AFI Fest kicked off its annual week of big screen programming at the TCL Chinese Theatre with Thursday night’s world premiere of Angelina Jolie Pitt’s ode to 1970s European art house cinema, “By the Sea,” a lugubrious, slow-moving account of marital strife at a palatial seaside resort on the Maltese coast.
Jolie Pitt, who also wrote, directed and produced the Universal drama, plays a melancholic, pill-popping dancer past her prime opposite husband-producer Brad Pitt, who plays an alcoholic novelist battling writers block.
The movie — lensed during the couple’s honeymoon in Aug. 2014 — was a draw for media, Oscar forecasters and industry folk alike (Gena Rowlands was in attendance), who flocked to see the unfathomably glamorous couple, who turned the event into a makeshift “date night.” This is the first time the Pitts have reunited onscreen since their romance blossomed on the set of 2005’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
“By the Sea,” said Jolie Pitt, was a study of “grief and loss,” a theme influenced and inspired by the 2007 death of her mother, actress and producer Marcheline Bertrand.
“We hope that we did our best, as any artist does, to be open, to be honest, to give of ourselves,” Jolie Pitt told the audience. “You never know if you’re going to connect to an audience. This film is at the core about grief and that grief was from the loss of my mother, but in the end I think this film is also about learning how to move past it.”
Following the screening invited guests partied at the Roosevelt Hotel where they feasted on European-influenced food such as salad garnished with goat cheese, mushroom tortellini, glazed salmon and — mais bien sur — champagne.
AFI Fest, presented by Audi, runs through Nov. 12.