By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall July 8, 2004 at 8:37AM
Every month, the good folks over at BAM (that's the Brooklyn Academy of Music, for those who aren't familiar) work diligently to maintain one, sometimes two screens for their ever-impressive retrospective program, The BAM Cinematék. After last month's exceptional Village Voice Selects series, which is fast-becoming my favorite way to keep up with the previous year's forgotten gems, this month offers a re-examination of two of the finest retrospectives of the past year, the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder (originally at Film Forum) and Yasujiro Ozu (originally at the Walter Reade.) These programs have been altered from their original runs, but the ideas remain the same. What is most exciting about re-visiting these films is not only the amazing quality and power of the work, but the friction between the two filmmakers, their styles, technique, and world views. The films of Fassbinder and Ozu are playing on back to back days, all month long. A Fassbinder on Tuesday, an Ozu on Wednesday-- the films creating a sort of dissonance for the viewer, taking us into and out of such different worlds. I mean, are there two films more different than Floating Weeds and Beware of a Holy Whore?
This is simply quality film programming. As a film programmer, people (ok, mostly family members) ask me of what my job consists. And despite my attempts at a haughty comparison with museum curators, who take existing works by different artists and compare and contrast them in a gallery or museum space, creating an argument or an idea about the works included, no one usually buys what I have to say. To them, it's just picking movies. The reality is, there is an idea being expressed at a place like BAM, The Film Forum, at a film festival, or at many of the other retrospective theaters. By allowing audiences to experience works in a group, across several days, you really get a unique perspective on films and the programmer's ideas about the topic he/she is programming, be it the work of a single artist or several artists (as in the Cine México program at Film Forum.) Whatever the result, as I have learned more about programming and how it can be a creative activity, I have learned to really respect other people's choices. That's why I am so excited about BAM's Ozu and Fassbinder retrospectives. There are far too few places in the rest of the country that offer these opportunities to see creative programming. I plan on taking full advantage of all of this good work.