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NYFF56 MAIN SLATE: 3 FACES

3 Faces

Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi plays himself in gorgeously photographed and beautifully paced 3 Faces

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: 3 FACES (SE ROKH) (Jafar Panahi, 2018)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Monday, October 8, Alice Tully Hall, 5:00
Saturday, October 13, Walter Reade Theater, 8:30
Festival runs through October 14
212-875-5610
www.filmlinc.org

One of the most brilliant and revered storytellers in the world, Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi proves his genius yet again with his latest cinematic masterpiece, the tenderhearted yet subtly fierce road movie 3 Faces. Making its US premiere this week at the New York Film Festival — it previously won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes — 3 Faces walks the fine line between fiction and nonfiction while defending the art of filmmaking. Popular Iranian movie and television star Behnaz Jafari, playing herself, has received a video in which a teenage girl named Marziyeh (Marziyeh Rezaei), frustrated that her family will not let her study acting at the conservatory where she’s been accepted, commits suicide onscreen, disappointed that her many texts and phone calls to her hero, Jafari, went unanswered. Deeply upset by the video — which was inspired by a real event — Jafari, who claims to have received no such messages, enlists her friend and colleague, writer-director Panahi, also playing himself, to head into the treacherous mountains to try to find out more about Marziyeh and her friend Maedeh (Maedeh Erteghaei). They learn the girls are from a small village in the Turkish-speaking Azeri region in northwest Iran, and as they make their way through narrow, dangerous mountain roads, they encounter tiny, close-knit communities that still embrace old traditions and rituals and are not exactly looking to help them find out the truth.

3 Faces

Iranian star Behnaz Jafari plays herself as she tries to solve a mystery in Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces

Panahi (Offside, The Circle) — who is banned from writing and directing films in his native Iran, is not allowed to give interviews, and cannot leave the country — spends much of the time in his car, which not only works as a plot device but also was considered necessary in order for him to hide from local authorities who might turn him in to the government. He and Jafari stop in three villages, the birthplaces of his mother, father, and grandparents, for further safety. The title refers to three generations of women in Iranian cinema: Marziyeh, the young, aspiring artist; Jafari, the current star (coincidentally, when she goes to a café, the men inside are watching an episode from her television series); and Shahrzad, aka Kobra Saeedi, a late 1960s, early 1970s film icon who has essentially vanished from public view following the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, banned from acting in Iran. (Although Shahrzad does not appear as herself in the film, she does read her poetry in voiceover.) 3 Faces is gorgeously photographed by Amin Jafari and beautifully edited by Mastaneh Mohajer, composed of many long takes with few cuts and little camera movement; early on there is a spectacular eleven-minute scene in which an emotionally tortured Behnaz Jafari listens to Panahi next to her on the phone, gets out of the car, and walks around it, the camera glued to her the whole time in a riveting tour-de-force performance.

3 Faces

Behnaz Jafari and Jafar Panahi encounter culture clashes and more in unique and unusual road movie

3 Faces is Panahi’s fourth film since he was arrested and convicted in 2010 for “colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic”; the other works are This Is Not a Film, Closed Curtain, and Taxi Tehran, all of which Panahi starred in and all of which take place primarily inside either a home or a vehicle. 3 Faces is the first one in which he spends at least some time outside, where it is more risky for him; in fact, whenever he leaves the car in 3 Faces, it is evident how tentative he is, especially when confronted by an angry man. The film also has a clear feminist bent, not only centering on the three generations of women, but also demonstrating the outdated notions of male dominance, as depicted by a stud bull with “golden balls” and one villager’s belief in the mystical power of circumcised foreskin and how he relates it to former macho star Behrouz Vossoughi, who appeared with Shahrzad in the 1973 film The Hateful Wolf and is still active today, living in California. 3 Faces is screening October 8 at Alice Tully Hall and October 13 at the Walter Reade Theater; Panahi, of course, will not be present at either show, as his road has been blocked, leaving him a perilous path that he must navigate with great care.

SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE: THE GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI

The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini

The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini investigates the mysterious death of Harry Houdini in a very adult immersive production

Theatre 80
78-80 St. Marks Pl. at First Ave.
Wednesday - Saturday through November 10, $100-$200, 7:00
www.minkywoodcock.com
theatre80.wordpress.com

Ehrich Weisz, better known as Harry Houdini, died under mysterious circumstances on October 31, 1926, at the age of fifty-two. Writer, artist, musician, and immersive theater impresario Cynthia von Buhler investigates the events surrounding the possible murder of the master magician in The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, which opened last night at Theatre 80 on St. Marks Pl. Adapted from the four-part comic-book series von Buhler wrote and illustrated (featuring cover collaborations with David Mack, Robert McGinnis, Dean Haspiel, and others), the show invites audience members to follow one of three conceptual narratives: the Pragmatists, led by Bennie Woodcock (Luka Fric), Sam Smiley (Ryan Salvato), and Nurse La Chatte (choreographer Delysia La Chatte); the Spiritualists, represented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Lord Kat), Margery of Boston (Veronica “the Love Witch” Varlow), J. Gordon Whitehead (E. James Ford), and Lady Marler (Celeste Hudson); and the Magician’s Favored Guests, VIPs connected to Harry Houdini (director Vincent Cinque), Bess Houdini (Robyn Adele Anderson), and Minky Woodcock (Pearls Daily), the fictional detective trying to find out the truth about Houdini’s death. Most of the characters and situations are inspired by actual events; ticket holders receive advance emails pointing to newspaper accounts and other ephemera as well as the introduction to the comic book, which establishes the setup. The different groups make their way through multiple rooms on several floors of the three-story townhouse, site of a former jazz nightclub and movie revival house that was a popular Prohibition destination (Scheib’s Place) and now is home to the Museum of the American Gangster and the William Barnacle Tavern as well as a hotel.

The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini

Dancer and choreographer Delysia La Chatte plays Nurse La Chatte in The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini

The plot focuses on Houdini’s desperate need to find a true medium who could actually contact the spirit world; he dedicated the last years of his life to debunking frauds who were bilking grieving customers. To get close to the magician, Minky becomes Houdini’s assistant, much to the displeasure of Bess, who assumes Minky will become her husband’s next lover. Houdini was friends with Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a leading advocate of spirit photography; his wife, Lady Doyle, was believed to have psychic abilities. Both play important roles in a séance led by Margery, who is heckled by Dr. Kretzka, who thinks it is all a bunch of nonsense. Houdini is also at odds with Madame Marcia (Sidney Morss), who is fearful that Houdini is trying to put an end to her and her colleagues’ business. Meanwhile, Houdini’s lawyer, Bernard Ernst (Tony Noto), wanders around with his parrot. Also making appearances are Houdini’s muscled assistant, Jim Collins (Mat Leonard); Jack Price (Will Davis), a McGill University student who witnessed a key moment that might have impacted Houdini’s death; and a pianist (Anna Stefanic) performing period songs.

girl who handcuffed houdini

As with von Buhler’s earlier theatrical productions, including Speakeasy Dollhouse, The Brothers Booth, and The Bloody Beginning, the audience is encouraged to dress up in period costumes, which adds to the atmosphere, although the night we went the audience was disappointingly garbed. It helps if you are open to just about anything; participation is encouraged but not mandatory. (I ended up playing a critical role in Houdini’s death.) As with so many immersive shows, there is a significant FOMO factor, since multiple scenes are going on in separate rooms at the same time, so just be resigned that you are not going to see everything. The transitions in The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini are ragged from the very start; we arrived on schedule yet still managed to not be guided to an opening séance. At other times groups are led into locations where something is already going on, ends, and then a new scene begins, causing confusion. It is also awkward having to walk outside in order to go upstairs and downstairs; there may be no other way to do that in this building, but it takes away from your immersion in the Houdini mystery as you suddenly encounter people on the street who have no idea what you’re doing. After the show, everyone receives the hardcover edition of von Buhler’s graphic novel. (They were supposed to be signed, but ours weren’t, which was fine but curious.) Regardless, it’s all still a lot of fun. Von Buhler, who serves as producer, writer, art director, set designer, music director, and puppet designer, has a great feel for the Prohibition era, and she knows how to titillate her audience, with song, dance, magic, drink, and ample nudity. You might not change your mind about whether spirits exist, but you’ll still enjoy a spirited evening — complete with a lovely absinthe station you can indulge in at the bar, if you get there early enough and/or decide to stay late.

NYFF56 REVIVALS: I AM CUBA

I Am Cuba

A reluctant prostitute named Maria is unhappy to have to deal with American gamblers in Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: I AM CUBA (SOY CUBA) (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Sunday, October 7, Walter Reade Theater, 9:00
Festival runs through October 14
212-875-5610
www.filmlinc.org

The Revivals section of the fifty-sixth New York Film Festival includes a rare screening of Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1964 political epic, I Am Cuba, in a 4K restoration from Milestone. In the early 1960s, the Soviet Union wanted to cement its hold on Cuba and celebrate its new Communist regime by making a propaganda film celebrating the Cuban Revolution and the end of Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorial reign. The Soviets actually disowned the result, considering it too arty and inaccessible for their needs. But it’s quite a film, a lavishly photographed black-and-white gem that was championed by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola when it was resurrected at the Telluride Film Festival in 1992.

I Am Cuba

A 4K restoration of I Am Cuba is being shown in the Revivals section of the New York Film Festival

I Am Cuba is divided into four sections that tell the story of the nation from different points of view. The film opens in a casino where American men degrade Cuban prostitutes; one of the men demands to see the home of one of the women, Maria, so he trudges with her through a poverty-stricken region and meets an unexpected man. Next, Pedro, a tenant farmer, is told that the land he has been working for decades has been sold to the American company United Fruit, so he takes dire action while protecting his family. (“I used to think the most terrifying thing in life is death,” he says. “Now I know the most terrifying thing in life is life.”) In the third story, a university student named Enrique is overeager to get involved in a campus rebellion, especially after saving a young woman from drunk American soldiers and witnessing a cold-blooded shooting by the police. The final part deals with a pacifist villager named Mariano who is being goaded by a soldier to join the military fight for freedom.

I Am Cuba

A pacifist would rather stay home than fight in I Am Cuba

I Am Cuba is one of the most visually stunning films ever made. Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky, who had previously collaborated on the extraordinary Palme d’Or winner The Cranes Are Flying, create breathtaking tracking shots from virtually impossible angles, high in the air and underwater, assisted by camera operator Alexander Calzatti, who was practically a stuntman to achieve whatever was necessary. A joint production of the Soviet company Mosfilm and the new Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry, the film was written by Soviet poet and novelist Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Cuban director and writer Enrique Pineda Barnet and features interstitial narration by Havana-born actress Raquel Revuelta as the voice of the nation. “Is this a happy picture?” she asks. “Don’t avert your eyes. Look! I am Cuba. For you, I am the casino, the bar, the hotels. But the hands of these children and old people are also me.” Later she encourages her citizenry to take up arms, softly stating, “I am Cuba. Your hands have gotten used to farming tools. But now a rifle is in your hands. You are not shooting to kill. You are firing at the past. You are firing to protect your future.” The film, of course, takes on added relevance today given the US government’s relationship with Cuba and the death of Fidel Castro in November 2016; there are also scenes that seem to prefigure the coming civil rights and peace movements in the US that occurred after the film was made. I Am Cuba is screening on October 7 at 9:00 at the Walter Reade Theater in the Revivals section of the New York Film Festival, which also includes Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Hyenas, Glenn Silber’s The War at Home, and Aleksei Guerman’s Khrustalyov, My Car!

SPIN OFF

(photo by Jonathan Slaff)

Detective Jimmy Marks (Kevin Rico Angulo), Dr. Chloe Allen (Tricia Mancuso Parks), and prostitute Rosie Ramirez (Megan McQueen) are three characters in search of an exit in Spin Off (photo by Jonathan Slaff)

The Riverside Theatre
91 Claremont Ave.
Wednesday to Saturday through October 13, $25-$40
www.spinofftheplay.com

On August 27, 2017, Tony-winning playwright and New York City native Bernard Pomerance, a huge fan of the genre-redefining cop series NYPD Blue, died at the age of seventy-six. On April 1, 2018, New York City native Steven Bochco, the Emmy-winning television writer and producer of such shows as NYPD Blue and L.A. Law, died at the age of seventy-four. Sixty-nine-year-old award-winning actor and director and New York City native Ron Canada, who has nearly 150 credits in film and on television — including an appearance on NYPD Blue — brings it all full circle with the world premiere of Pomerance’s Spin Off, running at the Riverside Theatre through October 13. Canada is the director and one of the executive producers of the muddled drama, about a trio of characters from a police drama who seek to establish their own identities, becoming self-aware and breaking out from the constraints of the genre and their characters. A hooker named Rosie Ramirez (Megan McQueen) has apparently been shot and killed by Detective Jimmy Marks (Kevin Rico Angulo), who is being interviewed by Dr. Chloe Allen (Tricia Mancuso Parks) to determine whether it was a good shooting. But with the series facing cancellation, they don’t have much time, and things get more challenging when a gangster producer named TV (Chad Restum) and his right-hand henchman, Carlos (Thomas Hildreth), arrive, armed and ready to defend their turf.

(photo by Jonathan Slaff)

TV (Chad Restum) makes a point in final play by Bernard Pomerance (photo by Jonathan Slaff)

Like so many spin-offs, Spin Off fails to live up to its promise. Pomerance (The Elephant Man) and Canada (The Invested, Lights Up on the Fade Out) touch upon such topical issues as immigration, racial profiling, fascism, gun violence, PTSD, and personal identity, but it all gets lost in a difficult-to-follow staging that includes a pair of monitors that are usually blank but occasionally show another character, Yara (Najla Said), watching from the wings as well as clips of a protest and Fascist leaders. Yara also hovers around Rosie in a fairly inexplicable way in one scene, pretending to smoke as she discusses “traces” of memory. There’s also a wacky wig, an odd workout bench, and a strange incest reference. The play, written in 2003 and revised in 2006, has some very solid ideas, but they get lost in the narrative fog; there’s a Twilight Zone quality to the plot, but unfortunately it turns out to be more like one of the TZ reboots rather than the Rod Serling original. (By the way, anyone remember Beverly Hills Buntz, the failed spin-off from Bochco’s Hill Street Blues?) Pomerance might have been addicted to NYPD Blue and looking for a metaphorical, metaphysical way to keep it going, but Spin Off is destined to be put on one of those shelves where failed pilots and spin-offs go to slowly fade away.

NYFF56 SPOTLIGHT ON DOCUMENTARY: CARMINE STREET GUITARS

Carmine Street Guitars

Rick Kelly and Cindy Hulej are a mutual admiration society in Carmine Street Guitars

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: CARMINE STREET GUITARS (Ron Mann, 2018)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Saturday, October 6, Walter Reade Theater, 4:15
Monday, October 8, Francesca Beale Theater, 2:30
Festival runs through October 14
212-875-5610
www.filmlinc.org

In the second half of Ron Mann’s utterly delightful and unique documentary Carmine Street Guitars, a well-dressed, well-groomed young man enters the title store in Greenwich Village and identifies himself as Adam Shalom, a Realtor who is selling the building next door. Shalom tries to talk about square footage, but Carmine Street Guitars founder and owner Rick Kelly barely looks up as he continues cleaning a fret. It’s a critical, uncomfortable moment in an otherwise intimate and inviting film; throughout the rest of the eighty-minute documentary, the soft-spoken Kelly talks guitars and craftsmanship with a stream of very cool musicians and his punk-looking young apprentice, Cindy Hulej. But Shalom’s arrival harkens to one of the main reasons why Mann made the movie: to capture one of the last remaining old-time shops in a changing neighborhood, a former bohemian paradise that has been taken over by hipsters and corporate culture, by upscale stores and restaurants and luxury apartments. You’ll actually cheer that Kelly gives Shalom such short shrift, but you’ll also realize that Shalom and others might be knocking again at that door all too soon.

Carmine Street Guitars

Rick Kelly welcomes “instigator” Jim Jarmusch to his Greenwich Village shop in Carmine Street Guitars

The rest of the film is an absolute treat. Mann follows five days in the life of Carmine Street Guitars; each day begins with a static shot of the store from across the street, emphasizing it as part of a community as people walk by or Kelly, who was born in Bay Shore, arrives with a piece of wood he’s scavenged. The camera then moves indoors to show Kelly and Hulej making guitars by hand, using old, outdated tools and wood primarily from local buildings that date back to the nineteenth century. Kelly doesn’t do computers and doesn’t own a cell phone; he leaves all that to Hulej, who posts pictures of new six-strings on Instagram. Meanwhile, Kelly’s ninetysomething mother, Dorothy, works in the back of the crazily cluttered store, taking care of the books with an ancient adding machine. Over the course of the week, they are visited by such musicians as Dallas and Travis Good of the Sadies (who composed the film’s soundtrack), “Captain” Kirk Douglas of the Roots, Eleanor Friedberger, Dave Hill of Valley Lodge, Jamie Hince of the Kills, Nels Cline of Wilco, Christine Bougie of Bahamas, Marc Ribot, and Charlie Sexton. Bill Frisell plays an impromptu surf-guitar instrumental version of the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl.” Stewart Hurwood, Lou Reed’s longtime guitar tech, talks about using Reed’s guitars for the ongoing “DRONES” live installation. “It’s like playing a piece of New York,” Lenny Kaye says about the guitars made from local wood while also referring to the shop as part of the “real village.”

Mann, the Canadian director of such previous nonfiction films as Grass, Know Your Mushrooms, and Comic Book Confidential, was inspired to make the movie at the suggestion of his friend Jarmusch, who in addition to directing such works as Stranger Than Paradise (which featured Balint), Down by Law, and 2016 NYFF selection Paterson is in the New York band Sqürl. Plus, it was Jarmusch who first got Kelly interested in crafting his guitars with wood from buildings, “the bones of old New York,” resulting in Telecaster-based six-strings infused with the history of Chumley’s, McSorley’s, the Chelsea Hotel, and other city landmarks. Carmine Street Guitars, which is far more than just mere guitar porn, is screening in the Spotlight on Documentary section of the New York Film Festival on October 6 and 8, with Mann participating in Q&As after each show, joined by special guests, including Kelly and Hulej on October 6. The film will be preceded by the world premiere of eighty-seven-year-old Manfred Kirchheimer’s thirty-nine-minute Dream of a City, a collage of 16mm black-and-white images of construction sites and street scenes taken between 1958 and 1960, set to music by Shostakovich and Debussy. Kirchheimer (Stations of the Elevated) will also be at both Q&As as well as the October 6 free NYFF Docs Talk with Alexis Bloom, James Longley, Mark Bozek, and Tom Surgal, moderated by Lesli Klainberg.

AXIS COMPANY: HIGH NOON ENCORE ENGAGEMENT

High Noon

Will Barnon (Brian Barnhart) is waiting on a train in reimagined theatrical version of High Noon (photo by by Pavel Antonov)

Axis Company
One Sheridan Sq. between West Fourth & Washington Sts.
Wednesday - Saturday through October 27, $10-$30, 8:00
866-811-4111
www.axiscompany.org

Following its initial run earlier this year, Axis’s unique and imaginative theatrical adaptation of High Noon is back at the company’s Sheridan Square home for an encore engagement running October 3-27. Below is twi-ny’s original review from March 2018, with the new dates added.

Axis artistic director and founder Randy Sharp transforms a classic American Western into an existential purgatory in the world premiere of High Noon, returning to Axis’s Sheridan Square theater for an encore engagement October 3 to 27. This is a stripped-down High Noon, utilizing elements from both Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 Oscar-winning film and John Cunningham’s 1947 short story for Collier’s, “The Tin Star.” The sixty-five-minute drama takes place on Chad Yarborough’s sparse, all-white stage, with a horizontal saloon bar, a slightly raised platform in one corner, and white fencing along the walls; even the permanent stanchions are painted white. That brightness is more than offset by Karl Ruckdeschel’s costumes, nearly all of which are black; it not only references good and evil but also High Noon itself, which Zinnemann decided to shoot in black-and-white instead of color for aesthetic rather than financial reasons. In an unidentified small town, the marshal, Will Barnon (Brian Barnhart), has just married his sweetheart, a Quaker named Alice (Katie Rose Summerfield), and turned in his badge. Meanwhile, Guy Jordan, a man Will sent away for murder, has unexpectedly been released from prison and is believed to be coming back on the noon train to take his revenge on all those who’d done him wrong, primarily Will. Guy’s brother, Check (Nicholas McGovern), is already in town and looking for trouble. Will and Alice are preparing to start a new life together, minding her family’s store far away, but Will suddenly decides that he must stay and face Guy. “I’ll never know what’s behind me,” he tells Alice. “I’ve got to stay. That’s the whole thing. That’s the whole thing.” (The dialogue features a lot of purposeful repetition.)

While Henry (Phil Gillen), who runs the local hotel, can’t wait to see Will get his comeuppance, Judge Mettrick (Spencer Aste) is packing his things and thinks Will ought to do the same, as does Will’s deputy, Senator (Jon McCormick), who wants to become the marshal. Caught in between is Helen Rivera (Britt Genelin), who went from being Guy’s lover to Will’s and then Senator’s — and she does not want to be around when Guy arrives. Will might have cleaned up the town, but nearly all his supposed friends, including Senator, Helen, Mettrick, Baker (George Demas), Sam (Andrew Dawson), and stationmaster Oliver (Brian Parks), are turning their back on him, preferring that he leave immediately; their community might have been more dangerous when Guy ran things, but there was also much more business and cash flowing in. Through it all, Will is stalwart, refusing to sacrifice his principles, even if he has to face Guy Jordan and his gang alone.

Helen Rivera (Britt Genelin) has had enough and wants to get out of town in Axis Company’s High Noon (photo by by Pavel Antonov)

Helen Rivera (Britt Genelin) has had enough and wants to get out of town in Axis Company’s High Noon (photo by by Pavel Antonov)

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot meets Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter in Sharp’s involving staging. All of the actors are onstage through the entire production as if trapped; their words move the tale from the hotel and the depot to the court and the prairie. In writing the High Noon screenplay, Carl Foreman was influenced by the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation into communism in Hollywood; Cooper had refused to name names when he was summoned before the committee in 1947, and Foreman was later blacklisted. Sharp steers clear of that angle, instead situating High Noon in a kind of way station where there are no genuine heroes and everyone has to face their sins, both individually and as a community. The stationmaster is like St. Peter, waving his white flag as if surrendering to the murderous Supreme Being on board the coming train. “My God, it is the end of the world. Holy Jesus,” he says. A few moments later, Mettrick repeats, “By God. This is the end of the world.” Barnhart portrays the icy Will as more of an everyman than a hero, talking in old-fashioned Americana. “Alice, I’m going to try and be the best man you think I am. I’ll do my best,” he tells his new bride. Wearing his badge like a halo, Will tries to put together a posse of apostles, but no one is going to join him on what they consider a suicide mission; he is even spurned by his wife and Helen, his Mary Magdalene, as his execution awaits. High Noon is famous for, among other things, the building tension leading to the action-packed finale, but Sharp chooses another path there as well, providing a surprising, subtle twist. The key to Sharp’s (Last Man Club, Dead End) cunning plot lies in the words of Helen. Early on, she says, “Things’ll go straight back to before. They’ll be the same. The same way. The same story.” Later, she adds, “I want a different ending.” She doesn’t quite get what she desires in this uncompromising morality tale about mid-twentieth-century America — and today.

NYFF56 PROJECTIONS: DIAMANTINO

Diamantino

Giant fluffy puppies get in the way of a Portuguese soccer star’s dreams in Diamantino

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: DIAMANTINO (Daniel Schmidt & Gabriel Abrantes, 2018)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Thursday, October 4, Walter Reade Theater, 9:30
Friday, October 5, Howard Gilman Theater, 6:30
Saturday, October 13, Howard Gilman Theater, 9:15
Festival runs through October 14
212-875-5610
www.filmlinc.org

At the fifty-sixth annual New York Film Festival, you can catch a documentary, foreign-language picture, political thriller, high-tech crime chiller, comedy, romantic melodrama, fantasy and sci-fi, and more — all in one wildly entertaining film. Diamantino, Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s full-length feature debut, is an absurdist multigenre mashup that is as tense as it is funny, an unpredictable romp that evokes Ernst Lubitsch, Howard Hawks, Michel Gondry, Philip K. Dick, South Park, Cinderella, James Bond, Being There, Minority Report, and Au Hasard Balthazar while feeling wholly original. Carloto Cotta stars as the title character, Diamantino Matamouros, a Portuguese soccer star à la Cristiano Ronaldo (pre-sexual assault allegations) who sees giant fluffy puppies when he is on the field. After botching a penalty kick in the World Cup Final, the stupendously beautiful star learns that his beloved father and mentor (Chico Chapas) has died. His evil twin sisters, Sónia (Anabela Moreira) and Natasha (Margarida Moreira), become his agents and make a secret deal with the mysterious Dr. Lamborghini (Carla Maciel) and a government minister (Silva Joana). Meanwhile, investigators Aisha Brito (Cleo Tavares) and Lucia (Vargas Maria Leite) — lovers who are soon to be married — are looking into Diamantino’s finances and devise a plan to get close to him by having Aisha pose as a male refugee named Rahim who Diamantino adopts as his son.

Diamantino

Diamantino Matamouros (Carloto Cotta) is surrounded by images of himself in Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s dazzling feature debut

Everyone except his sisters, who know better, thinks he is some kind of genius mastermind, but Diamantino is actually an addled simpleton who understands very little about life. He enjoyed playing soccer, likes eating Nutella and whipped cream sandwiches, and, following his tearful retirement, hangs out with his cat, Mittens, and dedicates himself to raising Rahim, who he does not realize is actually a grown woman. He’s reminiscent of Chance the Gardener (Peter Sellers) in Being There, but his airheaded statements — which are outrageously funny — are seldom mistaken for brilliance, except when he’s manipulated into making fascistic political statements he doesn’t understand.

Diamantino is stunningly photographed by Charles Ackley Anderson, who quickly adapts the film’s visual style as it switches from fantasy to love story to futuristic thriller, with numerous memorable shots, including Lucia in a white nun’s habit on a motorbike, Diamantino and Rahim sleeping on pillows with large images of the soccer star’s head, and a huge fluffy puppy playing goal in the championship game. American-born directors and longtime collaborators Abrantes and Schmidt, who edited the film with Raphaëlle Martin-Holger, show a deep love and respect for movies, infusing Diamantino with charm and energy, humor and compassion, honoring, in their own way, the history of cinema. The rest of the cast and crew do their part as well, from art director Bruno Duarte and composers Ulysse Klotz and Adriana Holtz to the Moreira sisters and multidisciplinary Portuguese star Manuela Moura Guedes as television interviewer Gisele. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes Critics’ Week, Diamantino is screening in the Projections section of the New York Film Festival on October 4 and 5, with Schmidt and Abrantes participating in Q&As after each show. Also, an October 13 screening at 9:15 has just been added.

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