AFI FEST 2011 Guest Artistic Director Pedro Almodóvar has selected the following classic thrillers to be presented at the festival: Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Cercle rouge, Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley, and Robert Siodmak’s The Killers. Why this particular quartet? “Because in some way, albeit tangentially, they have a relationship with my present.”
Eyes Without a Face, in which a doctor uses the skin of young women to help restore the face of his disfigured daughter, certainly has some elements in common with Almodóvar’s latest, The Skin I Live In. Pierre Brasseur and Alida Valli shine in this creepily poetic classic. The crime thriller Le Cercle rouge stars Alain Delon, Yves Montand, Gian Maria Volonté, and veteran Bourvil.
Starring Tyrone Power as a carnival shyster, Nightmare Alley is less an outright thriller than a dark melodrama; it was also a box office disappointment at the time despite numerous positive reviews for the film and for Power himself. A film noir par excellence, The Killers is notable as both Burt Lancaster’s first movie and the movie that turned Ava Gardner into a star. Robert Siodmak received an Oscar nomination for his efforts.
As per the AFI FEST press release, “Almodóvar has created comprehensive notes for these curated films that will be shared with moviegoers as part of the festival’s official program guide.”
In addition to the aforementioned four movies, AFI FEST 2011 will screen La Ley del deseo / Law of Desire as part of the festival’s An Evening With Pedro Almodóvar Gala presentation on Monday, November 7. In this insane romantic comedy melodrama thriller, Carmen Maura stars as a carefree transsexual whose brother, a film and stage writer/director (Eusebio Poncela), is the object of the – uncontrolled – affection of a handsome young man (Antonio Banderas). Partly thanks to its first-rate cast, Law of Desire is probably my favorite Almodóvar film. Banderas will also attend the Nov. 7 gala.
Almodóvar describes Law of Desire as “a fundamental title in my career. Even though we made it on a very modest budget, I don’t think I’d change a single shot, and not because it’s perfect but because I recognize myself in all of them … It’s true that my palette has darkened and, in the case of the latest film, the humor has almost disappeared. Fortunately I’ve changed sufficiently so that no one can accuse me of repeating myself, but I’m still the same. Law of Desire shows that.”
Also of note, Law of Desire was the first effort to be produced by Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar’s El Deseo S.A., the producing company of every single Almodóvar film since.
Moderated by Variety‘s Chief International Correspondent John Hopewell, a conversation about Almodóvar’s career and the history of El Deseo S.A. will precede the screening of Law of Desire.
AFI FEST 2011 takes place November 3-10 at the Chinese Theatre, the Chinese 6 Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Pedro Almodóvar photo: José Haro / © El Deseo, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics