As the 54th New York Film Festival winds to a close this weekend I thought it would be instructive to look back at its counterpart of 50 years ago. Sadly, for the sake of symmetry, there are no filmmakers straddling both the 1966 and the 2016 editions, though Agnès Varda (88 years old), Jean-Luc Godard (85), Carlos Saura (84) and Jirí Menzel (78)—all of whom had films in the 1966 NYFF—are all still making films, and Milos Forman (84), Ivan Passer (83) and Peter Watkins (80) are all still with us. There are only two filmmakers in the current NYFF who could potentially have been in the 1966 edition and they are Ken Loach (80) and Paul Verhoeven (78). The current NYFF is remarkably youthful—half the filmmakers weren’t even born in 1966 and, with the exception of Loach and Verhoeven, the old guard is now represented by Jim Jarmusch, Pedro Almodóvar, Olivier Assayas and the Dardennes brothers, which is pretty astonishing to those of us old enough to remember them as the young turks of the 1980s and ’90s. But in 1966 nearly every filmmaker was under 50 with the exception of Robert Bresson (65) and Luis Buñuel (66).
The 4th New York Film Festival opened on a Monday night, September 12, 1966, with Milos Forman’s Loves of a Blonde and closed ten days later on a Thursday evening with Alain Resnais’s The War is Over (La guerre est finie). In between there were two Godards, two Pasolinis, four films from Czechoslovakia and a host of now deathless classics like Au hasard, Balthazar, Pierrot le fou, Accattone and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, as well as a number of less well known films by now canonical auteurs, and just the occasional completely forgotten gem like Do You Keep a Lion at Home? and The Man with the Shaven Head. The latter is one of only two films in the main slate that I couldn’t find a poster for, the other being Buñuel’s demi-feature Simon of the Desert (the two of which shared a double bill).
As well as the main slate, the festival showed experimental shorts by Tony Conrad, Harry Smith, Ed Emshwiller and Robert Breer, short works by the Maysles Brothers, revivals of Clarence Brown’s A Woman of Affairs (1929) and De Mille’s The Cheat (1915), and belated premieres of Renoir’s La chienne (1931) and Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp (1956). There were round table discussions of “What are the New Critics Saying?” and “Distribution of Independent Films,” as well as lectures on “Radicalism in Film,” “Independent Cinema, 1966” and “The Theater of Mixed Means” (“on mixed-media and how it relates to film”). In other words, not that different from the New York Film Festival of today.
The posters below are presented in the order that the films were shown over the 11 day festival. My source is a wonderful book published by Arno Press in 1976 that collects the programs of the first 13 festivals in their original form. You can find second-hand copies occasionally.