Visual artists choose their favorite films for summer series

Artists Love Movies

A still from My Art of artist Laurie Simmons (right) and actress Lena Dunham. The film will be shown as part of the Artists Love Movies series on August 26. Independent/Courtesy Laurie Simmons

Following the great success of its inaugural film series, “American Values,” the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center is now in the midst of its second series, “Artists Love Movies,” which will continue at Pierson High School each Sunday at 6 PM throughout the summer. Giulia D’Angnolo Vallan, a distinguished film journalist and the American programmer for the Venice Film Festival, is curating the series, which consists of films directed or carefully chosen by renowned visual artists, who will be available for talk-backs post-screening.

“There’s an interesting dialogue between visual arts and cinema,” said Vallan. “More and more artists are venturing into filmmaking, with strong creative ideas, while film history and its language — fueled by new technologies — find their way into art galleries and museums all over the world. Very often, behind a painter hides a fervent cinephile. And painters have long been an object of fascination for filmmakers. The cross-pollination between these different art forms is very exciting. And we want to give our audiences the opportunity to explore it.”

Inspired by the rich history and interconnectivity of arts and culture ingrained in the East End, Vallan decided “Artists Love Movies” would be a perfect fit for the Sag Cinema. So far, screenings have included Eric Fischl’s presentation of Oblako-Ray, a rarely screened Glasnost-era satire directed by Nicola Dostal, and John Huston’s version of Arthur Miller’s western drama The Misfits starring Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and presented by David Salle.

Other featured artists are Laurie Anderson, Ai Weiwei, Laurie Simmons, Sam Taylor-Wood, and Alex Israel, all of whom are presenting films of their own invention, alongside greats like Julian Schnabel and Steve McQueen.

“I see more and more artists trying to make film, and I thought, that’s what we should put for the summer series for the cinema,” said Vallan. “What we did with this is found some favorite artists, or we went to artists and asked them to pick a film.”

Vallan is thrilled with the selection of modern artists, but also considered what artist throughout history she would most like to have included.

“I’d like to get an artist whose work was based in movement, like Jackson Pollock,” Vallan said. “I’d love to know what film he would have chosen to present.”

Artists of the East End abound, along with art enthusiasts. Stephen Hamilton, co-founder and former executive director of Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater and a member of the Cinema Advisory Board, says the response to “Artists Love Movies” has been overwhelming.

“We’ve had a very good response,” said Hamilton. “[We’re] way above our budgeted numbers for income. “American Values” was equally successful, but the numbers have grown since the winter as more and more people find out about us.”

There are only four films left in the “Artists Love Movies” series. Laurie Simmons presents her film My Art on August 26, April Gornik hosts Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away on September 2, there’s a special to-be-announced presentation on September 9, and Jamie Bernstein with Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note by Susan Lacy on September 16. Vallan intends to continue the collaboration with Pierson through a winter series in the coming months, while the Sag Harbor Cinema undergoes a reconstructive transformation after being gutted by a fire in December 2016.

“We’re in a nomadic phase,” Vallan remarked. “We don’t have the cinema yet, so we’re going here and there for movie screenings; but what I like about it is they’re giving us an opportunity to know the audience, and to make the cinema known to them, so it’s a very interesting and exciting process.”

Vallan hopes the series will continue once the new cinema space is up and running again. As it has done for over a century, the new Sag Harbor Cinema will offer free screenings and multiple programs, allowing for audiences of all breeds.

“It will be programming as varied and as rich as possible,” Vallan stated. “My role in future programming will be decided at the right time, but I would certainly love to be involved in the cinema once it reopens. It will be a much bigger set of programs, because it needs to operate every day of the year. But it will be wonderful.”

Hamilton, who co-produced both series with Vallan, is equally excited about the Cinema’s reopening.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how ‘Artists Love Movies’ and other series we present in venues outside the Sag Harbor Cinema will segue into the ‘state of the art’ cinema once it is rebuilt and running,” he said. “Until then, it’s been highly rewarding witnessing the possibilities of world-class cinema and film education on the East End from remote sights, as we strive to keep the re-building and re-branding process present in the community’s awareness.”

“I’ve had an absolute ball working with everyone on this series and the last,” Hamilton continued, “but especially Giulia. She’s smart, funny, and really, really knows her stuff when it comes to film. We are so lucky to have her on board.”