As the 53rd New York Film Festival ends today, I thought I would go back half a century and take a look at the 3rd edition of the festival. Curated by Amos Vogel and Richard Roud, the then fledgling fest comprised 17 new features, 6 retrospective selections (ranging from Feuillade’s 1915 Les vampires to Godard’s 1960 Le petit soldat), and a number of shorts or demi-features (including Chris Marker’s The Koumiko Mystery). The main slate was chock-full of masterpieces (Gertrud, Alphaville, Charulata) and films by masters (Franju, Visconti, Kurosawa) and young turks on the rise (Straub, Bellocchio, Forman, Penn, Skolimowski). And there is only one film in the list—Laurence L. Kent’s Canadian indie Caressed—that I had never heard of before.
In his introduction to the festival catalog Amos Vogel wrote:
“Several fascinating, contradictory facts stand out in the 1965 New York film scene. First, film is ‘in’, with a vengeance. This most modern of all the arts, long designated an ‘entertainment’ by foe and friend alike, has finally been discovered: its popularity with the cultural elite and the young enthusiasts is rapidly assuming the proportions of a cult.... “Two, film is about to join 20th century art. With most of the serious contemporary directors, realism and the simple narrative cinema are on their way out. The artists and poets, to the usual consternation of the usually consternated, are invading the medium, seducing the financiers with their Arabian fantasies and, as is their wont, playing havoc with long-established, not-so-eternal truths. How else explain the growing pre-eminence in the commercial cinema of experimental works in a variety of styles: semi-surrealist, neo-dadaist, existentialist, absurd, improvised... “Three, New Yorkers are seeing ever less of serious international cinema. TV inroads, mounting costs, new exhibition patterns, insufficient critical support are seriously limiting art film exhibition (except for Sophia Loren and luscious sex films). Thus, the New York Festival becomes steadily more essential as a witness and catalyst.”
I have managed to find posters for all the main-slate features and they are presented in the order in which the films were shown in the festival. I’ve tried to find the best or most interesting posters for each film, except in the case of an overly well-known title like Alphaville, whose zippy, exclamatory American poster seems to me to speak more to the exciting moment that Vogel is describing, than Jean Mascii’s gorgeous, classic French grande that everybody knows.
Amazingly, 50 years on, five of the young turks of the 1965 festival are still making films (Godard at 84, Straub at 82, Larry Kent at 78, Skolimowski at 77 and Bellocchio at 75), and both Skolimowski and Bellocchio have new films in the current London Film Festival. And the 83-year-old Milos Forman only recently seems to have retired from filmmaking.