Phila Film Fest Opens With A Winner

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ROBERT REDFORD delivers a stunning study of old age and trail in All Is Lost.

ROBERT REDFORD delivers a stunning study of old age and trail in All Is Lost.

BY BONNIE SQUIRES/ The best part of the incredible Philadelphia Film Festival is you get to meet and question and discuss their films with the directors, screenwriters, actors, and producers. And you get to see the finest films from around the world, selected by Andrew Greenblatt and his talented staff at the Philadelphia Film Society.

Opening Night at the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center was remarkable for many reasons. If you had seen the Sunday New York Times article about Robert Redford’s extraordinary performance in All Is Lost, with the gigantic head-shot showing all of the wrinkles and bags which the gloriously still-handsome Redford had accumulated in his 77 years on this earth, you would realize (in case you hadn’t already known) how courageous an artist Redford is.

Besides taking a chance on a new young director whom he had encountered at the Sundance Festival, Redford’s ingenious creation to inspire, train, educate and showcase young talent, Redford agreed to be the lone actor in a film pitting man against the elements, with barely any dialogue at all.
Allegory. Spiritual journey. Everyman. The Ancient Mariner. The Old Man and the Sea. Mystery of the ending.

When I raised the question after the film with the director J.C. Chandor, telling him that my seat-mate and I were having a dispute about the ending of the film, I said there was no way the Robert Redford character could have survived being underwater in the ocean that long, but she claimed divers could hold their breath that long underwater. So which was it?

The director asked for a show of hands: How many thought the Redford character had survived? Half the audience members’ hands went up. Then he asked how many thought he had drowned? And the other half of us raised our hands. But the title of the film is All Is Lost – and at the very opening, before Redford’s nameless character is awakened on his sailboat by a crunching sound, as the boat banged into a huge metal floating container of sneakers, taking on water from a large hole in the side of the boat, you hear the Redford voice intoning an apology. To nameless people. A farewell letter, we learn from the Q & A with the director.

The young director talked about his inspiration for the script and the movie. Told how Redford pretended to have experience on a sailboat – but it turned out he had only been on a houseboat, and never in the ocean. Someone in the audience asked about the type of sailboat, and Chandor said it was a 1978 boat, one of the first to be commercially made, and affordable by middle-class sailors back then. So it was not truly a “yacht.”
We never find out why Redford is sailing alone on the Indian Ocean. We only see the pain in his astonishing blue eyes as he wrestles with the sea, flooded out radio and electrical systems, the unforgiving storm, and ultimately fire. We see his physical and emotional strength ebbing away, like the biblical Job.

Pick a topic, any topic. Pick a country, any country. Then and find a film, a venue, of your liking. All films are winners.

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