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Reid Rosefelt on New Yorker: A totally uncompromising and unrealistic approach to the film business

Reid Rosefelt on New Yorker: A totally uncompromising and unrealistic approach to the film business

For me reading that New Yorker Films is closing is like hearing that the Museum of Modern Art must shut their doors because they couldn’t pay the Con Ed bill. WHAT? This cannot be happening.

I got my first job in New York at New Yorker Films when I came to New York in the 70s. Dan Talbot and Jose Lopez were my father/mentors…and the people I worked with, including Bingham Ray, Jeff and Mark Lipsky, Mary Lugo, Suzanne Fedak, Jeffrey Jacobs, and many others, they were my family. It was at New Yorker where we refined our taste in cinema and developed a totally uncompromising and unrealistic approach to the film business. Needless to say, after we left this sanctuary, most of us have gotten in heaps of trouble. We weren’t taught to think about what was “uncommercial” or “hard-to-market” — we just brought out films that Dan liked. So many of the films were magnificent — names like Bertolucci, Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders, Sembene, Malle, Marker, Rohmer, Pialat, Oshima, Rivette, Saura, Chabrol, Antonioni, come immediately to mind — and some of them…well Dan liked them and that was that. But think about it! He acquired films solely because he thought they were good! He bought films like some people buy socks. (ie fast, and for very little money.) I bet it’s impossible for young people to fathom these days, with all the film distributors we have now, but we would go to the New York Film Festival practically every night because so many of our films were playing.

If he liked a director’s work, Dan would buy as much of their output as he could. At one point there were so many Fassbinder films coming through the transom we couldn’t watch them as fast as he could make them. We’d do double features. By the time we finished our snacks and started the projector up again, Fassbinder had already moved on to a new creative phase.

Dan didn’t like to overspend on movie openings. He didn’t believe in making posters until after the film came out and he felt it was worthy of that kind of expenditure. Sometimes he wouldn’t even buy a whole print. We had a Fassbinder film called “The Third Generation” and he split a print 50/50 with Linda Beath, the Canadian distributor. When Vincent Canby raved about “The Third Generation” in the Times and the crowds lined up, we had to pull the print from the Public Theatre and ship it off to Toronto. Uptown at the Cinema Studio we were playing “Jun,” about a guy who feels up women on the subway. (We had our own copy of that one.)

Lately, Dan has been using his princely judgment to preside over the gateway to the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. As everyone in distribution knows, he is a thumbs up/thumbs down type of dude when you humbly approach him for a booking. Always has been. But he is almost always right–look at his track record. No one has better taste than Dan. He is a national treasure. And so is New Yorker Films. (You’ll never get me to say “was”)

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