The recent 50th Anniversary Gala of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, now renamed Film at Lincoln Center, was a memorable event. Many film notables spoke of how having their films shown in the New York Film Festival and the many film programs at Lincoln Center significantly helped their careers in film.
Many arrived through a burst of flashbulbs.
The program was opened by Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”). He spoke of how a great film can make empathy so that people can better recognize each other back across borders.
Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”) appeared with his partner Zoe Kazan (“The Big Sick”) with whom he collaborated on the screenplay for “Wildlife” which he directed. Being the daughter of screenwriters, Kazan developed an interest in film earlier than Dano. Growing up in the suburbs, Dano spoke of being exposed to live performance arts. He acted on stage. When he started acting in films, he saw the “potential of cinema”. At Lincoln Center, he said films like those of Louis Malle “blew my mind”.
Pedro Almodovar said that his early Spanish film “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” was turned down by the Cannes Film Festival but was selected for the New Directors/New Films series at Lincoln Center in 1985. Almodovar joked that a critic’s description of the film as “often tasteless, never dull” was an appropriate description of his career work.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (“Fahreneit 9/11”) said that in this turbulent political time, the difference between fact and truth is crucial. He added that for the artist, the truth is now more important than ever and it is “necessary to have non-fiction films.”
Moore spoke of how important for him it was for his first documentary “Roger & Me” (1989), completed after maxing out his credit cards, to be shown at the New York Film Festival.
John Waters joked humorously in the style of his films about the response to showings of his often outrageous work.
Darren Aronovsky (“Black Swan”) spoke of the importance of the Film Society bringing the art of cinema to New York City and having an organization where people “don’t give a shit” about commercial consideration.
Tilda Swinton whose first film shown at Lincoln Center was “The Last of England” in 1987 called Film at Lincoln Center an “invaluable asset” for “essential reasons” to the cultural life of New York.
Dee Rees, whose “Pariah” (2011) was shown at New Directors/New Films and her “Mudbound” (2017) screened at the New York Film Festival, compared the open atmosphere of Lincoln Center with theaters in African American areas where bag checks are selectively enforced. She praised the “storytelling visions” of films shown at Lincoln Center with “powerful multiple perspectives”.
The program closed with Martin Scorsese who reminisced that as a student he didn’t have the money to afford attending the first New York Film Festival in 1963. Scorsese said that when his “Mean Streets” was shown at the 1973 New York Film Festival, a “defining moment” of his career “came that day”.
Scorsese joked that when his mother was asked what she thought of the profanity-laden “Mean Streets”, she replied “We never use that word in the house … where did he get that?”
Scorsese ended by saying Film at Lincoln Center has provided a ‘sanctuary, a temple of cinema…no competition, no awards”.