NEW YORK -- The New York Film Festival paid tribute to Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar, whose latest movie, "Bad Education," is the centerpiece of the 42d annual event.
The "Viva Pedro!" tribute on Thursday night featured clips from Almodovar's 20-year career of films about passion, sexual freedom, and fatalistic obsession. The director also joined Richard Pena, program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which organizes the festival, for an onstage conversation.
"The face of pain and the face of joy is often the same face," Almodovar said to the Lincoln Center crowd. "If today I seem to have a sad face, that's not it at all."
Several actors from Almodovar's movies paid homage to the filmmaker. Gael Garcia Bernal, the star of "Bad Education," said: "You have transcended and redefined cinema in this century." He then added with a grin, "which I'm sure you know. I'm not saying anything new."
The connection between Almodovar and the New York Film Festival is a long and friendly one. The festival showed Almodovar's "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" in 1985, and has since often been a platform for the American release of his movies, from "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" to "All About My Mother."
"It's been a long and close relationship," Pena told The Associated Press minutes before the tribute. He also said it was an appropriate time for retrospection: "There's a certain anthological theme to `Bad Education' for those who are familiar with his earlier films. It's not just a high point, but a summing up."
"Bad Education" is a highly personal reflection on Catholic upbringing, centering on the reunion of two school friends, one a film director, the other an aspiring screenwriter.
During the presentation, Pena translated the answers of Almodovar, who understands and can speak English but feels he can better -- "more passionately" -- express himself in his native Spanish. Wearing all black, Almodovar joyfully asked, "Do I look like I'm on TV?"
Almodovar was clearly touched by the honor: "This warmth is something that I have felt from the beginning with the Lincoln Center film festival. The New York Film Festival is absolutely one of my favorites."
The New York Film Festival opened Oct. 1 and will run through Oct. 17.
"Bad Education" will be in US theaters on Nov. 19.