By Jane Heil Usyk
In the Village, it’s pretty easy to see a lot of very good films, for a price. After all, we have Film Forum, IFC, Cinema Village, and, nearby, Angelika and Sunshine. But there is an even bigger “circuit” of free film showings at senior centers and public libraries.
Monday night is Jefferson Market Library Film Night. Thursdays and Saturdays are film days at Hudson Park Library. Monday and Wednesday afternoons, Judith C. White Greenwich House Senior Center presents its screenings. Thursdays are for Washington Square North Senior Center’s movies. Monday, Tuesday, and Fridays, just a few blocks north of the Village, there are movies at Hudson Guild Senior Center, at 9th Avenue and 18th Street. And, on Wednesdays, there are movies at Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center. All free.
If one is very well organized, one can see a free movie almost every day. Or, for a lot of money, one can see every new movie. (It costs $3 less if you are a senior, but still.) Of course, you do need to be 60 or older for the senior centers. But for you young ’uns, it’s something to look forward to.
Judith C. White Greenwich House Senior Center, at 27 Barrow Street, presents superior film series organized by directors, country, or theme; all of them are high quality. What’s more, there are talks about the films led by a knowledgeable center member, Gary Friedman. I became interested in the personality behind all of these very thoughtful, superior choices, so I inquired, and found that they were chosen by Anthony Cilione, the center’s director for nine years.
Anthony thinks a lot about film setting, film quality, the sources of films, and groupings—how one film relates to the others. He is scrupulous about the behavior of his audience, and about the room, which he transforms into a fine art cinema twice a week, closing black curtains and perfecting sight lines.
Anthony had an Anna Magnani Festival, in which he showed all of her films, and a Giulietta Masina Series. He tried to show a series on British neo-realism (in 1959 and a few years in the 1960s), but was stymied by what wasn’t available. Room at the Top, for example, a major pioneering film of that style, was not available in very good copies.
He did a Vittorio De Sica Series, getting Miracle in Milan from Korea. “I would show Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima, Mon Amour. But if I show too many arty movies, I’ll lose my audience,” he says. He is very aware of what his 35 or so regulars will and will not go for.
“I try to keep up with the new film restorations. It’s really, really important,” Anthony says. There hasn’t been a good restoration of The Rules of the Game yet. Chimes at Midnight, which Orson Welles considered his best film, was just restored to Anthony’s standards. Other great films that are not restored include A Place in the Sun, Rocco and His Brothers, and Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers.
Anthony got his earliest filmic education by going to theaters, such as the Bleecker Street Cinema and the Regency near Lincoln Center. He was self-educated in films, majoring in art at Hunter College.
His first job, at nineteen, was running the arts program at Hunter, which included films. He combined classic Hollywood and foreign films, and also what were then called underground films, by Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, Gregory Markopolous, and Kenneth Anger. Some years later, one of Anthony’s friends asked him to supervise the Greenwich House Senior Center while its director went on maternity leave. That was nine years ago, and the original director did not return to work.
Although Anthony curates all the films shown at Greenwich House, introductions and discussions are facilitated by center member Gary Friedman. Gary spends two weeks researching every film’s background and context, gathering reviews over time, and compiling information about the stars, film editing, camera movement, lighting, frame design—whatever is meaningful now. His work amplifies and completes Anthony’s choices, and makes the film series at Greenwich House a powerful experience for the interested filmgoer.