Film Comment Selects Beats Festival Fever

Toni Slama and Irina Potapenko as Tamara in Revanche. Photo Credit: Lukas Beck/The Film Society of Lincoln Center/Janus Films.


Film Comment Selects at Lincoln Center, which starts today, has hacked out a nice little niche for itself in a city thick with film festivals. An edgier, early-year version of the New York Film Festival, it features titles chosen by the bimonthly journal’s editorial staff. “In a way, we get the leftovers,” says Gavin Smith, editor-in-chief of Film Comment. “But in a way, we’re competitive with Tribeca and the New Directors Festival.” They beat out the latter for Götz Spielmann’s Revanche, which is up for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this Sunday and will screen February 24-28 at the fest. It’s one of 19 New York premieres in the festival.

“It’s just the things we really like-not necessarily the best we saw, but things someone on the staff is enthusiastic or passionate about,” Smith explains. Rarely do all the editors agree, but Smith says that’s par for the course. The magazine’s affiliation with Lincoln Center, which is also involved in the New York Film Festival—and the fact that Film Comment editor-at-large (and inside man!) Ken Jones is on the selection committee for that fest—helps it keep tabs on what’s hot and score prints that might otherwise be hard to get.

Among the big U.S. film journals, Film Comment is less devoted to politics than Cineaste and less academic than Film Quarterly, and its anything-is-fair-game approach manifests in the fest’s eclecticism-“from the most obscure art film to the most low-down, brain-dead comedy or horror movie,” Smith says. “I don’t see much point in showing a film to 20 people,” he adds. Most of the program’s offerings have been written up in the magazine, but have until now been impossible to see outside the international festival circuit; in many cases, FSC is a New Yorker’s only chance to catch a given film in a theater before it goes to DVD or on-demand.
The festival is doing a total of 19 New York premieres this year, including new work from Kathryn Bigelow, John Boorman, and Michael Almereyda. There’s also a blast-from-the-past screening and after-party for 1981’s Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, which stars Diane Lane and Laura Dern as troubled punk-rock teens. But the lineup is dominated by foreign talent, including Mexico’s Fernando Eimbcke (Duck Season) and Philippe Garrel, a French director with a cult following. The biggest breakout may be Korean filmmaker Na Hong-jin, whose unforgiving nail-biter The Chaser (which screens February 28) cleaned up at 2008 Korean Film Awards.
FSC starts Friday with Paradise, Almereyda’s (Hamlet) collage of subtly meaningful camcorder moments from around the world. (A discussion with the director and Jonathan Lethem, who collaborated on upcoming Tonight at Noon, follows the screening). Point Break director Bigelow’s Hurt Locker, the taut tale of a bomb-disposal team in Baghdad, closes the program March 5.


The festival runs February 20–March 5. For tickets and a complete schedule, go to Walter Reade Theater is located on 65th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam.