Online Program Notes

I’ve embarked on a small project: to add to my blogroll a new category of links to film screening venues like cinematheques, museums, repertory theaters, and the like. My objective is not to provide a service that informs viewers of screening times and details. Instead, I want it to be an educational and film-critical resource that collects links to program notes and capsules written to accompany screenings and retrospectives.

A few months ago I wrote a post on program notes, an ephemeral and often overlooked outlet of information and writing in film culture. Perhaps an online resource that focuses on program notes might contribute to making such writing more visible and useful for cinephiles at large.

Here are some websites I’ve gathered so far. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. For the moment, I’m collecting links only to English-language sites, but I hope to make the resource global in time.

TIFF Cinematheque, Toronto
Harvard Film Archive, Boston
Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York
Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley
George Eastman House, Rochester
Cinema Texas Notes, Austin
MoMA, New York
BFI, London
Melbourne Cinematheque, Melbourne
Anthology Film Archives, New York
Block Museum, Chicago
Facets Cinematheque, Chicago
Film Forum, New York
IFC Center, New York
Museum of the Moving Image, New York

A complaint: is it just my imagination or is the TIFF Cinematheque website poorly designed? For example, from their homepage, I can’t seem to get to the individual pages for the various series showing this season. There are icons for each series, but they’re not clickable. And the only way to get to the series pages (which often contain good essays) is circuitously through pages for individual films.

Since I live in New York state, my starting list above is mostly NY-centric. But I’d love to learn of other screening venues with strong web content. And any comments on the user-friendliness and navigability of the websites would also be appreciated. Thank you!

* * *


Jim Emerson’s post on all the recent “death of movie culture” talk.

— On Bresson: Kent Jones at Film Comment; and David Bordwell’s video essay on constructive editing and Pickpocket.

— I urge you to sign Jon Jost’s petition against Ray Carney on behalf of Mark Rappaport.

— Adrian Martin’s new book “Last Day Every Day: Figural Thinking from Auerbach and Kracauer to Agamben and Brenez” (from Punctum Books) is now available for free download and for purchase.

— The World Picture conference is in Brighton, UK, this weekend. See this page for program details. Scholars making presentations include Catherine Grant, Rosalind Galt, John David Rhodes, Elena Gorfinkel, Mark Betz, Karl Schoonover, and others. Related: a conversation between Rhodes and Schoonover on “rethinking Michelangelo Antonioni’s modernism” at the University of Minnesota Press blog. Also: the new Global Queer Cinema website is led by an editorial collective made up of Galt, Schoonover and Grant.

— At MUBI: Danny Kasman interviews Christian Petzold and Abbas Kiarostami; and Adam Cook talks to Fabrice Aragno, a cinematographer on Godard’s Film Socialism.

— A review of Cloud Atlas by Michael Sicinski at Cinema Scope.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky has a piece on Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea.

— University of Edinburgh film scholar Pasquale Iannone on the writings of Italian film critic Aldo Tassone, “a constant source of inspiration and insight”.

— Recently discovered website: scholar Kevin L. Ferguson’s Typecast. The most recent post features Dario Argento on giallo.

— Jonathan Rosenbaum has a page at CriticWire where you can find his ratings of several films.

— Catherine Grant collects video studies of the Western; and horror film “final girl” studies.

Zach Campbell puts up an appreciation of Brian De Palma’s Redacted.

Ehsan Khoshbakht on the links between Brakhage’s films and Iran’s classical arts.

— A formidable list of the best films of the ’70s by Olivier Père.

— David Davidson at Toronto Film Review has several posts on Brian De Palma and Cahiers du Cinéma: here; and here; and here.

— Recent essays at Criterion include Graham Petrie on Paul Fejos; and Ed Park on Rosemary’s Baby.

The new issue of Interiors focuses on the use of architecture and space in Psycho.

A Chris Marker obituary essay by Finn Brunton at the UK journal Radical Philosophy. (via Catherine Grant)

Rick Poynor at Design Observer on David Byrne’s True Stories.

— At Film Quarterly, Mark Sinker and Rob White discuss Chris Marker’s A Grin Without a Cat (1976, 1993).

“Jean Epstein’s Documentary Cinephilia”: an essay by Sarah Keller in the new issue of Studies in French Cinema. (via Neil McGlone)

Jonathan Rosenbaum on Howard Hawks: “The main impression I had of him was that he was what my older brother in Alabama would have called a good ol’ boy — the sort of cocky, amiable jock who hung around locker rooms and spent his time recounting anecdotes of one-upmanship in which he was always right and everyone else was always wrong. The threads of desperation laced through such a pose are of course endemic to such a personality. [Todd] McCarthy reports in his introduction that Hawks “felt so insecure as a director on his first few pictures that he regularly had to pull his car over on his way to work in order to vomit.” Yet if it weren’t for such desperation, I doubt he’d be remembered as the great director he was: it’s the darker, more nihilistic side of his cockiness — his perception of the void — that gives his best work its metaphysical weight. (Is there any filmmaker who conveys a sharper sense of naked fear?)”

pic: Werner Schroeter. Click here and scroll down to read James Quandt’s essay on his films.

Comments (20):

  1. girish

    October 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    It certainly is: thanks, Adrian!

  2. David D.

    October 31, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Another great post! Thanks for the shout-out, Girish. Next week (hopefully): Bill Krohn's review of "Mission: Impossible".
    Is Cinema for De Palma the impossible mission? You will just have to wait to find out…

    Anyways, I'm a little shocked that you missed the holy grail of Cinematheques: la Cinémathèque française ( Their series are adventurous, liner notes by people like Nicole Brenez, and their director Serge Toubiana has a great blog – an extension of his Cahiers writing.

    And while we are at it, when I lived in Ottawa, I would go to La Cinémathèque québécoise on a regular. Some very adventurous programming goes on there. And they have an English website :

  3. girish

    October 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Thank you, Debbie Ann, David and Peter! David, I didn't include the Cinémathèque française because my post only had English-language links to begin with. But I'm only too glad to move beyond them.

  4. Allen

    November 1, 2012 at 1:36 am

    The National Gallery of Art in DC (which has had some great series of late) has short, yet informative notes on their current/upcoming films:

    For more substantial series, such as the recent Antonioni retrospective, they usually have printed booklets available in the auditorium, though I'm not sure if any are online.

  5. Gareth

    November 2, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Although it's partly out of nostalgia — it was the first cinematheque-like experience I had — I still keep an eye on the Irish Film Institute notes, despite only rarely being back to watch anything there now.

    I often find the notes by people like Trevor Johnson and Kevin Coyne worthwhile (I'm convinced Trevor Johnson is a pseudonym crafted after one-too-many viewings of Brief Encounter).

  6. girish

    November 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you, Mike, Allen, and Gareth!

  7. girish

    November 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    An another note, there's been a conversation on my Facebook page about what a strong year 1977 was for cinema. Let me reproduce the titles invoked:

    KILLER OF SHEEP (Burnett)
    OPENING NIGHT (Cassavetes)
    ERASERHEAD (Lynch)
    SUSPIRIA (Argento)
    ANNIE HALL (Allen)
    PROVIDENCE (Resnais)
    STROSZEK (Herzog)
    3 WOMEN (Altman)
    NEW YORK, NEW YORK (Scorsese)
    HOUSE (Obayashi)
    JUBILEE (Jarman)
    THE REPORT (Kiarostami)

  8. Brian Darr

    November 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Let me add a few to that list:

    Sorcerer (William Friedkin)
    Bhumika (Shyam Benegal)
    The Hills Have Eyes (Wes Craven)

    Roslyn Romance – is it Really True (Bruce Baillie)
    Music of the Spheres (Jordan Belson)
    I An Actress (George Kuchar)
    Wild Night In El Reno (George Kuchar)
    Powers Of Ten (Charles & Ray Eames)

    And for the program note file: the San Francisco Silent Film Festival

    (admittedly I wrote some of those notes, but there's also excellent work by Shari Kizirian, Margarita Landazuri, Eddie Muller, David Kiehn, Laura Horak, and many others more scholarly than I.)

  9. girish

    November 4, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Great additions, Brian–and thanks for the SF link!

  10. Craig Harshaw

    November 4, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Some more great titles from 1977

    Ceddo (1977) Ousmane Sembene
    379. Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice (1977) Daniele Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub
    Jade Tiger (1977) Yuen Chor
    The Late Show (1977) Robert Benton
    Martin (1977) George Romero
    New York, New York (1977) Martin Scorcese
    The Stationmaster’s Wife (1977) Rainer Werner Fassbinder

  11. girish

    November 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    And a few more were added to my Facebook post:

    THE RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX (Laura Mulvey/Peter Wollen)
    TAKE THE 5:10 TO DREAMLAND (Bruce Conner)
    11 x 14 (James Benning)

  12. girish

    November 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks, Adam!

  13. girish

    November 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Steve Shaviro had this interesting post on his Facebook page:

    "I'd like to teach a class someday (though this will not happen any time soon) that deals with the philosophical legacy of "the 1960s" by reading texts including the following. They were all published roughly between 1955 and 1975, and they are all (except for Fanon) North American:

    –Life Against Death (Norman O. Brown)
    –Love's Body (Norman O. Brown)
    –Eros and Civilization (Herbert Marcuse)
    –One Dimensional Man (Herbert Marcuse)
    –The Power Elite (C Wright Mills)
    –Dialectic of Sex (Shulamith Firestone)
    –Understanding Media (Marshall McLuhan)
    –Naked Lunch (William Burroughs)
    –The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (Andy Warhol)
    –The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes)
    –Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
    –Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual
    –Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice

    The idea would be to ask what (if any) relevance these books have today. A lot of these texts seem outmoded in certain respects, but they all show an audacity of thought that is largely missing from contemporary discourse."

  14. Anonymous

    December 10, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Better late than never?
    You might be interested in adding the relatively new (2 years old) Indiana University Cinema to your proposed list of venues. This past semester has seen retrospectives of the work of Werner Herzog, Claire Denis, Walter Salles, and Todd Soldonz with each filmmaker in attendance (Next semester's program schedule will be published on January 7th):


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