What on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann
by Phil Mann
You may not have heard of Ventura Pons, but he’s a big deal in the European film world. His eighteen feature films have been nominated for awards in film festivals from Moscow to Miami. This weekend, he’s going to be a big deal in Key West, where he will be screening and personally introducing four of his movies. It’s going to be a high point of this year’s Tropic Visiting Filmmaker Series. Sr. Pons is from Barcelona, and all his films have a quirky, humorous quality that reminds many of Pedro Almodóvar. The Village Voice has called him “a provocateur who works without a net .”
On Sunday afternoon, it’s OCAÑA, a documentary about a gay Spanish artist and cross-dresser that was originally screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The high point of the weekend, with a champagne reception, is the Sunday evening screening of MIL CRETINS (Thousand Fools), a comic mélange of characters.
Monday afternoon brings two other films. ANITA TAKES A CHANCE is the story of a movie theater employee who loses her job when the theater is torn down, but begins an affair with a construction worker who comes on the scene. This movie won Best Film and Best Actress awards at the Miami Hispanic Film Festival and at the Peñíscola Comedy Film Festival [that’s Peñíscola, Spain; a comedy film festival would be an odd thing in Pensacola, FL.) The final film AMIC/AMAT (Beloved/Friend) is about a fifty-something college professor whose life gets incredibly complicated when he discovers he has a terminal illness and decides to reveal secrets.
Sr. Pons will offer a Q & A following each screening. All films will be in Catalan or Spanish, with English subtitles.
This week also marks the opening of THE ARTIST, winner of this year’s Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical Award and a favorite for the big Oscar prize. In case you haven’t heard, it’s a silent, black and white film. But, as Steven Rea says in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it “feels as bold and innovative a moviegoing experience as James Cameron's bells-and-whistles Avatar did a couple of years ago. Retro becomes nuevo. Quaint becomes cool.” French actor Jean Dujardin’s portrayal of the fictional silent film star George Valentin is a perfect recapturing of the cinema style of the time. He also got the Golden Globe and is a front-runner for an Oscar.
The story is a classic story of high romance and a fallen hero, as the emergence of talkies dooms Valentin’s career. But words can’t really describe this wordless wonder.
In INTO THE ABYSS the brilliant, groundbreaking filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Aquirre: The Wrath of God) digs deeply into a Texas triple murder case, exploring the minds of the killers and the psychology of capital punishment. Including lengthy interviews with the killers, like the book In Cold Blood to which it has been compared, Herzog’s work does not judge, it observes. “He simply looks. He always seems to know where to look. “ (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
HOUSE OF PLEASURES takes place in a different kind of prison, a brothel in Belle Époque Paris. This is not a documentary, but a surreal, yet realistic, view of life in the fictional L’Apollonide -- a portrait of the women and of their clients. “A gorgeously filmed portrait of a bygone era, with painstaking attention to period detail.” (V.A. Musetto, NY Post)
With all this, I hate to treat them as an afterthought, but we’ve also got the next film in the Gotta Dance classics series. This Monday it’s BRIGADOON with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. And on Tuesday, the Cinderella-story opera CENDRILLON from the stage of the Royal Opera in Covent Garden fills the Tropic screen and surround sound.