SAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 13, 2016)—The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) announce the launch of Modern Cinema, a new film series, comprising three seasons annually, exploring the dynamic relationships between the past and present of cinema as one of the modern era’s essential visual art forms. The collaboration kicks off in October with the inaugural season, dedicated to legendary preservationists and exhibitors/distributors the Criterion Collection and Janus Films, accompanied by a retrospective of films by contemporary Thai master director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who will be present to introduce his work and give an artist talk. All screenings and talks take place in the newly renovated Phyllis Wattis Theater at SFMOMA, and several programs will feature special introductions by notable Bay Area figures.
“A museum of modern art is incomplete without cinema,” said Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Practice at SFMOMA, “because the histories of film, painting, design and photography are so intertwined, but also because cinema, as much as other visual art, has illuminated our collective experience of the modern world.”
“This major new partnership will ensure that the history of cinema will be consistently celebrated in a beautiful, state-of-the-art San Francisco cinema, inspiring a new generation of enthusiastic and informed filmgoers,” said SF Film Society Executive Director Noah Cowan. “It has been a great privilege to work with the team at SFMOMA to bring this ambitious project to fruition—and great fun too, as this playful first program suggests.”
Modern Cinema seeks to highlight the ongoing dialogue between the critically acclaimed filmmakers of today—particularly those showcased in contemporary visual culture—and the great masters of cinema’s past, in an attempt to shine a light on the historical continuity and ongoing impact of this most modern of art forms.
For this inaugural program, the Film Society and SFMOMA pay tribute to an institution that has become synonymous with the very best of international art cinema. Founded in 1984, the Criterion Collection and its sister company Janus Films have championed filmmakers and films that have made a significant impact on critics, audiences and artists alike. The result is a canon of works that bring the defining moments of cinema to a wide audience. Building on the Mel Novikoff Award tribute to Janus/Criterion at the recent San Francisco International Film Festival, Modern Cinema will present a diverse international cross-section of films from their remarkable catalog of classics. The films selected for the three weekends of season one center around the theme of haunting, including films whose power has “haunted” other filmmakers; the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose films are haunted by ghosts of cinema past and their own characters who move between past or present; and the final weekend of subtle psychological horror with films that haunt us all—ghost stories, explorations of the spirit and studies in fantasy from around the world.
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose video installation Phantoms of Nabua is featured in the exhibition Film as Place, on view at SFMOMA September 10 through October 30, draws on this rich history of filmmaking. His work, which often features ghostlike characters caught between states of life and death, repurposes elements from a broad swath of modern film culture to make his much-celebrated feature films, experimental shorts, and ambitious installation projects.
Modern Cinema’s inaugural season kicks off with a weekend of films that have haunted the creative world since they were first screened—the works whose influence can be felt in all the films that followed and whose power has inspired our most important contemporary filmmakers. The lineup features an international cross-section of landmark films from the Criterion/Janus catalog, with work from such masters as Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Chantal Akerman, Michelangelo Antonioni and more. Director Philip Kaufman will introduce Rashomon on October 7 for Modern Cinema’s opening evening.
Adding a contemporary dimension to the season, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films are haunted both by the ghosts of cinema past and by their own characters, who move freely between past and present, life and death. Weerasethakul will be in attendance throughout the weekend and will lead an illustrated discussion of his films and his art, providing a rare opportunity to explore the themes that illuminate these unique works with the filmmaker himself.
The final weekend in the first season of Modern Cinema celebrates films that haunt us all—ghost stories, explorations of the spirit and studies in fantasy from all over the world and from some of filmmaking’s greatest practitioners. Eerie, unsettling and startling, these works set the standard for subtle psychological horror and changed the way we think about supernatural encounters.
As part of the opening of the new and expanded SFMOMA in May 2016, the Phyllis Wattis Theater also received a major renovation and system update creating one of the most enjoyable places to see film in the Bay Area. A new, state-of-the-art NEC digital projector allows for the presentation of films on a 24 x 12-foot screen with the capacity to show aspect ratios of 1:37, 1:66, 1:85 and 2:39. The Wattis Theater can also screen films via new Kinoton projectors in 16 and 35mm formats. Because sound is integral to the cinematic experience, a new Meyer Sound Cinema Surround System enhances the nuance and precision intended by the filmmaker. Comfortable new seating with cup holders round out the Wattis Theater experience.
Tickets are $12 for the general public and $10 for SFMOMA and SFFS members. Tickets can be purchased online or onsite at the museum during regular business hours. Modern Cinema tickets do not include admission to SFMOMA galleries. Guests for Modern Cinema should enter through SFMOMA’s Joyce and Larry Stupski Entrance on Minna Street. For up-to-date program information and tickets, visit sfmoma.org/modern-cinema.
Modern Cinema’s Founding Supporters are Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein.