Now In Theaters: ‘Porfirio’ and ‘Night Across the Street’

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This week two Latin American films that had their world premiere during the Cannes Film Festival Director’s Fortnight will be playing in theaters. From the late Chilean filmmaker, Raúl Ruiz, is Night Across the Street, the final film of his prolific career. Also opening this week is Alejandro Landes’ fiction film debut Porfirio based on the true life story of a paraplegic man who attempted to hijack a plane in Colombia. They are both stories of men trapped in their own existence and looking for a way out. Porfirio and Night Across the Street open this Friday, February 8 in New York.

Director: Alejandro Landes
Colombia | 2011 | 106 min
In Spanish with English subtitles

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In 2005, Alejandro Landes came across a newspaper headline that sparked the idea for this film, “Paralyzed Man in Diapers Hijacks Plane to Bogotá.” Landes soon traveled to Porfirio’s hometown and spent time with him, trying to figure out his motivation for the hijacking. He found a man frustrated by his surroundings, a man who was once a wealthy farmer and cattle rancher but was left paralyzed when hit by a stray police bullet. Landes became convinced that he wanted Porfirio to play himself and later cast his young son and Porfirio’s neighbor, all non-professional actors, to star in the film. What comes across in Landes’ film is that there were not many events that led up to the hijacking; it was the lack of action that ultimately put Porfirio on his path. Landes’ aesthetic choices put the audience inside Porfirio’s world, a claustrophobic, alienated existence. The low, horizontal angles center on Porfirio sitting in his wheelchair, often cutting off other characters at the waist. We see headless bodies; we see things from Porfirio’s point of view. The audience is given a peek into the intimate details of his daily life—love, sex, showering, going to the bathroom—and it becomes clear that the monotony, the pent of feelings of helplessness became the catalyst for his defiant act. As a man who is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair he felt compelled to take control of something and that something ended up being a commercial jet filled with passengers.

Porfirio opens February 8, 2013 in New York at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, 11 West 53rd St) with a limited national release to follow.

La Noche de Enfrente (Night Across the Street)
Director: Raúl Ruiz
Chile, France | 2012 | 101 min
In Spanish and French with English Subtitles

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At the time of his death in August of 2011, Raúl Ruiz was 70 years old and had directed over 100 films. Night Across the Street is his last movie, having premiered posthumously at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Not surprisingly, it is a rumination on death itself—Ruiz knew his own end was near and it is believed that he intended for the film to be screened after his passing. For his final film he chose to adapt two short stories. Ruiz wanted to immerse himself in the “poetic world” of Chilean writer Hernán del Solar in whose work, “daily life coexists with the dream world.” Only a master filmmaker like Ruiz could successfully transfer Solar’s “poetic world” to the screen. The result is a dreamscape of images that flip back and forth between the past, the present, and the future. Don Celso (Sergio Hernandez) is an elderly office worker who is being forced into early retirement. The dread that comes with his dull, humdrum life makes him acutely aware of the minutes that keep passing him by. It becomes clear that Ruiz has pieced together a meditation on death and the passage of time. It not only blurs the line between past and present but also fiction and reality. Shot in HD, it’s a surreal and often confusing experience that leaves the audience contemplating their own mortality (and probably trying to figure out the story).

Night Across the Street opens February 8, 2013 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 West 65th St).