MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Earlier this week, the world of cinema lost a dear friend: 43 years old, widely influential for many of those years, but hobbled recently by debt and a changing marketplace. Bob Mondello offers an appreciation not of a filmmaker but of a film company: New Yorker Films.
BOB MONDELLO: On my college campus in 1969, there were two places to see a cheap movie on weekends: The Student Union, where for a buck you could watch the previous year's hits, from "Rosemary's Baby" to "Planet of the Apes," or an English department lecture hall, where you could watch movies - many from an outfit called New Yorker Films, that would change the way you saw movies.
"Before the Revolution," the company's first film, for instance, was my introduction to director Bernardo Bertolucci, then a 22-year-old unknown telling a story about an Italian kid who flirts both with communism and with his gorgeous aunt.
(Soundbite of film, "Before the Revolution")
Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) (Speaking foreign language).
MONDELLO: Bertolucci would later direct "Last Tango in Paris," "The Last Emperor" and a host of other films. But his work would likely not have been shown at my college, or anywhere in America for that matter, if it hadn't been championed by Dan Talbot.
He founded New Yorker Films in 1965 because his taste ran to the kind of foreign movies that weren't being shown in the U.S. - challenging, often nonlinear pictures by directors nobody but film critics had heard of then: Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and the great Werner Herzog. I, for one, had never seen anything like Herzog's "Aguirre, The Wrath of God," with its mad conquistador chasing monkeys around a raft on the Amazon.
(Soundbite of film, "Aguirre, The Wrath of God")
Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) (Speaking foreign language).
MONDELLO: I kept seeing the New Yorker Films logo, with the New York skyline wrapped around the company name, on art-house pictures even after other distributors began siphoning off the more commercial work of the directors it had discovered. The company bet on careers, not individual films, and movies built around ideas rather than stars, which allowed it to champion the 10-part "Dekalog" of Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Louis Malle's gabfest, "My Dinner with Andre."
(Soundbite of film, "My Dinner with Andre")
Mr. WALLACE SHAWN (Actor): (As Wally Shawn) …to the full, you'd be experiencing the decay of that being toward death…
Mr. ANDRE GREGORY (Actor): (As Andre Gregory) You know, in the sexual act…
MONDELLO: This decidedly uncommercial conversation became a big hit for New Yorker Films, which worked not just with theaters but also with universities and libraries, to become a sort of unofficial film school for me and a lot of other Americans.
Over the course of four decades, Dan Talbot's company amassed a library of some 400 titles. After he sold New Yorker Films in 2002, that library was put up as collateral for debt by the new owners and will soon be auctioned off. So on Monday, New Yorker Films announced that it had gone out of business.
Next week, though, its logo will grace one last film. Dan Talbot apparently used his own money to pay for Carlos Saura's performance picture, "Fados," which is about a Portuguese song style that is, appropriately enough, about memory and regret.
(Soundbite of film, "Fados")
Unidentified Woman #1 (Actress): (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).
MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.
(Soundbite of film, "Fados")
Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).
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