Schenectady seems almost tailor-made for the canvas Derek Cianfrance used to paint his generational epic, “The Place Beyond the Pines.”
The city’s post-industrial grit accentuates his characters, casting them in shadows and hues that make them seemingly explode with life on the silver screen. From the first scenes at the Altamont Fair to the last moments in the gymnasium of the St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Clinton Street downtown, the locations breathe life into Cianfrance’s characters much in the way he intended when he decided to film in the Schenectady area.
“Because of my training in documentary film, it was important to me to shoot in real places and surround the actors with real people as much as possible to give the film that sense of place and truth,” he said in an interview after the premier at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday.
Described as “an epic crime drama,” the 140-minute film is a raw and cathartic tale about how one misstep can lead to a generation of turmoil. Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a carnival stunt motorcycle rider who unexpectedly learns he’s fathered son with Romina, a Latino diner waitress played by Eva Mendes.
Learning about the child brings new meaning to the life of Gosling’s character but also drives him to a sinister corner of life. During a botched robbery, his path intersects with Avery Cross, a 28-year-old rookie cop played by Bradley Cooper.
Cianfrance’s all-star cast is surrounded by scores of local people who were given prominent parts in the movie, including several Schenectady police officers, a city school district guidance counselor, an area television reporter, a local pharmacy operator and one of the county’s public defenders. The rising-star director even tapped longtime state Sen. Hugh Farley, who played himself in a speaking role that made the final cut.
For more about the premiere of "The Place Beyond the Pines" and how Schenectady is portrayed on-screen, see Sunday's Gazette.