Big Apple fest honors familiar faces

NEW YORK — The New York Film Festival continued through the weekend, with several familiar faces getting their due.

The fest started waving the flag for returnee helmer Pedro Almodovar with Thursday’s tribute followed by a Saturday night unspooling of his latest pic, “Bad Education.”

“For me, this has been a year with a certain kind of nostalgia,” NYFF director Richard Pena said at Friday’s San Domenico dinner for Mike Leigh‘s “Vera Drake.” “Two of our biggest attractions are new films by Pedro Almodovar and Mike Leigh, which takes me back to 1988, my first year as festival director, when they were both here for the first time with ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ and ‘High Hopes,’ respectively.”

At Thursday’s “Viva Pedro” tribute, “Bad Education” star Gael Garcia Bernal told Almodovar, “You’ve transcended and redefined cinema in this century. Not that you don’t know.”

Host Ferragamo opted for the opulent new Cafe Grey to fete Zhang Yimou‘s new epic period actioner, “House of the Flying Daggers,” Saturday night.

The helmer, still basking in the success of “Hero,” spoke of his recent segue to chopsocky pics.

“In China, martial arts films and literature has a very long tradition and is very much ingrained in society,” Zhang said. “I really suspect that every male director in their career thinks, ‘I want to make a martial arts film one day.’ I finally went and did it.”

Also at Cafe Grey: Sony Classics duo Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, plus pic’s Zhang Ziyi, a fest novice. Principals went on to Lincoln Center to introduce “Daggers,” while other dinner guests proceeded downtown to toast Almodovar’s unspooling.

(Willa Paskin contributed to this report.)

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