On Movies: Philadelphia Film Festival's opener has a Philly flavor

Robert Zemeckis, left, and Denzel Washington, the director and star of "Flight," to be screened on the festival's closing night. Zemeckis will be in town for the festivities.
Robert Zemeckis, left, and Denzel Washington, the director and star of "Flight," to be screened on the festival's closing night. Zemeckis will be in town for the festivities.
Posted: September 23, 2012

Bradley Cooper. The Eagles. Ben Franklin House. The Linc. Jeweler's Row.

There could not be a more perfect opening-night entry for the Philadelphia Film Festival, which begins Oct. 18 with a gala screening, promises about 100 features and 20 shorts playing on screens all around town, and ends 10 days later, leaving the city sated from a huge cinema feast.

And what is that opening night film? Silver Linings Playbook, fresh from its Audience Award for best picture at the Toronto International Film Festival, and set to begin a theatrical run (and a run for the Oscars) in November. Shot in and around town (Ridley Park, Upper Darby, Lansdowne, Center City) and starring native son Cooper, David O. Russell's deft and delirious adaptation of Haddonfield scribe Matthew Quick's novel is a crowd-pleasing, emotionally crazy comedy-drama-romance with Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver.

It's unlikely that Cooper or Lawrence will make it here for the Annenberg Theater red-carpet event (Cooper is making Hangover 3, Lawrence Hunger Games 2), but somebody will show up, no doubt, and there hasn't been such a Philly-centric movie since the first Rocky.

And Robert Zemeckis, the Oscar-winning director of Forrest Gump, will be in town Oct. 27 for the closing-night festivities, bringing with him his new Denzel Washington starrer, Flight. The mystery, about an airline pilot forced to make an emergency landing, marks Zemeckis' return to live action after spending the last decade on motion-capture animated fare ( The Polar Express, Beowulf, The Christmas Carol). 'Bout time.  

Andrew Greenblatt and Michael Lerman, the festival's executive and artistic directors, have lined up an impressive program for PFF's 21st iteration. There are choice from-the-vault offerings, including David Lynch'sLost Highway, Stanley Kubrick'sThe Shining (paired with Room 237, a docu decryption of Kubrick's horror masterwork), and a 30th-anniversary screening of  Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist.

Speaking of anniversary screenings, Paul Thomas Anderson's screwball gem, Punch-Drunk Love, will get a 10th-anniversary revisit, as will M. Night Shyamalan's 2002 Mel Gibson aliens-among-us nutter, Signs, with Shyamalan expected to be present for the occasion.

Look for:

Cloud Atlas, the epic Wachowski siblings/ Tom Tykwer-directed adaptation of David Mitchell's eons-spanning, New Age-y novel, with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving in multiple roles.

The Sessions, a Sundance hit, with John Hawkes as a polio victim, living in an iron lung, and hiring Helen Hunt to have sex with.

The Sapphires, a Down Under girl-group comedy set during the Vietnam War.

Not Fade Away (also set in the '60s, and also with a musical bent), from The Sopranos' David Chase.

Stand Up Guys, with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken as a pair of rascally old con artists.

Quartet, with Tom Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly as rascally retired opera singers.

A Late Quartet, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir, and Christopher Walken (again!) as not-so-rascally members of a string quartet.

A Place at the Table, the Christina Weiss Lurie-produced hunger-crisis doc with Jeff Bridges and Tom Colicchio, and music from T Bone Burnett and the Civil Wars.

In Another Country, from Korea's Hong Sang-soo, starring Isabelle Huppert in multiple roles.

The Atomic States of America, from Philly documentarians Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, about growing up in the shadow (and radioactive seepage) of a nuclear power plant.

Beyond the Hills, from Romania's great Cristian Mungiu ( 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days).

Caesar Must Die, the Taviani Brothers' pic about prison inmates in Rome staging Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

For info on tickets, programming, schedule, and special events, go to: http://filmadelphia.org/festival, or call 267-239-2941.

Anderson in Toronto, on "The Master." A few minutes' conversation with Paul Thomas Anderson, the morning after The Master had its Toronto International Film Festival gala debut. Joaquin Phoenix was there for the screening, working the ticket holders' line at the Princess of Wales Theater, but Philip Seymour Hoffman was already en route to Venice, where the jurors at that city's film fete were about to award him and Phoenix a shared best-actor prize for their respective - and combined - performances in Anderson's epic meditation on cult fervor, on postwar reinvention, on ambition, on friendship.

"I have to just be proud that they worked so well together," Anderson says of his two stars. "It's a nice combination. It could be difficult, I suppose, to have two big personalities, two big forces . . . but they worked beautifully. Somebody pointed out to me the absolute differences in their faces. Joaquin looks like he's chiseled out of the side of a mountain, and Phil is all round and soft edges."

Phoenix's chiseled mountain face and Hoffman's ruddy orb look mighty magnificent in The Master, which Anderson - whose last feature was There Will Be Blood - opted to shoot in the rarely used 65mm format, which is usually reserved for David Lean-scale epics. The light and luminosity, the clarity and depth, are extraordinary.

"I was thinking about the old VistaVision films, like North by Northwest and Vertigo," the writer/director reports. "It wasn't about how to try to emulate that style, exactly, but . . . we're always messing around with any kind of antique film equipment we can find, and then trying to use it new ways.

"There are no battle scenes [in The Master], no epic kind of thing that you're supposed to use this format for, so it became really fun to think about using it in a way that it's not meant to be used. To do something different.

"And I'm so happy we stuck with it, because it wasn't easy at first. There were a lot of maintenance issues, technical issues - these cameras kept breaking down."

The Master, which is indeed something to behold, opened Friday in area theaters.


Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.

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