A New York gang of one

Times Staff Writer

That the UCLA Film and Television Archive is presenting its two-week tribute to director Martin Scorsese during the height of the movie awards season is strictly coincidental, head of programming Cheng-Sim Lim insists.

"We have always wanted to do something on Scorsese," Lim says. "It was just the matter of finding the right time and to also have him available. It just so happened he's available now. Also, our relationship with Scorsese goes back quite a ways with his [film] preservation work with the Film Foundation [the organization he founded to ensure the survival of the cinematic past]. We have had that relationship for a long time."

The series, which kicks off tonight with several of the Oscar-nominated writer-director's films, including his first feature, "Who's That Knocking at My Door?," is sponsored by Miramax, the studio that produced Scorsese's three-hour historical epic "Gangs of New York." Despite a mixed critical reception, "Gangs" is nominated for five Golden Globes, and Miramax is heavily promoting it for Oscar consideration. Miramax paid for basic costs of the festival, including film rental and shipping.

Lim concedes that some will say the festival is another way for the studio to shine the spotlight on Scorsese just before Academy Award nominations, but she says, "For us, the beginning and end is Martin Scorsese."

"Everything that we do we have to find sponsorship from somewhere -- from foundations, corporations or individuals," she says. "The fact that Miramax wants to sponsor it is great because it allows us to do something we might not have been able to do. The key thing is like a newspaper -- you have advertising but you still have editorial integrity. But the wall stays there. That is the same with our sponsors. The fact that they are sponsors doesn't mean they tell us what to do. We are happy for their sponsorship, and whatever people want to think about it, I can't do anything about it."

The festival features several of Scorsese's most acclaimed films, including "Mean Streets" (Saturday), "Raging Bull" (Jan. 17), "Taxi Driver" (Jan. 18), "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "New York, New York" (Jan. 19), "GoodFellas" (Jan. 24) and the documentary, "A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies" (Jan. 26).

On Jan. 16, the director is scheduled to appear in person at the Directors Guild of America Theatre for a "Tribute to Martin Scorsese," which will feature clips and a Q&A; session.

The festival also features movies that have inspired Scorsese, such as Fellini's "I Vitelloni" (Saturday), the scrappy film noir "Murder by Contract" (Jan. 18) and the Alan Dwan anti-McCarthyism western, "Silver Lode" (Jan. 24).

"Our programming office went through his career and came up with our list of titles we wanted to show, plus an additional list of titles that we knew had influenced him," Lim says. "We omitted the ones that most people have seen fairly recently or better-known titles. We wanted to focus on the more rare and lesser-known titles. So we gave that list to Scorsese for his response. He is so well known as a cineaste in his own right, here was this prime opportunity for us to look at his work and his influences on him, but at the same to give us an opportunity to show films that people may not be paying attention to."

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