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Cinema devotee Mort Rifkin (Wallace Shawn) accompanies his publicist wife Sue (Gina Gershon) to the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain, worried that her fascination with her young film director client, Philippe (Louis Garrel), might be more than professional. In addition, Mort hopes the change of scenery will provide a respite from his struggle to write a first novel that lives up to his impossibly exacting standards.
Turned off by the lavish praise showered on Philippe’s film, which he considers banal, Mort becomes preoccupied with the cinema classics he once taught as a professor, by masters like Bergman, Fellini, Godard, Truffaut, and Buñuel. Mort’s relentlessly dismissive opinions of Philippe, Sue’s current focus as a professional and someone she greatly admires, strains their already frayed relationship.
Mort’s mood lightens when he meets Jo Rojas (Elena Anaya), a kindred spirit whose marriage to tempestuous painter Paco (Sergi López) is also causing her pain. While Mort’s personal tastes have sometimes pushed people away, Jo’s intellect and shared sensibility draw them closer together.
While Sue spends her days with Philippe, Mort’s relationship with Jo deepens and he rekindles his love for classic films. Reflecting on the events of his life through the prism of those great movies, Mort finds renewed hope for his future.
Filled with absurdist humor, Woody Allen’s RIFKIN’S FESTIVAL blends unreal situations with interwoven tales of romance and heartache to create a loving tribute to the transformative power of film.