Not a soul in the world who has seen one of Rossy de Palma's performances will be surprised to know that every ounce of energy and charisma the Spanish actress brings to her work is a part of her natural being. That fact was proven beautifully at Miami Film Festival’s riveting Saturday-night event, An Evening With Rossy de Palma.
The night, which began with an introduction from festival director Jaie Laplante and artist Jessica Mitrani, presented a multitude of onstage activities, to the audience’s delight. The first was Mitrani’s decidedly abstract short film, Traveling Lady. It was introduced by the artist as simply a small part of a much larger work, another portion of which was featured late last year at the Screening Room, brought by Rhonda Mitrani and Francine Birbragher for a three-month showcase.
In part a loose depiction of pioneering journalist Nellie Bly’s experiences in circling the globe in fewer than 80 days and in part a series of avant-garde sequences that both amuse and pack a punch, the short proved to be utterly captivating. One young adult nearby whispered to her parent halfway through: “I don’t want this movie to end.”
Whether it was the hilarious musical number midway through or a scene in which an uncountable number of Rossy de Palmas walk onscreen while reading Gertrude Stein, we’ll never know. What everyone at the Olympia Theater knew well was that de Palma was a force to be reckoned with.
The icon walked onto the stage alongside a musician. Wearing a flowing, sheer black gown that showed off her body, de Palma sang in both Spanish and English to roaring applause. She performed a series of tunes, one of which involved a giant pearl necklace she dragged along the stage by her neck, and another, formerly performed in Milan, in which she placed a birdcage on her head and sang through its open door.
After receiving a standing ovation, de Palma was joined onstage by Jessica Mitrani for a conversation about their work together, Traveling Lady, and de Palma’s career, both with and without Pedro Almodóvar. Questions were lobbed at the actress in both English and Spanish, so she translated, often stumbling over the occasional literal translation.
Mitrani dove into thorough discussions about the animation work in her short, the inspiration behind it, and the collaboration between the two women — much of which prompted audience members to wish they were able to experience the project as a whole. De Palma, on the other hand, handled the evening as though she were on a talk show of her very own. Not a single misstep could stop the woman, who proudly displayed the legs she says people compare to those of Cyd Charisse.
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Asked about her favorite performance in an Almodóvar film, she responded that she couldn’t choose. Then she discussed how she didn’t really feel like an actress when she did Law & Desire with him; she felt like a model more than anything, but she added that now it’s entirely different. And though she’s never had to audition for a single role, de Palma did offer advice for an audience member who asked how to deal with those situations and with having unconventional looks. Her answer was frank: “You have to trust yourself.”
De Palma's willingness to please the audience and answer anything extended to the afterparty at the SunTrust Tower, where festivities were relocated inside after gusts of wind spoiled the rooftop scene. Though she was in the VIP area, de Palma still took photos and chatted with many fans who approached her by the velvet ropes. All of this, and far more, is precisely why we should all hope that Rossy de Palma makes good on her playful promise that she'll return to Miami with her next feature.