The Cinema Art House Visionary

When did movie theaters specializing in repertory cinema, foreign language films and alternatives to Hollywood mass-produced entertainments become an option for movie lovers in the U.S.? Some might think it all began with the Landmark Theater chain, founded in 1974, which eventually expanded into a network of 46 cinemas in 26 markets. No, the concept of the art house cinema can be traced back to 1952 when the Beekman Theater on Manhattan’s East Side opened and turned movie-going into an event. The man behind the venue was Donald Rugoff and his entrance into the world of film exhibition was due to his father Edward’s partnership with Herman Becker; the two men had built up a small empire of theaters across New York City during the days of the nickelodeon and vaudeville. Rugoff would soon have a major impact on movie-going, film distribution and film culture in the 1960s and 1970s but he is virtually forgotten today. Ira Deutchman, a former employee of Cinema V, Rugoff’s trail-blazing film distribution company, is bound to correct that situation with his fascinating, warts-and-all homage, Searching for Mr. Rugoff (The documentary was completed in 2019 and is finally screening and streaming at various venues).

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Soulmates in Hell

In June 1973 the democratic government of Uruguay was overthrown by a military dictatorship that lasted until February 28,1985 and was responsible for the incarceration of more than 5000 people and the systematic torture and human rights abuse of prisoners. Among the prisoners were members of the left-wing guerrilla organization known as the Tupamaros (aka the National Liberation Movement), and included activist Jose Mujica, the poet and playwright Mauricio Rosencof and journalist Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro. A Twelve-Year Night (La Noche de 12 Anos), which premiered on Netflix in late December and is currently available on the service, depicts the plight of these three men in a powerful true-life drama directed by Alvaro Brechner. Continue reading

The Lost Films of Audio-Brandon

The Sleeping Car MurdersBack in the days before the VHS home video market exploded and Blockbuster became the obiquitous rental store, the 16mm film library was still a viable business in the non-theatrical college and educational markets. The decline would begin in the early eighties and by the end of the decade most 16mm distributors would be out of business. But during the peak years, this film format was affordable and easily accessible to all types of organizations (churches, schools, businesses and prisons) and also individuals who ran private film societies.   Continue reading