In celebration of its 20th year, the New York Film Festival is about to take a backward glance at its first 10 years. In a massive retrospective beginning Aug. 12 at Lincoln Center, the festival will screen more than 52 movies that it first presented between 1963 and 1972. The roster of filmmakers reads like a directory of international cinema greats, from European and Asian innovators to Hollywood hitmakers, and even an experimentalist or two.
Like the festival itself, the program is weakest on popular American pictures - studios are often reluctant to give festivals first dibs on potential moneymakers - or productions from independent American directors, especially those who lean toward radically ''personal'' or ''poetic'' work.
But many a towering figure is represented, including filmmakers from the French ''new wave,'' the Italian ''neorealist'' movement, the Brazilian ''cinema novo'' group, the West German ''das neue kino'' school, and the ''new American cinema,'' along with others less easily pigeonholed. The program ends on Aug. 28 , in plenty of time for this widely influential festival to gear up for its main event, due in late September.