Stranger Than Fiction - "Film As a Subversive Art" - Jan. 29, 2008
Film As a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel & Cinema 16
Q&A with Cinema 16 Veteran Jack Goelman
January 29, 2008
(Thom Powers and Jack Goelman)
* Next Tuesday night, Stranger Than Fiction will present Sweet Dreams by Eric Latek.
(TP) What was your first interest in experimental cinema?
(JG) I started young. I was a film nut. I saw my fist documentary, The River by Pare Lorentz at the New York World’s Fair (1939/40). When I came out of the Army, I went to film school to become a film editor, but became distracted when I heard of Cinema 16. I attended a screening. It was very small. Experimental films fascinated me.
(TP) What’s different about cinema now than from back then?
(JG) The birth of Cinema 16 took place because the conditions were right at the time. There was no place to show short subject or off beat films. Amos came up with this idea.
(TP) Did you ever have differences of opinions with Amos?
(JG) Of course! And we talked a lot about them, but they had to fit into a concept of what we were planning, sometimes up to a year in advance. We kept track of them. We took notes. We had to like a film almost immediately. It was a question of blending programs and films together.
(TP) In the documentary, we see the 1,600-seat auditorium where Cinema 16 ran. Can you talk about that?
(JG) It was scary. I was there every minute taking notes. People would get up from their wooden seats and make noise. We would discuss the tempo of the show the next day. It was very much alive.
Q: How involved were filmmakers in the Cinema 16 screenings?
(JG) We tried not to involve them. Relationships with filmmakers were a different story. There was enough going on without that.
Q: What is Amos doing now?
(JG) We’ve all gotten older and slower. He’s not teaching anymore, but very much alert. His wife Marsha has been ill, and he’s watching over her.
Q: Why was it called Cinema 16?
(JG) Simply, Amos found out he could get a lot of film in 16mm. Screenings evolved where audiences grew larger and we needed more powerful 16mm projects. We wanted to show the films looking good. We also showed 35mm films such as John Cassavetes’ Shadows. We had a choice between 16mm or 35mm for that, but chose 35mm. We were criticized for it.
Q: The documentary mentions that Bosley Crowder, the film critic of The New York Times back then, didn’t support Cinema 16. Were there any other critics who did support it?
(JG) Yes. The Herald Tribune. Archer Winston loved Cinema 16. We did get a lot of members through The New York Times through advertising.
Q: What interests you in today’s cinema?
(JG) I read reviews. I have a sense of the directors. I don’t have a list of favorites with me, but I do go to the Walter Reade Theater, Cinema Village, etc.
Q: Do you think film programming now is diverse enough?
(JG) There’s a powerful situation now with television and DVD. It’s a different world. They’re useful, but competitive.