What's the general philosophy of the Metrograph, which stands out as a totally unique venue in New York?
It started above all with a desire to express our love of movies in a more personal than institutional way, especially since there's no shortage of institutions in New York. We also wanted to show as many films as possible in their original release format—35 mm, 16 mm—and to pay attention not only to the films but also to those who make them. We wanted a programming approach that was organic, based on gut feeling and not dictated by the need to satisfy imperatives, to tick boxes. This willingness to show the largest number of films, even non-digital screenings, generated a little wave in the world of repertory films: the fact that we showed a 35 mm print of The Third Man didn't stop us having full houses—and the emotion was different. We understand that this is a unique experience for moviegoers nowadays, because that kind of emotion is just not possible to feel at home.
Does French cinema fit in well with your programming?
Totally. This evening, we're organizing an event dedicated to Michel Legrand, because we feel that he is an essential figure, like the invisible godfather of our theater. We had to find a way to pay tribute to him, as well as to our favorite foreign movie nationality, which is French. Jake Perlin [artistic director] and I, even though we're from very different cultures, are both huge fans of Jean Eustache. Eustache brought us together! Eustache himself was a regular patron at the Cinémathèque, and said that his films were the children of the Cinémathèque. Our programming is also a child of the Cinémathèque. It's a way for us to pay our dues. The Metrograph owes a lot to French cinema, which has left an indelible mark on the 7th Art. Right from the beginning of this venture at the Metrograph, it was important to us not to limit ourselves to currents or auteurs that have been unanimously hailed in the history books, like the New Wave. We also wanted to show the more hidden sides. Our very first retrospective was on Eustache, and we had the chance to invite Françoise Lebrun here thanks to the collaboration of UniFrance and the French Embassy. That set the tone for what we wanted to establish here. Since then, we've never stopped programming French films.
It's no surprise then that Claire Simon's The Competition is the first film that the Metrograph is releasing as a distributor ...
That came about because some of the distributors that we wanted to acquire films that we'd enjoyed at festivals told us that they would only buy the films if they had assurance from us that we would program them. For them, a New York release guarantees press coverage, which sets the film up for its release around the country. We realized that we had a card up our sleeves in the distribution process, but it took us some time to know exactly how to go about it, what films to focus on. Claire Simon is a fascinating figure in contemporary international cinema. She's self-trained, she studied ethnography, Jean Rouch was her mentor—all this really appeals to us! In her documentaries, she films her subjects like case studies, but also with a poetic vision that is distinctly her own. The Competition is her response to both history and to the future of film culture. She also raises the question of social class, and competitiveness in humanity. It's a great film made by someone we respect enormously. It's the ideal film to launch us.