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New York Celebrates Maverick Filmmakers

September 22, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ The 26th New York Film Festival turns its lens this year on emerging cinema talents and on maverick filmmakers who make personal statements with their works, including such well-known talents as Clint Eastwood and John Cassavetes.

The annual film fete, which opens Friday at Lincoln Center with Pedro Almodovar’s ″Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,″ features more works by women directors than ever before.

It also marks the festival debut of actor-director Eastwood, who is bringing ″Bird,″ his graceful and evocative story of the great saxophonist, Charlie Parker, and the return of the innovative Cassavetes with ″Opening Night,″ a shattering drama about an actress who is deeply affected by the death of a fan.

Eastwood is typical of those festival filmmakers whose works reflect a personal statement. ″Bird″ was a labor of love.

Devoted to jazz since his youth when he listened to his mother’s Fats Waller records, he played piano and later the flugelhorn. When he was a teen- ager, Eastwood played at a club in Oakland, Calif.

″It was an influential time for me and when I first heard Charlie Parker I was overwhelmed,″ he said in an interview. ″Those early records were just dazzling. A lot of people didn’t understand it.″

″Bird″ won two awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, including best actor for Forest Whitaker, who portrays the jazz great, and a special prize for the picture’s craftsmanship.

Cassavetes last appeared at the film festival with ″A Woman Under the Influence″ in 1974. ″Closing Night,″ starring his wife, Gena Rowlands, was made in 1978 but never commercially released.

″The type of films we do are different,″ the director-actor-writer once said in an interview with The Associated Press. ″Commercial movies have no feeling, no sensitivity. Most people tell me that people won’t understand films with feeling. But everyone can feel.

″I think people have an understanding of what their life is. I define success by being a realist and not humiliating people. I’m a revolutionary, but not in the political sense.″

More than 400 films were screened by the festival’s selection committee, whose new chairman is Richard Pena, a director of the Chicago Film Center. He is an outspoken advocate of Third World cinema.

His replacement of former director Richard Roud caused a stir in film circles and on the selection committee itself, with some critics pulling out. Roud was ousted because of personal disagreements between him and other members of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Pena said Roud still works with the film society.

″Women on the Verge,″ a wacky vision of love starring Carmen Maura, is the Spanish director’s festival debut. His comedies, ″What I Done to Deserve This?″ and ″Law of Desire,″ previously were hits at the New Directors-New Film series in 1985 and ’87.

The festival closes Oct. 9 with ″Red Sorghum,″ the directorial debut of Zhang Yimou, the award-winning cinematographer of ″Yellow Earth″ and ″The Big Parade.″ In ″Red Sorghum,″ he presents a semi-biographi cal story of his grandparents and China in the 1930s.

Women directors represented this year include: Mira Nair, ″Salaam Bombay 3/8″ about a 10-year-old boy’s survival on the streets of Bombay; Jackie Burroughs, Louise Clark and Aerlyn Weissman, ″A Winter Tan,″ the story of a sexually obsessed school teacher; Christel Buschmann, Helke Sander, Helma Sanders-Brahms and Margarethe von Trotta, ″Felix″ a comedy about a German Casanova; Fiorella Infascelli, ″La Maschera″; Catherine Breillat, ″36 Fillette,″ about a sexual provocative teen-age girl; Laurie Dunphy, ″Lived in Quotes,″ and Chick Strand, ″Fake Fruit Factory.″

The film festival also will focus on the new British cinema, Soviet cinema in the age of glasnost, the new Asian cinema and the new American independents.

British works are represented by three directors whose works are highly personal and court realism: Mike Leigh, ″High Hopes,″ about class tensions in the Thatcher administration; Derek Jarman, ″The Last of England,″ about Western civilization on the brink of the Apocalypse; and Terence Davies, ″Distant Voices, Still Lives,″ about a family’s troubled life.

Sergei Paradjanov, who with Andrei Tarkovsky, is considered among the most important Soviet directors in decades, will have the New York premiere of his ″Ashik Kherib.″ He had been forbidden to work in the cinema for 15 years.

Two other Soviet films are being shown as retrospective pieces: ″The Onset of an Unknown Age,″ made two decades ago to commemorate the October Revolution; and ″Asya’s Happiness,″ directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, a film Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has called one of the best movies he’s seen in years.

Other festival entries include:

- Marcel Ophuls’ ″Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie,″ about the Nazi war criminal.

- ″Jacob,″ the first Romanian film to be shown at the festival, directed by Mircea Daneliuc.

- ″Mapantsula,″ a South African film directed by Oliver Schmitz and told from the black perspective.

- ″Golub,″ a documentary on the Expressionist painter Leon Golub.

- ″Hard Times,″ the festival debut of Portuguese director Joao Botelho.

- ″A Man With Three Coffins,″ the festival’s first Korean film.

- Hou Hsaio-hsien’s ″Daughter of the Nile.″

The festival also will present 16 animated and experimental shorts including the Daffy Duck cartoon ″Night of the Living Duck.″

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