All About Almodóvar; New York Film Festival Says "Viva Pedro"
by Eugene Hernandez
A host of acclaimed new films and accomplished filmmakers were showcased here in New York during the second weekend of the New York Film Festival, from Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake" and Zhang Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers" to Lucrecia Martel's "The Holy Girl." But it was Pedro Almodóvar and his latest, "Bad Education," that was truly in the spotlight, screening in the festival's centerpiece slot. Almodóvar, the center of attention at multiple dinners and parties over the past few days, was formally honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center during Thursday night's "Viva Pedro!" event that filled Alice Tully Hall.
"The work represents, in its best form, freedom," explained Richard Peña, introducing Thursday's program, "Not only the right of freedom, but the responsibility of being free." Continuing, Peña touted Almodóvar as creating one of the "great bodies of art over the past 25 years, in any medium."
In between a selection of clips, from such films as "What Have I Done to Deserve This," "Law of Desire," "Live Flesh," "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," "All About My Mother," and others, actors Gael García Bernal, Javier Cámara, and Fele Martinez, stars of "Bad Education," took the stage to praise Almodóvar.
"Pedro is the most passionate person I know, in the way he lives and in the way be makes films," said Javier Cámara, while Gael García Bernal, taking the stage to rousing cheers mixed with female screams, recalled being struck by the director's work at age 11 in Mexico. "You have transcended and redefined cinema in this century," the actor said. Summing up, he added, echoing Peña's opening comments, "You've been an example of how to be free and never compromise."
Arriving on stage to a standing ovation, Almodóvar was visibly moved. "In the twenty-five years that I have been working, I have learned a few things," Almodóvar said. "The face of pain and the face of joy are often the same face," he continued, asking the crowd not to misinterpret his seemingly sad countenance. Almodóvar, who had been watching the clips and speeches from an upstairs balcony, told the audience, "Its just that I am so (moved by) that reception that you just gave me."
Almodóvar maintains a long relationship with the New York Film Festival, having screened numerous films here at the festival, dating back to "What Have I Done to Deserve This" in 1985. A storyteller from a young age, Almodóvar recalled that he exercised his talents while still a child -- after seeing movies he would re-tell the stories to his family, adding in new elements to make the tales better. In the 1970s, Almodóvar made Super-8 films and debuted his first feature, "Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón," in 1980.
Citing numerous influences, from Luis Bu