by Gregor Smith
The Maine International Film Festival has selected actor Michael Murphy as the winner of its 2015 Mid-Life Achievement Award. Murphy will receive the moose trophy on Thursday, July 16 at the Waterville Opera House.
Each year, MIFF presents this award to a filmmaker who has made and is expected to continue to make "significant contributions to the art of cinema." The most recent past winners are actress Glenn Close (2014), actor Keith Carradine (2013), film editor Thelma Schoonmaker (2012), actor Malcolm McDowell (2011), screenwriter Jay Cocks (2010), and director Arthur Penn (2009).
This year's presentation will follow a 6:30 screening of Fall, Murphy's latest movie, in which he portrays Father Sam, an elderly priest contentedly serving the faithful in Niagara Falls. When Father Sam unexpectedly receives a letter about an incident forty years earlier involving a 14-year-old boy whom he befriended in a parish in northern Ontario, he is forced to reflect deeply on his actions then and since. Questions abound. What exactly happened? Was it improper? Can four decades of goodness overcome the sins of ones youth?
Made in Canada, the film has been nominated for five 2015 Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Motion Picture and Best Leading Actor for Murphy himself. The MIFF screening is the film's U.S. premiere.
"When you look at Michael Murphy's filmography, you have to be amazed," opines MIFF Programming Director Ken Eisen. "Always a disarming presence in films, even when playing, as he sometimes does, essentially scurrilous characters, Murphy has the ability to make us comfortably feel as though we know and like this guy."
During his five-decade career, Murphy has appeared in diverse roles in over one hundred films and television series. He has worked with many directors, including Tim Burton (Batman Returns), Oliver Stone (Salvador), Woody Allen (Manhattan), Elia Kazan (The Arrangement), Robert Aldrich (The Legend of Lylah Clare), Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia), Peter Weir (The Year of Living Dangerously), John Sayles (Silver City), and most notably, Robert Altman (Nashville, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Kansas City, and M.A.S.H, among others.)
Besides Fall, MIFF will present several other Murphy films, which he will introduce. They are Away from Her (2006), in which he plays a stroke sufferer who can barely speak; Manhattan (1979), in which he plays a college professor who is cheating on his wife; and The Front (1976), where he stars as a formerly successful television writer who can no longer get work due to his left-wing politics. A fifth Murphy film, M.A.S.H. (1970), will be introduced by Kathryn Altman, the director's widow. Except for The Front, all screenings of the Murphy films are at the Waterville Opera House.