened.
They are currently hosting a film exhibit that covers the works of prolific and acclaimed Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci. Creating masterful works that span the last five decades, he is well known for his intimate, and often controversial, exploration of emotionally charged erotic relationships.
Passion, romance, and catharsis are often the themes that find their way into Bertolucci’s most famous movies, such as “Last Tango in Paris” (1972) and “The Dreamers” (2003), although his large and diverse body of work exhibits his ability to tackle a number of topics. In “The Conformist” (1970) he deals with the human need to conform in a fascist society; in the award- winning “The Last Emperor” (1987), he recounts the life of Chinese emperor Puyi; and in “Little Buddha” (1994), he dramatizes Buddhist messages and ideologies. Also noted for his breathtaking visual style, his films are often lush and dramatic in color scheme.
Another haven for good movies is the Film Forum. Located downtown at 209 West Houston Street, Film Forum specializes in the obscure and is the perfect place to go for those looking for movies outside the norm.
The theater has three movie screens with at least one constantly reeling classics while the other two run movies that are rarely seen outside of Film Forum if at all. Unlike other theaters, Film Forum is non-profit, which allows it to pick movies based on their quality instead of how much money they’ll rake in. The occasionally outlandish yet pleasant selection of movies provide an entertaining experience and the means to experiment with movies that you won’t be able to see elsewhere.
For those searching for more reasons to fall in love with the Film Forum look no further than the upcoming Fritz Lang program that the theater will start running at the end of January. The program focuses on movies that the German director made in America and encompasses a wide array of classic movies that any film enthusiast can appreciate. The movies are mostly from the 40’s and 50’s and, while at first glance seeming dated, provide a breath of fresh air. Lang focuses on substance over style and allows the story and actors to play out instead of emphasizing fancy camerawork.
One of his must-sees is “Manhunt” (1941), which is set in WWII and follows a hunter who goes after the biggest game of all, the Fuehrer himself. The movie will be playing on February 4th and 5th in a two for one double feature with “Ministry Of Fear” (1944), a thriller about a man who is mistaken for a WWII spy. Other acclaimed works include “The Big Heat” (1953), a detective movie that’s become one of the staples of the American noir genre; “Rancho Notorious” (1952), a brutal revenge fantasy set in the Wild West; and “Secret Beyond The Door” (1948), a psychological thriller/melodrama about a woman who may be married to a serial killer.
Moviegoers these days should stray from growing too dependent on contemporary films. For those seeking a more meaningful movie experience, the Film Forum and MOMA are just two of the many theaters in New York City that play classic movies.