See “The Burning Plain”
Limited National Release Date: Today
Local screenings: The Fountain Theatre in Mesilla, Nov. 6-12
Regional: Santa Fe: CCA Cinematheque Oct. 9
Video on demand: Check with your cable or satellite TV provider
Rating: R-17, nudity and language
• Plot: A woman on the edge takes an emotional journey back to the defining moment of her life. Oscar-winner Charlize Theron plays Sylvia, a beautiful restaurant manager whose cool, professional demeanor masks the sexually charged storm within. When a stranger from Mexico confronts her with her mysterious past, Sylvia is launched into a journey through space and time that inextricably connects her to disparate characters, all of whom are grappling with their own romantic destinies.
In Mexico, a young motherless girl, Maria (Tessa Ia), lives happily with her father and his best friend until a tragic accident changes it all. In the New Mexico border town of Las Cruces, two teenagers, Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) and Santiago (JD Pardo), find love in the aftermath of their parents’ sudden deaths. In an abandoned trailer, a housewife, Gina (Oscar-winner Kim Basinger), embarks on a passionate affair that will put Sylvia and the others on a collision course with the explosive power of forbidden love.
• Writer/ Director: Guillermo Arriaga
• Stars: Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, John Corbett, Joaquim De Almeida, Danny Pino, Jose Maria Yazpik, Jennifer Lawrence
• Primary locations: Las Cruces and Portland, Ore.
• Producers: Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald
• Executive producers: Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Charlize Theron, Alisa Tager, Ray Angelic and Marc Butan
Source: Producers of “The Burning Plain” and Magnolia Pictures
“A powerful, compelling and shocking drama that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger deliver explosive performances. A certain must-see this fall!”
Pete Hammond, Los Angeles Times/The Envelope
“The various parts of the story converge perfectly, like the pieces of a puzzle. Guilt is uncovered, emotional hang-ups addressed, and meaning restored to life.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“A full-on, Oscar-booking keystone performance by Charlize Theron and a revelatory turn by young newcomer Jennifer Lawrence steer this potentially over-the-top tale ... the games ‘The Burning Plain’ plays with its audience are amply justified by the emotional punch of the film's denouement.”
Lee Marshall of www.screendaily.com
“Two teenagers, whose parents burned to death in bed, don their loved-ones’ night clothes and climb into the sack together. It’s all done with po-faced seriousness and obviously meant to be profound, but in fact it's a load of rubbish ... So the biggest surprise in ‘The Burning Plain’ is how two beautiful Oscar-winning actresses ended up in one god-awful movie.”
“You may be ahead of the curve in figuring out the connections between the characters and the storylines, but that doesn’t mitigate the depth of feeling the film captures. Inevitability doesn’t subtract from the power of fate. ‘The Burning Plain’ is immensely satisfying story-telling, and a film in danger of being lost in the rush of fall releases. Don't let it get away from you.”
Marshall Fine, www.huffingtonpost.com
Online extra: To see the trailer for “The Burning Plain,” go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on this story.
'Burning Plain' arrives amid passionate reviews
By S. Derrickson Moore
MESILLA — Internationally-renowned writer and director Guillermo Arriaga said he plans to make more movies in Las Cruces and hopes to someday buy a home here.
“To be making a film here is to be blessed. I love it here. I love border towns,” said Arriaga, in Mesilla for a Sept. 11 screening of “The Burning Plain,” which goes into limited national release in the United States today. It was filmed principally in Las Cruces and Oregon in late 2007 and early 2008.
The film, which stars two Academy award winners, Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, has garnered several positive reviews.
Novelist and screenwriter Arriaga, who was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for “Babel,” makes his directorial debut with “The Burning Plain,” which he also wrote. He was nominated for The Leone d’Oro (Golden Lion) Award, the highest prize given to a film at the Biennale Venice Film Festival, where actress Jennifer Lawrence won an award for her portrayal of a tormented teen in a border town (Las Cruces).
During a Sept. 10 interview in Mesilla, Arriaga put down his cell phone and reported that his family, including his teenage son and daughter, “are really excited to hear I’m here. We had a great time here. I love this place. I love the people and I hope they’re happy with us. I think Las Cruces looks beautiful in the movie.”
A friendship with Gov. Bill Richardson and an extensive tour of the state was not enough to entice him to shoot the film in northern New Mexico, he said.
“I suppose the right thing to do was to shoot in Albuquerque. But it was not the kind of landscapes I thought would work for the movie. I was mesmerized by your place — the Organ Mountains, the flavor, the light, the neighborhoods.”
He said he had to adjust the budget to bring in professionals who would have been available at other locations.
“But it was worth it to sacrifice shooting days to film in one of the most beautiful places on earth,” he said.
Arriaga, who still makes his home in his native Mexico City, said he wanted “to honor this area. I wanted to realistically portray life here and its contradictions. I’m tired of seeing the Borderlands portrayed as only a place of crime and illegal immigration. It’s not the only reality. This is also a place of love stories.”
He said the film “has done very good box office in Italy, Spain and England” and finds that critics “either really love it or really hate it. I like that. When a movie causes reactions so intense, it’s because it’s so alive.”
He said the production hired several local crew and cast members during production in Las Cruces, including students trained at New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute.
A full house packed the Fountain Theatre in Mesilla for the early screening.
Jeff Berg of Las Cruces, a longtime movie buff and critic, called the film “a very good thinking person’s romance. There’s nothing fluffy about it.”
Rosemary McLoughlin noted that a scene filmed in the doorway of her Mesilla adobe home had apparently been left on the cutting room floor, but concluded it was all for the best.
“I think the ending he (Arriaga) chose was more effective,” she said.
“I loved it. The story of the little girl was so touching,” said Patricia Bartlett of Las Cruces.
“I’m very proud of the movie. I’m very happy with it,” said Arriaga, now on a promotional tour for the film that took him to Sweden the day after his Mesilla appearance.
“My books have been published in Swedish and translated into eight languages. I was a novelist way before I got into cinema,” said Arriaga, 51.
His works include international best sellers “A Sweet Scent of Death” “Guillotine Squad” and “The Night Buffalo.” His film honors include a 2005 Cannes Film Festival best screenplay award for “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.”
Arriaga said he enjoyed working with Basinger “who was introspective and just right for this part” and with Theron, whose portrayal in the film was characterized as “Oscar worthy” by a critic.
“Charlize has guts," Arriaga said. "She’s pure talent. And she has a crush on New Mexico. She loves it.”
He said he’s superstitious about speculating on awards and future projects, but admitted ideas were percolating during his visit.
“There is such a diversity of landscapes here. My mind has been thinking of shooting in the pecan trees. And your downtown has a very strong, intense flavor.”
The Sept. 11 “Burning Plain” screening was a benefit for the Mesilla Valley Film Society, which will show the film for a weeklong run beginning Nov. 6.
Russell Allen of Allen Theaters said the regional chain has made inquiries about the film.
“But so far, it’s only in limited release and not available. If the film does well, we’ll keep trying to get it,” Allen said.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at email@example.com