Inside each film buff lives a movie critic. Inside each critic lives a movie programmer. And inside each programmer’s coronary heart is a spot for Amos Vogel.
Vogel was America’s seminal movie programmer, and so it’s becoming that for his centenary he’s the topic of a citywide tribute now on the New York Movie Pageant and shifting to different theaters later within the season. His New York Occasions obituary from 2012 begins with the blunt assertion that he “exerted an affect on the historical past of movie that few different non-filmmakers can declare.” In 1947, he and his spouse, Marcia Vogel, based Cinema 16, crucial membership movie society in American historical past; after its demise, he directed the New York Movie Pageant for the primary 5 years of its existence.
After being pressured out or resigning (accounts fluctuate), Vogel then wrote a guide, “Movie as a Subversive Artwork,” an encyclopedic cinematic cupboard of wonders that — with chapters like “The Energy of the Visible Taboo” and a nonetheless from Dusan Makavejev’s outrageous “WR: Mysteries of the Organism” on the quilt — is one thing just like the programmer’s bible. (A revised edition can be obtainable subsequent month from Movie Desk Books.) The guide is “inexhaustible,” the New York Movie Pageant’s present director of programming, Dennis Lim, instructed me through electronic mail. “It’s an countless supply of concepts but additionally a reminder of the probabilities of movie exhibition and curation.”
A toddler of Vienna’s ninth district — the neighborhood of Freud and Schoenberg — Amos Vogelbaum was one of many many cultural items thrust upon America when the Nazis took energy in Central Europe. Vogel and his mother and father lived for six months below Nazi rule earlier than escaping Vienna for New York, by the use of Cuba.
His preliminary impulse was to check agriculture and transfer to a kibbutz. Disillusionment with Israel’s growth prompted him to remain in the US and located one other form of utopian society, Cinema 16. Impressed by the instance of the avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren, the Vogels started exhibiting a spread of flicks — experimental psychodramas, poetic documentaries, summary animations, banned French bed room farces and forgotten classics, full with notes. Cinema 16 initially charged admission however switched to yearly subscriptions in order to keep away from New York State’s draconian censorship legal guidelines.
At its top, within the late Nineteen Fifties, Cinema 16 had some 7,000 members and recurrently crammed a 1,600-seat auditorium. It additionally doubled as a distributor for filmmakers as troublesome as Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage. Along with selling the “beat” cinema of “Pull My Daisy” and “The Flower Thief,” Cinema 16 supplied American premieres for Jean Renoir’s “The Guidelines of the Sport” (launched by Renoir), a number of of Luis Buñuel’s Mexican movies, and flicks by the nice Japanese administrators Yasujiro Oz and Nagisa Oshima. Cinema 16 additionally confirmed the primary quick movies by Agnès Varda and Melvin Van Peebles, amongst many others.
As a programmer, Vogel was a grasp of the combo and match. One significantly nice present included Carl Theodor Dreyer’s expressionist horror movie “Vampyr” (1932), Kenneth Anger’s homoerotic house film “Fireworks” (1947) and George Franju’s surreal abattoir documentary “Blood of the Beasts” (1949). Vogel’s applications sometimes juxtaposed avant-garde work and quick documentaries with scientific fare. (As befits his Viennese roots, he had a passion for psychiatric shorts like “Experimental Masochism” or “Unconscious Motivation.”)
The younger Vogel preferred to current himself as a firebrand. In a 1961 Village Voice cowl story headlined “‘I Step on Toes From Time to Time,’” it was a part of his daring declaration that “I’ll present something — political, gay, non secular, erotic, psychological — which must be seen.” Certainly, Cinema 16 was the primary New York venue to current the full-length model of Nazi propaganda movies like “Triumph of the Will” as objects of examine.
Once I met Amos, some 20 years after the Voice article, he was much less combative than amiably avuncular. Gently, he reprimanded me for having written a purposelessly contentious piece a couple of long-ago contretemps occasioned by his refusal to indicate Brakhage’s “Anticipation of the Evening” at Cinema 16. “One determination mustn’t outline a profession,” he instructed me, phrases which may function a movie critic’s motto.
He had a profound sense of mission. Throughout his time on the pageant, he fought finances cuts and strove to create one thing just like the American Movie Institute at Lincoln Heart. He was against any form of commercialization, genuinely shocked that what was then generally known as the Movie Society of Lincoln Heart may settle for cash from Philip Morris, aghast that the yr he give up, the opening movie was a stylish Hollywood comedy, “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.”
Upon becoming a member of the pageant choice committee, I naïvely urged distributing free tickets to avant-garde filmmakers and different needy varieties. “Amos used to try this” got here the disapproving reply. The Vogel pageant was beneficiant. It was ridiculously simple to crash the press screenings and there have been dozens of sidebar screenings and discussions on the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts that, if reminiscence serves, have been just about free.
“We present what will be accomplished if sure cultural parts and the intense artwork or documentary are introduced collectively,” Vogel had instructed the Voice in 1961. “There lies the premise for a movie tradition. However who is aware of in America if such a situation will ever unfold and actually take maintain?”
If it has, the esteem during which Vogel is held by his successors will be gauged by the unprecedented consideration paid his centennial. The pageant has been presenting a seven-part “Highlight” collection devoted to Vogel’s programming, recreating particular exhibits and presenting favourite motion pictures. Later this month, Anthology Movie Archives will present eight reconstructed Cinema 16 payments, and the Museum of Fashionable Artwork will display screen 5 applications with a science and nature theme. In November, Movie Discussion board is reprising a tribute to Cinema 16 proven in 1986. The Museum of the Transferring Picture, Metrograph and Mild Trade are additionally participating, drawing on “Movie as a Subversive Artwork.” Exterior New York, the Arsenal in Berlin and the Austrian Movie Museum in Vienna have organized related multipart occasions.
“Vogel” is German for “hen.” With due respect to Charlie Parker, the message this season is Vogel Lebt, “Chook Lives!”