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NYC Film Festivals

'Labyrinth,' Maddin Close Down NYFF

So that was fast: The New York Film Festival ended last night with a blowout party at Time Warner Center, where Picturehouse boss Bob Berney welcomed a few hundred friends (and then me) to celebrate the closing-night screening of Pan's Labyrinth. Pretty much everybody acknowledged falling in love with it somewhere around the initial fade-in; filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro fielded mass adulation and champagne toasts throughout the evening. Things got weirder later, when The Reeler spotted director Taylor Hackford leading around a squinting Helen Mirren and some fellow named Guy Maddin acquiring his own cult following a few paces from the bar.

Maddin himself had been feted only hours before in the same building, the guest of honor following the US premiere of his silent-film-meets-performance-spectacle Brand Upon the Brain! (above). Fusing the filmmaker's 8-millimeter opus to the music of a live 11-piece orchestra, foley aritsts and live narration by Isabella Rosellini, two shows Sunday at Alice Tully Hall sold out in nanoseconds after their announcements; even yours truly, who would crash anything with a door, couldn't lie, cheat or steal his way into this one.

Nevertheless, I pulled Maddin aside to see how his first NYFF experience since 1992's Careful (he had a couple of shorts in 1999 and 2000, but attended neither) had treated him. He smiled, and his eyes widened a smidge. ""All I could hear was sort of a singing in my ears and my stomach churning for a while," he said. "I was very nervous because I'm just a filmmaker. I'm used to taking my time; I'm not used to live events where anything and everything goes wrong all the time. But the atmosphere was pretty wonderful and pretty supportive. The audience seemed with it. I think everyone could sense the potential for calamity, and I think it puts the audience on your side a bit. I felt like there was a lot of goodwill in the room, and I could feel people engaged with the movie. And coming from a person who has a long history of high walkout ratios in the past, it feels pretty good from start to finish with a picture."

The party was hosted by The Film Company, the Seattle shingle that underwrote Brand Upon the Brain! as part of its plan for indie domination: Spread out one film's budget over five in an 18-month period, diffuse risk, distribute, repeat. After a decade-and-a-half working in the Pacific Northwest, co-presidents Jamie Hook and Gregg Lachow are relocating to New York to pursue their next batch of projects. Maddin's film easily has the highest profile so far, though oddly enough, Brian De Palma showed up midway through Sunday's festivities; I don't know what he could do with a low-six-figure budget, but I can't imagine it being any more insufferable than The Black Dahlia.

Anyway, distribution plans are still in the works for Brand, while Pan's Labyrinth opens Dec. 29. T-minus 349 days and counting until NYFF '07. I miss it already.

(Photo: The Film Company)

Posted at October 16, 2006 9:54 AM

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