It’s always hard to tease out a common theme in a film festival, even one as tightly curated as the New York Film Festival, which ended its 50th edition on Sunday. But if a moviegoer went only to the opening-night offering, Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” about a boy and a tiger trapped on a lifeboat, and the fest’s closing-night screening, Robert Zemeckis’ “Flight,” which opens with an airplane’s nail-biting emergency landing, you’d think the common theme was catastrophe.
“We opened with a shipwreck and we’re closing with a plane crash,” noted Ann Tenenbaum of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, before adding quickly, “But the festival has been far from a disaster!”
Zemeckis introduced the Paramount pic and trotted out the show’s stars. Denzel Washington, however, proved characteristically shy: After joining his helmer onstage, he waved and darted off again to leave John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood and Kelly Reilly standing in their take-a-bow line.
After the screening, it was off to the Stone Rose Lounge at nearby Time Warner Center for the shindig that marked not only the end of the 50th festival but also the final year with longtime programming head Richard Pena.
“It’s going to be great sitting where you are next year,” he said.
The night before, Focus Features’ “Hyde Park on Hudson” screened at the fest. Bill Murray said it wasn’t easy playing FDR.
“It’s much harder to play beloved than to play a rotten guy,” said the thesp. “Rotten guys are a piece of cake. So playing a beloved person, that sets a high bar for your behavior, your acting and what you project.”
At a Q&A, an audience member asked Murray whether his legs were digitally changed to appear emaciated. “Those were my legs. That is the result of seven weeks of English food,” Murray noted.
Laura Linney, who plays the president’s mistress in the pic, said that if she were in the White House today she’d be advocating “education, education, education.”
At the Stone Rose Lounge afterparty, Murray and Linney caught up with Anjelica Huston, Natasha Lyonne and Carol Kane, while guests munched on mini hot dog appetizers in honor of the historic hot dog picnic depicted in the film.