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An Open Window: Víctor Erice

July 29, 2015 - August 2, 2015


“One of contemporary cinema’s most eloquent poets” (Geoff Andrew), the Spanish director Víctor Erice may have only directed three features in the past four decades, but his body of work remains one of the most influential in world cinema. Masterpieces of what is now called “contemplative cinema,” The Spirit of the Beehive, El Sur, and The Quince Tree Sun favor patient observation over onrushing narrative as they reflect on the passing of time, childhood, cinema, and the gap between a dreamer’s fantasy life and more prosaic reality. Deeply ingrained in Spanish art and history, whether through their embrace of Spanish Baroque chiaroscuro or their reflections of the wounds left by the Spanish Civil War, the films are nonetheless universal in theme and effect, with children, art, and dream the purest focus. “The politics are important aspects, but it is interiorized—it is the historic décor,” Erice mused in a Guardian interview. “But the real heart, the universality of the stories, is the experience of children discovering the world.”

Born in 1940, Erice studied film at the University of Madrid before making his feature debut with 1973’s The Spirit of the Beehive, a hypnotically paced look at a young girl’s childhood in post-Civil War Spain, praised as “the best Spanish film ever made” (New York Times). “With the poetic ambience of a story by Faulkner” (Jonathan Rosenbaum), 1983’s El Sur follows a young girl’s search for the secret of why her parents fled from south of Spain to the north. Erice returned in 1992 with The Quince Tree Sun, which documents the noted Spanish painter Antonio López García bringing “a dream of light” to “life.” “I don’t know if it is as much a cinema of contemplation,” Erice said in 2000, “as a cinema that, faced with what are the current dominant ideas, presents another way of seeing.”

Erice has recently created shorter pieces for several acclaimed omnibus series, including Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet, with Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Herzog, and others, and Centro Historico, a project for the Portuguese city of Guimarães that includes contributions by Pedro Costa, Aki Kaurismaki, and Manoel de Oliveira.

We are proud to present all of Erice’s feature films, as well as a series of video letters and several shorter works, and are honored that Erice will be in person at all of these screenings. He will be in conversation with Richard Peña on July 29 and July 30. Peña was the program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the director of the New York Film Festival from 1988 through 2012 and is a professor of film studies at Columbia University and a visiting professor in Latin American studies at Princeton University. He is also currently the cohost of Channel 13’s weekly Reel 13.

We have also invited Erice to select films that have inspired him for Cinema According to Víctor Erice, the final series in our current theater.

Jason Sanders, Film Note Writer

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
7:00 p.m. The Quince Tree Sun
Víctor Erice (Spain, 1992). Archival print! Víctor Erice and Richard Peña in conversation. Erice’s third feature is an exquisite portrait of the Spanish realist painter Antonio López García. "A thoughtful, delicate inquiry into the essence of the artistic process” (NY Times). International Critics' Prize, 1992 Cannes Film Festival. (138 mins)

Thursday, July 30, 2015
7:30 p.m. Víctor Erice-Abbas Kiarostami: Correspondences
Víctor Erice, Abbas Kiarostami (Spain/Iran, 2005–07). Víctor Erice and Richard Peña in conversation. Created for an innovative museum exhibition in Barcelona and Paris that paired the works of filmmakers Víctor Erice and Abbas Kiarostami, Correspondences is composed of ten “filmed letters” between the two great masters. (97 mins)

Friday, July 31, 2015
7:30 p.m. El Sur
Víctor Erice (Spain, 1983). Archival Print! Víctor Erice in person. A young girl comes of age amid the long silences and shadows of her family’s wintry northern exile from southern Spain in Erice’s follow-up to The Spirit of the Beehive. “A film of love and sorrow suffused with an appreciation of life’s beauty” (LA Times). (95 mins)

Saturday, August 1, 2015
6:00 p.m. The Spirit of the Beehive
Víctor Erice (Spain, 1973). Víctor Erice in person. Victor Erice's Spanish classic is a haunting, mystical evocation of youth and the magic of cinema. "There has probably never been a more extraordinary view of a child on a movie screen . . . By the time it ends it has possessed the viewer completely"(NY Times). (95 mins)

Sunday, August 2, 2015
6:00 p.m. Recent Short Films of Víctor Erice
Víctor Erice (Spain, 2002–12). Víctor Erice in person. A rare opportunity to see a selection of Erice's highly acclaimed short works, crafted in recent years for omnibus projects. Titles include Lifeline; Ana, tres minutos; Broken Windows; and La morte rouge. (81 mins)

Series curated by Film Curator Kathy Geritz. Afterimage: Filmmakers & Critics in Conversation is made possible by generous funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association®. Our thanks to Pablo Garcia of Nautilus Films for his invaluable assistance with this series, as well as to Richard Peña, Edith Kramer, and our colleagues at TIFF Cinematheque. An Open Window: The Cinema of Víctor Erice, edited by Linda C. Ehrlich, was a valuable resource and gave us our title.