Film Society of Lincoln Center Screening a Whole Summer’s Worth of Midnight
Midnight movies have been, in effect, the homeless
orphans of filmdom for the past 20 years.
Since the demise of their theatrical homes -- second or third-run movie houses
and drive-ins -- back in the 1980s, they've been regarded as too niche for corporate cable channels like IFC or TCM.
With no local-channel late shows in
existence to air them, their only home has been the home video market and the
art-house repertory circuit in cities like the New Beverly Cinema and
Cinefamily in Los Angeles, NYC's Anthology Film Archives, and a handful of
other venues around the country. In these politically sensitive times, there
are only so many places that will host a screening of Torso (1973).
This is strange, because midnight movies are not, in fact, unloved orphans.
They are obsessively loved, collected, talked about, fetishized, blogged,
tweeted and traded by a huge swath of filmgoers, basically anyone old enough to
remember attending one in their heyday of the early 60s--late 80s. But their
theatrical outlet remains severely limited due to a number of factors, mostly
due to the shortage of amenable venues, screenable prints (their fan base is
slow to warm to digital projections) and difficulty in marketing to younger
generations. But their influence
continues to be felt in everything from fashion and advertising to more
mainstream feature films, particularly those of Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino
-- both of whom owe their careers to the recreation of the midnight movie
phenomenon and aesthetic. (It was through Tarantino's enormous generosity that
the New Beverly Cinema was rescued from closure when he quietly bought it from
the owners in 2010 but allowed them to continue running it as they saw fit.)
This is one reason why museums and cultural institutions around the country are
taking notice and
programming midnight movies into their film calendars, in effect, giving these
genre films a second home in the 21st century, and in so doing elevating their
stature through the critical lens of the museum imprimatur.
Another reason is that these same museums and cultural
institutions contain millennial-generation
staff, for who anything from the 1980s is sacred. That is a less a scientific
an anecdotal one, but I'm standing by it.
I saw a screening of
Zardoz (1974) at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art last March in a Mystery Science 3000-inspired format,
including a hilarious trailer reel as an intro, before an audience of mostly
twenty-somethings. And NYC’s Museum of Art and Design in 2010 devoted an entire
week to Italian zombie films, which they called Zombo Italiano. The trend is picking up heat elsewhere.
Which leads me to my main point: The Film Society of Lincoln Center is
presenting a new series of Midnight Movies every Friday night, all summer long!
Now through August 31st.
In total contradiction to my above thesis, Film Comment Editor-in-Chief
series co-programmer Gavin Smith says: "Sometimes I sit in my office and
wonder why Béla Tarr couldn’t have filmed a live-action version of the game
Sodoku. Because if he had, we would program it in a second. But since he hasn’t
(at least so far, anything’s possible), we might as well throw The Texas
Chain Saw Massacre and Fritz the Cat on the screen and see what
Among the rarely screened gems in the series are: Logan's Run (June 15);
Lost Highway (July 6); The Evil Deada nd The Evil Dead II
(July 13 and 20, respectively); and The House by the Cemetery (August