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March 12, 2009


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Agreed, Glenn,

Kent Jones' intelligence and insight is one of the main reasons I have been a FSLC member and avid reader of 'Film Comment' for over a decade. His Val Lewton doc was a wonderful extension of those aforementioned qualities of his writing style, (as was his work on 'Mio Viaggio in Italia' and the Scorsese/Dylan doc.) I, too, am looking forward to more films by Jones.

Additionally, I wonder where/if his writing will surface. On-line, I suppose.

Kent will be fine, as for FSLC, I don't know....

Tony Dayoub

Not living in NY I didn't have occasion to meet Mr. Jones in person until I attended the NYFF in 2008. But being a lifelong reader of Film Comment I feel a deep sense of loss because this was my only way of hearing his take on cinema (does anyone know if he has a blog?).

I wish him the best, and hope this is not an early sign of the direction in which I suspect the FSLC is headed.

Sal C

Wow, that's terrible news. Kent has written remarkably insightful pieces on some of my favorite filmmakers (Assayas, Ferrara, Garrel) and his regular contributions to Film Comment have consistently been the highlights of every issue. I’m sure he will turn up elsewhere, but I suspect the damage to both the Film Society and Film Comment may not be easily repaired.

c mason wells

This is devastating for New York film culture. Kent consistently programmed some of the most eclectic and essential rep series in the city, like his wonderful, impassioned tribute to Manny Farber last November. He's also a stand-up guy, particularly evident in his comments over at Dave Kehr's blog, where he always exhibits a decency, breadth of knowledge, and sense of humor too often lacking in blog comments. I urge anyone who hasn't purchased PHYSICAL EVIDENCE -- his terrific collection of essays from Film Comment and other publications -- to do so immediately. Here's hoping we see more from Kent in NYC. Onwards and upwards.

John M

Have to wonder: would not Lincoln Center be a good fit for Glenn Kenny?

Again, just wondering, er, out loud.

Of course, the thunder clouds are rolling in over there--it's a huge shame, especially with two new theaters set to open in 2010. Always struck me as a plum job, as long as the management's tolerable.

Glenn Kenny

You're too kind, John M. Thanks, but I don't think I could even come close to filling the shoes of a Kent Jones.

You say, "Always struck me as a plum job, as long as the management's tolerable." Ah, and there's the rub. I direct you to look at this comment at Daryl Chin's blog:


from which you can go back and read the Chin post that inspired it. Then have a look at the indieWire report, Jeff Wells' extrapolations, and so on. Indeed, there is the rub.

John M

I'm ignorant in the ways of non-profits and foundations, but how did such an apparently terrible person get to this position? She sounds like an absolutely wrong fit for the organization--they're hoping that, what, she'll turn the Film Society into a money machine? Oh lord.

In any case, Glenn, I hope they do bring on someone with your passion, taste, and sense of adventure.

Also, I must say that, while the programming is excellent, there does seem to be a disconnect with the public. Time and time again I've been one of maybe six or seven people in the theater (even for the crowd-pleasers in the Manny Farber tribute)...yeah, this is the reality of cinephilia today, but a few things stick out about Lincoln Center:

1. It's hidden. Almost an entire block off the entrance to Tully Hall, with only a dusty old sign that says "FILM" to let passers-by know that it's even there. I can't imagine there's much at all in the way of walk-in business. Now with the renovations, they should push hard to increase visibility--why shouldn't tourists know it's there, for god's sake? It should say "FILM" on Broadway.
2. It's in the Upper West Side, which (to say the least) is not the bourgeois mecca it once was. In comment after comment, you read about people having to "trudge up" to the Walter Reade. Not sure how they'd ever fix this, but a satellite extension in Brooklyn would be very smart. Feasible? Probably not. But BAM is taking a lot of their thunder. And Film Forum, but that's not exactly news. It was amazing seeing the crowd at a recent screening of SEVENTEEN, for Film Comment Selects. In a word: young. In another word: Brooklyn.
3. Would it kill them to loosen up the programming, pepper things now and again with a sense of humor? It wouldn't even require sacrifice--the timing of the Breadlines & Champagne retro at Film Forum, for example....could that have been more perfectly timed? No, it couldn't have. And it was a great service to the public--showing fantastic studio fare from the early thirties, much of it little seen--and it's topical, and in good humor, and catches the current mood of the city.

My two cents, etc.

Glenn Kenny

@John M: Your observations are astute, spot-on. Let me assure you that many people at the FIlm Society understood that they needed to improve the organization's outreach in many of the ways you describe. But I also think the feeling was that the Film Society could accomplish that without undergoing a ritual disembowelment first.

John M

Did I get all Mara Manus-y in my last comment?

Shit, didn't mean for that to happen.

I just have this weird closeness to the Walter Reade--I want everyone to see what a great place it is. Kent Jones's exit seems like exactly what they do not need.


When I first went to the FSLC I couldn't believe how off-the-beaten-track it was, with the little sign and everything; before I went to New York I somehow assumed that it was going to be a sort of beacon, but that's probably also because Manhattan, to an overseas resident, still seemed like the centre of the city.

I love programming with a sense of humour: I wondered why the Harvard Film Archive couldn't have programmed Claire Denis's "Friday Night" on, well, Friday night. Or "Cleo from 5 to 7" at 5 instead of 7... They should let me loose...

John M

Thoughtful post from Richard Brody, in which certain national sponsorships for FSLC are mentioned:


John M

@Gareth: HIGH NOON at high noon. WEEKEND on a weekend. The mind reels... FROM DUSK TILL DAWN at...never.

Maybe I meant a sense of "levity." More tributes to Manny Farber, fewer tributes to the new cinema of French Guyana, co-sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of French Guyana and Capital One Bank.

I'm highly worried they'll start playing MoMA's game--"tributes" to Miramax and Pixar.

craig keller.

I'm interested to come across the remarks on the Film Forum "Breadlines and Champagne" event, as I've been curious to gauge "user-reaction" around the thing — not the films; the title and the concept — but haven't had enough time/inclination to poke around much for the sussing. Specifically, I'm wondering whether I'm alone in feeling the "good humor" of the concept is actually in exceedingly "poor taste," and indicative of 2009 NYC arts-/youth-culture's inclination to just make a grand bacchanal out of everything. But maybe it's just me — admittedly, not the type to dance when the ship is sinking, but, rather, to have a gun poised at the temple.

I just find the whole idea (and marketing) of the event, based around: "Your life is ruined, but here's Sam Wood" (or whoever) — to be trite, and rather offensive. Not that I'm a proponent of coddling, but while Film Forum are throwing their little theme-party, the city's suicide-rate is probably going through the roof.

John M

See, I think the program had the opposite effect. Seeing (sometimes glamorous, often destitute) guys and gals foraging through their own bank runs and fumbling politicians was oddly comforting.

Filled the hole a lot better than our own fabulous Depression-era output: PAUL BLART, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, etc.

And, ahem, I got to see Mae West for 35 cents. If that's offensive, well...


The response from Mara Manus is to be expected, and perhaps someone there or on the board will figure out that this situation is not good for the organization as a whole.

But what is much more dispiriting is to read the boilerplate management/PR-speak from Richard Pena. So transparently meaningless in the assurances he offers when he should be expected to know what is being said about the tumultuous state of affairs. He responds, “People shouldn’t be worried.” He offers not even one reason or explanation to counter or engage with the reporting that has given a very different version of the FSLC –many employees’ beaten-down morale and state of despondency. Basically he goes to bat for the new heads and says “take my word for it” and ventriloquizes about core principles. Of course, he’s not accountable to us, but one would expect such a figure to suppress such evident disdain in his address to a public.

I would suggest the last thing anyone should do is abandon Film Comment. It’s still the most valuable thing the Film Society has to offer, and it’s like the black sheep in the organization, which would much rather have a piece of pure non-profit PR literature than an actual publication with integrity that prints critical writing and thoughtful appreciations. Because of this, the Film Society already gives it pitiful resources on the relative scale of things.

From all appearances, Manus and the overarching new “vision” presiding at the Film Society knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Another question is whether Kent Jones will still be on the selection committee for this year’s New York Film Festival.


On the Walter Reade location problem, wasn't it more accessible before they began construction in the area?

As for Film Forum's Breadlines & Champagne series, interesting on both sides of the equation. I also know that I wish I could partake in it...

Glenn Kenny

@Craig: I do understand your misgivings about the Film Forum's "Breadlines and Champagne" programming....but that's life under late capitalism, ain't it. And the glib marketing of the series aside, the historical parallels and demonstrations of Hollywood's often heterodox responses to the crisis the films in the program illuminated were quite fascinating. Not to mention that many of the films were flat-out great. "Here's Sam Wood," sure, but also, "Here's Frank Borzage."

Donald Gray

Exactly, Glenn. Almost any excuse to see MAN'S CASTLE on the screen again is a good one.


Not to mention NO GREATER GLORY.


NO GREATER GLORY is indeed an extraordinary experience. I always bawl buckets at the end.

c mason wells

A small but telling detail of the post-Kent Jones FSLC: on the lobby fliers for the upcoming (and admittedly magnificent) Satyajit Ray retro, you'll find the ridiculous phrase, "You've seen SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE." Now, I understand the need to devise a marketing angle for the movies of, like, some old Indian dude, but I mean Jesus. "If you like movies with brown people, you'll love Satyajit Ray!" Is this REALLY where they're heading? Remember when FSLC devoted several pages of their monthly calendar last November to Kent's lovely Farber tribute? Those were the days.

c mason wells

And from yesterday's Variety, as if we needed more proof:

"There's been a perception that you need a Ph.D. and an apartment on the Upper West Side in order to appreciate our films," [Manus] said during a rare sitdown in her office overlooking Amsterdam Avenue. "'Slumdog Millionaire' showed that great stories can come in any package."

I smell a Ghatak retro. His movies are TOTALLY like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, too!

Glenn Kenny

Wow, that quote made me throw up in my mouth just a little bit.

c mason wells

That's not even the best part!

"Her critics would not necessarily be heartened to know that Manus and other Film Society execs just wrapped a trip to L.A., where they met with agencies and studios -- something the org has never done before in its history. 'It's important that we have that dialogue,' she said. 'The studios aren't just making BACHELOR PARTY.'"

That's right -- BACHELOR PARTY. Think there's a reason why sitdowns with her are "rare"?

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