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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

New Yorker Films, 1963-2008

In college, a friend made a 16mm faux trailer for an apocryphal Straub-Huillet film starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Marlon Brando, entitled “The Patriarch, the Plebian and the Penis.” Their austere camera style was part of the send-up, as well as a critic’s quote: “A one-of-a-kind film… may be the best of its kind ever made.” (Which I used years later in film review.) The best joke, if the title didn’t have you rolling in the aisles right off, was the credit up top, with a logo familiar from all the scritch-scratchy 16mm prints of movies we’d rented for the university film societies, with one addendum: “Coming for Christmas from New Yorker Films.” I think we’d just watched Werner Herzog’s Even newyorkerlogo_5678.jpgDwarves Started Small when the notion came up. We were readily amused in those days and I think it was also around the time we’d witnessed a double feature of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona and Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor. The idea of a Christmas promo from the company still makes me smile, but not the news that its library had been used as collateral on a loan that went into default and the company was shut down today. And, among the modest honorifics that have ever come my way was the pleasure of being quoted on New Yorker DVDs from Tim Roth, Emir Kusturica and Claire Denis, even if the quotes are goofy. For Underground, it’s something about beer and women; for Beau Travail, it’s the ellipsis-heavy “A MASTERPIECE! Exquisite… Mysterious… Magical.” Missing only a second exclamation point! Presentation treatments and the seven-to-fifteen second fanfares that accompany them have always given me a little rush, on films old or new. But the silent white-on-blue New Yorker logo that accompanied movies like Wim Wenders’ American Friend is forever married in my memory to the low hiss and crackle of a well-distressed 16mm optical soundtrack. Here’s hoping some part of their legacy is salvaged from the bank’s vaults. In his new blog at the New Yorker, Richard Brody considers implications of the closure, including the fact that “unlike book publishers, whose wares are widely distributed to libraries (it’s bitterly sad when a publisher goes out of business, but the back catalogue is already out there), film distributors hold the prints of the movies they own rights to; those which are out on home video have a second life, but the 35mm prints are, as of now, locked up, and revival houses wanting to screen them are simply out of luck.” [More at the link.]

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch