Gavin Smith on Film Comment Selects at 11

Posted by Gavin Smith on 2.18.2011

Every February since 2001 the editors and writers of America’s leading movie magazine bring to New York a crucial lineup of can’t-miss previews, events, rediscoveries, and U.S. premieres from the cinematic frontlines.

At least that’s what the marketing department wants us to say.

True enough, with this year’s 27-film slate—plus one last minute addition hot from Sundance in a midnight slot—we’ve possibly outdone ourselves: more special guests (Claude Lanzmann! Alex Cox!), more after-parties (hi Viva Radio!), more senseless violence (Cold Fish anyone?), more unreleased rarities both new and old you’ll never have another chance to see—plus a raving Klaus Kinski at the height of his madness to cap things off.

There’s no denying that this year’s selection is pretty dark: serial killers, Nazis, dysfunctional families everywhere you turn, grave robbers, real-life hit men, and Japanese war criminals are just some of the people you’ll encounter on our big screen over the next two weeks. What can we say? Death sells tickets.

Some might say there’s no depth of bad taste Film Comment Selects won’t plumb, and that sounds about right, but give us a little credit—mainly because managing editor Laura Kern would stop talking to us, A Serbian Film, generally held to be the Most Offensive Movie of 2010, is one film we’re not showing. Yet.

You may think we’re elitist, looking down at the non-initiates from our ivory tower of cinephilia, but nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t buy the artificial distinctions of the cine-snobs clutching their well-thumbed copies of Bazin’s What is Cinema? We refuse all borders in the magazine and in the movie theater: That’s why both in our pages and in our programs we celebrate genre fare from kung-fu movies to horror flicks right alongside the work of certified art-house luminaries like Jia Zhangke, Thomas Vinterberg, and not forgetting R.W. Fassbinder—who knew a thing or two about the sweet spot where art and abjection meet and exchange fluids.

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