Friday, August 29, 2008

America's Burning at the International Venice Film Festival (and it's a good thing)











(VENICE, ITALY) Burn After Reading... The Burning Plain... If the hot films I'm seeing here in Venice are any indication of the direction America is heading, then we could be about to rise from the ashes. I am cautiously optimistic for the future -- not just for the United States, but for the world. Both movies are intelligent, and have great roles for women, but The Burning Plain takes motion pictures to another level in terms of structure.

[Disclosure: I have not been to the movies for years, nor do I read newspapers, nor do I watch television, and I live on an island set 500 years in the past. I just found out who Charlize Theron was last month when someone lent me The Italian Job . So, my opinion is a bit like a caveman's. On the other hand, I did live in Hollywood for most of my adult life, and have a little insight into the Biz. And I know my own journey as a writer, and as a human being, which seems to have coincided neatly with The Burning Plain; I am thinking the same thoughts; I have arrived at similar conclustions. So THAT IS WHY I AM TOTALLY EXCITED AT THE STRUCTURE OF THE BURNING PLAIN!]


Outside, I just ran into Roderick Conway Morris, who writes for the International Herald Tribune, and whom I've known for a long time. I respect Rod's work so much that I based a character in Harley's Ninth on him, and imitated his style in the newspaper article at the end of the book. I always read what Rod writes about the film festival. When I asked him which movie I should see, he replied, "'The Burning Plain. But I imagine you've already seen it." Rod was with his wife, Christina, who also has an excellent mind. We all confessed we were deeply moved.

To read Rod's column at the IHT, click here:

Now, here in the present, once again, I am writing to you from the press room at the Casino. We sit 10 writers around a large table with laptops that the film festival provides; there are 7 tables, so there are 70 writers' brains burning in one big room at the same time... and there are other writers in other rooms with their own laptops, and writers on the stairs and writers, writers everywhere. Then there are filmmakers roaming the area, and producers, and directors, and actors, and production people, and everyone coming and going... and the buzz is... well... we are all deeply moved, and it doesn't matter what country you are from.
Speaking as a novelist... to me, it seemed that Guillermo Arriaga broke through a Time barrier... it is easier to illustrate with film, than with a novel.. having the present, the past, the future, all exist in the present, like life. Arriaga is a screenwriter, of course, and this is his directorial debut. During the press conference he said that "directing the film was the best time I have ever had in my professional life."

THE PRESS CONFERENCE:

The questions were mostly thoughtful and interesting. I don't want to give much of the film away, but I do think I should tell you that some of the same characters are played by different actors at different points in their life -- as young adults and grown ups -- and that... Time is constantly shifting. There are no flashbacks, really, and there is NO NEED FOR THEM! It is seamless.
Other colors Arriaga uses to paint is how our parents' stories leave imprints on our Selves. How we are made of a combination of actual elements: earth, air, fire, water. How we act upon each other with these different elements. How death affects us. How lies affect us. How a life lived based upon a lie is doomed to crash. How the lies and secrets of parents leave deep impressions on the personalities of their children.
Here's my quick notes, mixed with thoughts:

Question to Arriaga: What was your impetus for making the film? How was the story born?

Arriaga: The story was in my head for 15 years. I always had a dream to write a story set in the desert. The landscape has in influence on people. Each story is composed of the four elements: Water. Earth. Air. Fire. (Note from Cat: And it is intense, the elements, especially the Fire and Water.)

Arriaga: It's a story of a woman named Sylvia and her emotional journey. Why people are so damaged.
Question to Charlize Theron: Why do actors like to play flawed people?

Theron: Why are people so flawed? Everyone is flawed to different degrees. There is something very real... why do we watch a film? It moves you. We see ourselves in that moment. Pain... or joy... our condition connects to the moment.

Charlize Theron was asked about producing and acting in the same film. She said it was about creativity. She said she felt she had a natural ability to perform the business side of film. She is fascinated about how film survives; how it struggles, and what it takes to make a good movie. She likes to meet people who are like-minded, and who want to walk the same road. After hearing her speak, I was impressed not only by her beauty, but with her intelligence and strength. She's got it all: talent, beauty, intelligence -- and is incredibly sexy, as well. I admired her gutsy performance.
Someone asked Arriaga about Time; about how he had deconstructed Time; about how the past was mixed with the present; mixed with the future.

Question: What is your personal relationship with time?

Charlize Theron laughed: From someone who doesn't even wear a watch!

Arriaga: We don't live life in a linear way. That is how we live in real life. Cinema is starting to find its own language, its own medium. (I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW EXCITED I AM TO HEAR THIS! For me, it's like a musical score; how you can change Time and remain in the same piece. It is about time we deconstructed Time! All right, I'll try to be quiet and let Arriaga speak:)

Arriaga: We are each inhabited by many people. We are dust. We are our own corpses. We evolve through several beings... what remains of the human being through Time...
The young actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Kim Basinger's daughter was asked how it was to work with Basinger, who was not there. Lawrence said, "Working with Kim was like watching Monet paint a painting. She was smart, nice, gracious and generous. She was there 100 per cent for me -- she even would even be off-camera for me (when an actor who is not on camera acts the lines with another actor instead of having someone just read the lines). I have nothing but great respect for her."

Charlize Theron spoke about Basinger's honesty: Kim has the strength of the age she is now, with the left-over vulnerability of the actress she was in her 20s. There are some moments in the film when her whole body was shaking. You can't manufacture that. You can't act that. You can't fake that. We miss you Kim! We wish you were here!

Anyway, more from Arriaga (and I must paraphrase here). He spoke about how we will never know who we are until we have a relationship with someone -- that we can see our identities by the way we relate to others, and how others relate to us. Every time someone dies, part of our identity is lost. How does that loss affect my identity? In this culture, we refuse death, we run around avoiding death. We must accept that we are fragile and that we are going to die.

Arriaga spoke more about the four elements, and how the human being's relationship with space is what makes the person -- the desert for the sun and the extreme cold, and the non-stop Portland rain -- all the cold, wet, gray affects people's moods.


The young actor, J.D. Pardo, said while shooting, he realized how much that we, human beings, are connected to nature.
Other colors Arriaga uses to paint is how our parents' stories leave imprints on our Selves. How we are made of a combination of actual elements: earth, air, fire, water. How we act upon each other with these different elements. How death affects us. How lies affect us. How a life lived based upon a lie is doomed to crash. How the lies and secrets of parents leave deep impressions on the personalities of their children.

Charlize Theron said that the name of the film was originally The Four Elements. Personally, I think that would have a been a more fitting title. And easier to remember than The Burning Plain.

In any event, the film is truly brilliant, no matter what the title is. Much thanks to Guillermo Arriaga for deconstructing Time for all writers... and for everyone, everywhere.

Ciao from Venice,
Cat

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Live! From the 2008 Venice Film Festival! - Venice, Italy

(VENICE, ITALY) I am writing to you from inside the Palace of the Casino on the Lido after having first gone to the press conference for Burn After Reading, and then screening the film. Right now, I am in a large room full of journalists sitting behind laptops, everyone typing frantically. The woman next to me, Paixao Redmont, a Portugese journalist living in Rome, just asked me how I liked the movie. I said, "I LOVED it!" She said, "I adored it." We both think it's going to be a hit.

It is chaos as usual here at the film festival. We are not allowed to take photos; the ones from the press conference this morning are apparently not available yet, and I have only limited pickings from the movie stills.

THE PRESS CONFERENCE (from my quick notes:)

The panel from my point of view, sitting in the third row on the left (use your imaginations:) was:



George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Frances McDormand, and Brad Pitt, moderated by the director/screenwriter, Claudio Masenza





Question to Frances McDormand: Are the roles your husband (Joel Coen) gives you like love letters?

FM: Did you see the movie? You call that a love letter?

Then she said that the Coen brothers always give her great roles, and hopes that when she is 65 they will continue to come up with great roles.

Question to the Coen Brothers: Where did you get the concept for the movie?

The Coen Brothers tend to speak together, so I am not sure which one said what, but they said they specifically wrote the movie for these specific actors. (John Malkovich and Richard Jenkins aren't here.) They made a spy movie because they had never made one before. They could have just easily made a dog movie.

Question to George Clooney and Brad Pitt: Why did you make the movie?

George Clooney: Well, now that they say they wrote the roles specifically for us, it makes me wonder what they think of us. We made the movie because we were the cheapest actors they could find.

Brad Pitt: I've been trying to get into a Coen Brothers movie for years. Now I don't know whether to be flattered or insulted.

Tilda Swinton spoke about how she liked how random things happened in the film because that was true in life -- how random things are always happening and getting tied together. She said she liked playing a woman who was always angry the entire film.

None of the actors had seen the film except for Frances McDormand.

Question to Brad Pitt: You had four children. Now you have six. Do you have plans for any more children?

Question to George Clooney: Do you have any plans to get married and have children?

George Clooney: Why, I have never been asked that question before! Never! In fact, I am getting married and having children today!

Brad Pitt: Until he does, I am sharing my children with him.

Question to Brad Pitt: How are the twins?

Answered by George Clooney: The twins are fine.

Question to George Clooney and Brad Pitt: How do you two like working together?

Answered by George Clooney: Actually, there is a restraining order. That is why we're sitting far apart.

Brad Pitt: We only had one scene together. One important scene.

Question to George Clooney & Brad Pitt: Would you rather win the Academy Award or fall in love with a beautiful Italian woman?

Answered by Frances McDormand: I would prefer to fall in love with a beautiful Italian woman. I haven't done that yet.

Then I, Cat, asked George Clooney a question. I said, "I used to live in Hollywood, but now I live in Venice, so I'm a little out of the loop. But I heard that your influence helped resolve the writer's strike. Is that true?"

George Clooney said, "Nope. And I live in Italy, too, so I'm out of the loop myself. But I did have something to do with the talks about the actors strike."

George Clooney and Brad Pitt were both asked whether they would rather be in Colorado right now, and whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future.

George Clooney: Venice is one of my favorite places in the entire world, so I am very happy to be right here right now. I am optimistic and pessimistic. But mostly optimistic.

Brad Pitt: I'm optimistic.

Hopefully I will be able to add some photos for you in the future -- the couple I've added have caused all sorts of formatting havoc.

Next, it was onto the movie. It's very difficult to make a black comedy and have it work. Actually, the production notes call the film a "comedy thriller," but I think it's more like a black comedy -- a genre that I love. I'm sure you all have seen previews and whatnot, so I don't have to tell you what it's about. The actors were absolutely brilliant. Brad Pitt would have stolen the movie had he not been surrounded by such heavyweights, so he couldn't steal it completely, but he was amazing in the role of a Harbodies gym employee. From the production notes:

Brad Pitt: "I didn't think the guy would be a dumbbell, a gum-chewing, Gatorade-swilling, iPod-addicted bubble-brain. I said to Joel and Ethan, 'He's such an idiot...' But, he does have a good heart.

Frances McDormand: "In the first scene for my character in the script, the description said, 'Close Up On A Woman's Ass. Pale. Bare. Middle-Aged.' Why should one even read on? Why should one even consider the job?"


And John Malkovich! He devoured the part of a terminated CIA agent with a drinking problem. Actually, the Croatian Sisters here in Venice wanted me to give him a message, but he was not here. The message was, "We love that you are a big fan of Croatia!"


John Malkovich: "When they called and told me they'd written a role for me, well, I was delighted. The whole script centers on people's quests to change themselves. Ozzie is a sarcastic man, and an unbelievable lush. When he gets canned, it throws him into a tizzy, and he writes his memoirs -- very badly."

Frances McDormand: "What's interesting about this movie is that it is all about middle-aged losers. George Clooney and Brad Pitt as losers, that's novel."

The movie was funny then dark, funny then dark, with all the random happenings tied together -- as Tilda Swinton said -- just like life. By the end we were all laughing so hard (and remember, this is a screening for the press and film people) that when the final credits starting rolling, we burst into spontaneous applause.

Ciao from the 65th International Venice Film Festival,
Cat

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

OTTICA VASCELLARI - The Best Eyeglasses in the World!

(VENICE, ITALY) Do you see those sunglasses I am wearing there on the left? I bought them from Vascellari about four years ago, and have worn them every day since that time. I have only one complaint: they are so well-made, and such a fantastic design that I am going to have to lose them in order to get a new pair. Looking at the world through a pair of Vascellari eyeglasses is like having your vision filtered through a shield of protection and love in a ti voglio bene kind of way.

Click to read more:

http://venetiancat-vascellari.blogspot.com/2008/08/best-eyeglasses-in-world-venice.html

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Invitation to KARIN'S CARNIVAL, a documentary by Annie Carraro - Venice, Italy

(VENICE, ITALY) Karin is an average German woman, except for one remarkable quirk -- for the past 20 years she has stuffed her suitcase full of fanciful costumes and taken the train down to the Carnival in Venice. After slipping into one of her own marvelous creations, she transforms from workaday banker to 18th Century noblewoman, and steps out onto the streets of Venice and into another dimension.

Click to read more and print out a copy of your invitation:

http://venetiancat-studioac.blogspot.com/2008/08/karins-carnival-documentary-by-anny.html

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gondola Serenade with Canadian Tenor, Nils Brown - Venice

(VENICE, ITALY) The Canadian tenor, Nils Brown, arrived at my house early one morning last week, together with documentary filmmaker, Anny Carraro, to shoot some footage . He was returning to Canada the next day, so this was the only opportunity we had to film what Anny needed for her section of the Nils Brown documentary -- it is a co-production with a Canadian company. Anny wanted to take advantage of the view from my balcony, the Grand Canal overlooking the Rialto Bridge. Because I was blogging the event, I said to Nils, "I've asked a rock photographer to take some photos this evening on the gondola ride. I think it would be an interesting combination -- classical music meets rock & roll. More cool. More hip."

Without a word, Nils Brown picked up his instrument and walked out the door.

Click to read more:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mary Ascends to Heaven and Pala D'Oro, The Golden Cloth - Venice

(VENICE, ITALY) Yesterday, I found myself in a miraculous position -- alone, on my knees, on the high altar of the Basilica in front of the tomb of Saint Mark, the brilliant gold of the Pala D'Oro shimmering in the background.

August 15th is Ferragosto here in Italy, and also Assumption Day, the day that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was assumed into Heaven. It is an ancient pagan festival combined with a Catholic holiday.

From Wikipedia:

"Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated on August 15. Originally, it was related to a celebration of the middle of the summer and the end of the hard labour in the fields. In time, the Roman Catholicism adopted this date as a Holy Day of Obligation to commemorate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—the real physical elevation of her sinless soul and incorrupt body into Heaven.

Before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence, however, this holiday was celebrated in the Roman Empire to honor the gods—in particular Diana—and the cycle of fertility and ripening. In fact, the present Italian name of the holiday derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti (Fairs of the Emperor Augustus)."

Many Catholic holidays and images can trace their roots to already established Roman celebrations. This year, the full moon also coincides with the holiday. Combine that with a partial lunar eclipse later on today, and we have some heavy duty cosmic energy.

As I've said before, some of the inspiration for my novel, Harley's Ninth, came from my fascination with feminine solar energy, which, to me, is dynamic, creative and sensual. I have never been comfortable with the image of the Virgin Mary presented to me in my youth, and spent a long time researching the changing image of the female throughout the millennium. In fact, my young protagonist, Harley Columba, creates a new Madonna out of oil and canvas, and names her the Madonna of the Sun.

Yesterday morning, I heard the church bells ringing, loud and long, commanding everyone to come to church -- or at least remember that there was something else to do that day except have a barbecue on the beach. Without planning it in advance, I threw on a dress and headed to the Basilica. That, too, is a little miracle -- that I can dash off to the Basilica of San Marco if the mood strikes me.

I caught the tail end of one service, and decided to stay for the next. I asked one of the ushers for some candles so I could light them at my favorite Byzantine icon, the Madonna Nicopeia, who also stars in Harley's Ninth. The Madonna Nicopeia used to march at the head of the army of the Holy Roman Empire, so I think she is not a shy girl.

I gazed at all the images inside the magnificient Basilica and thought about the state of the feminine in this day and age. To me, it feels like we are about to start spinning in another direction -- that the heavy hands that have been driving the world are about to lose their grip on the wheel.

Here is a blurb from Stephan A. Hoeller's The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead about how Carl Jung (one of my heroes) felt about Pope Pius XII's* decision in 1950 to declare Assumption Day a dogma of the Church:

"Toward the end of his life Jung perceived a sign of the times of great significance in the declaration of the assumption of the Virgin Mary made by Pope Pius XXII. At the same time when Protestant theologians, and even some Catholic ecumenicists, threw up their hands in horror because of this new evidence of old papal mariolatry, Jung hailed the Pope's apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, as an evidence of the long-delayed recognition on the part of Christendom of the celestiality, if not outight divinity, of the feminine. In Answer to Job he went on record, writing that this recognition was welling or pushing upwards from the depths of humanity's unconscious and that it could have a deeply beneficial effect on human affairs in terms of world peace. The elevation of the Virgin, he said, was an evidence of a very real 'yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul,' and it would act as a needed compensation to the 'threatening tension between the opposites.'

I'm with Jung on that one. I think it would be nice to make August 15th an international holiday.

In any event, it is a rare occasion when the Pala D'Oro faces out toward the congregation, and something awesome to see -- if you are ever in Venice on one of the high holy days, I strongly recommend you make an effort to see it.

From Wikipedia:

"Pala d’Oro (literally, "Golden Pall") is a high altar retable of the Basilica di San Marco in Venice. It is universally recognized as one of the most refined and accomplished works of Byzantine craftsmanship."

It was quite an honor to kneel at the tomb of San Marco, directly in front of one of the Pala D'Oro, one of the world's most sacred icons, which is about 900 years old. The sheer power of a wall of gold beaming at me... I felt all that power, all that sacred energy wash over me.. it was like taking a cosmic shower... I am optimistic for the future.

Ciao from Venice,
Cat
http://venetiancat.blogspot.com/

**A previous version inadvertently stated it was Pope Pius XXII [who does not (yet) exist.]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Miracle Madonna in Corte de Cà Sarasina - Venice

(VENICE, ITALY) I haven't always lived on the Grand Canal. When I first moved to Venice back in 1998, I lived way down in Castello in a tiny ground floor apartment in Corte Sarasina, off Via Garibaldi. It was sort of like living in the Bronx, I imagine. I had just moved here from Hollywood, and thought doing my own laundry would be romantic. (It has since lost its charm.) Corte Sarasina is important because it has a Madonna that works miracles, and I can personally vouch for her authenticity:)

Ten years ago, the people of Corte Sarasina did not have many Americans living among them, so I was kind of a novelty. They were friendly, warm, good-hearted people.They spoke Venetian dialect, not Italian. I didn't speak a word of Italian, let alone Venetian, but somehow we managed to communicate with our hearts.

Every afternoon the old women would put their chairs out in the corte, do their lace work, and chat -- their lace-making style was different than Burano because they were from Pellestrina. They took good care of me. Once I decided to wash my sheets. I asked my neighbor if I could use her laundry line. Since it was a ground floor apartment, you had to hang the laundry with clothes pins, then sort of hoist it like a sail. Well, I couldn't hoist it up, and blocked the entire corte. The old women came and took my laundry away from me, and told me to go away -- I had an appointment close to Piazza San Marco. You have to understand that even though it's only about 15 minutes by foot from Via Garibaldi to Piazza San Marco, some people in Castello haven't been to San Marco for thirty years. So, to them, I was going on this great adventure. While I was up there, I bought them a box of chocolate to thank them.

When I got back to Corte Sarasina, all my laundry was flying from their windows! It was a sight to behold. They had divided it up and shared their laundry lines. (That image you see is not Corte Sarasina, but it looked sort of like that.) After it was dried and neatly folded, they sent over a representative, Rosie, to deliver it. I offered the chocolates, but Rosie refused. Then five minutes later she was sent back to get the chocolates. You can just imagine that conversation: "What? You didn't take the chocolates? Get your butt back over there and get them."

Next, I saw Rosie sitting out with the others, making something new out of lace. I asked her what it was, and she went on and on in Venetian dialect. Of course, I had no idea what she said. I thought, "She's either making a gift for her granddaughter's First Holy Communion, or a fish." It turned out that she was making a gondolier rowing a gondola for ME!!! I am looking at it right now, and if I had a camera (which I promise I will buy), I'd take a photo of it and show you. It's one most precious gifts I've ever received.

The very first article I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italy Daily was about this Miracle Madonna of Corte Sarasina -- in fact, it's how I got the job. I did a quick search to see if there are any images of the Miracle Madonna available, and it turns out that there are! All the images you see here (except the clothesline) are from a blog by a woman named Anne called, "Churches in Venice," and can be found at: http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/annienc/2008/01/corte_de_casarasina_shrine.html
Apparently Anne wants to know what's up with this shrine, too. Since I own all my copyrights, I'll post what I wrote (with a little editing) back on Friday, January 12, 2001. (But I did NOT write that headline:) So, let's take a little trip into the past...

Cocktails and Prayers Answered in Venice
The Castello Neighborhood Holds a Mystical Madonna, a Mystifying Accent and a Proud, Venetian Apertif

Tucked away in a quiet section of Venice, there is a Byzantine Madonna who answers prayers, or so the story goes. She's been gazing down on Corte de Cà Sarasina for centuries, dating back to the beginning of the 1600s.

Corte Sarasina is off Via Garibaldi in the Castello district of Venice. It's one of the few remaining neighborhoods where Venetians outnumber the tourists. Every morning, locals scramble to buy fresh fruit and vegetables frrom a boat docked in the canal at Fondamenta Sant'Anna, and haggle over fish at the little market at the entrance to the Public Gardens.

Back in 1807, Via Garibaldi was transformed into a rio terra, a canal that was filled in and turned into a street, by Napoleon's invading forces. On the right-hand corner, at No. 1643, there is an inscription commemorating the home of the famous navigator, Giovanni Caboto, otherwise known as John Cabot. This where Via Garibaldi -- and a whole other Venice -- begins.

Castello is a working-class community, originally inhabited by fisherman, shipbuilders and lace-makers. Laundry flaps across the calli and the canals. Men gather around newsstands; mothers promenade with their babies, stopping to chat and coo.

A fun place to eat on this colorful boulevard is Trattoria Giorgione, on the right side of the street. Lucio Bisutto serenades his customers with Venetian folk songs while his wife, Ivana, cooks some of the best fish, risotto and vongole in town. A little further down on the left is Bar Mio where patrons sit outside and have a spritz, a drink rarely ordered outside Venice. It's usually sipped during lunch or after work at around 7 P.M., but is available anytime, especially for those on vacation.

There are at least three kinds: "spritz con Select," "sprintz con Aperol" or "spritz con bitter." The spritz con bitter consists of white wine, Campari and a "spritz" of soda water. Those who prefer a sweeter drink ask for Aperol. A spritz con Select (the accent lies on the first syllable) is sweeter still. Any self-respecting spritz arrives accompanied by a cube or two of ice, an olive, and a lemon or orange peel, together with a little bowl of chips or nuts.

Stumbling on the scene, Corte Sarasina would seem inhabited mostly by elderly women who spend warmer afternoons sitting outside on folding chairs, chatting and stitching lace. They speak Venetian with a thick Castello accent, the same undulating rhythm as the water lapping in the lagoon. "Rosie" is the ringleader, and she is in charge of the wish-granting Madonna, tending to the fresh and artificial flowers around it and straightening the altar.

A wood painting protected by a sheet of glass, the Madonna of Corte Sarasina greets the faithful from inside a grande sacello, a small brick and plaster structure with a typical Venetian red tile roof. On her head is a crown imbedded with imitation gemstones. A strand of white beads dangles around her face. She is surrounded by statues of Jesus and various saints, the plaster type found in a mortuary store.

Every morning, Rosie shuffles out of her apartment a few doors away and unlocks the shrine. The Madonna is open all day from 8 A.M. to 7P.M., seven days a week, although at lunch time the Madonna takes a nap like most of the folks in Garibaldi. If you arrive during lunch time, visitors need only unhook the little chain that latches the double green doors, swing them open, say a prayer, deposit their lire and close her back up. There is a small wooden box on the inside of the left-hand door to make contributions. A suggested donation is 1,000 lire (one euro by 2008 standards:), which goes to purchasing fresh flowers and maintaining the sanctuary.

No one knows who created this peculiar Madonna, but many believe it was the work of a madonnaro, or street artist from the early 1600s, and was a traditional way for the living to remember the dead. To this day, she is very much a part of the local community.

About a year ago, the locals took it upon themselves to restore the shrine. Lino Scarpa, a friendly, wise fellow, said the elderly women of Corte Sarasina begged him to do the restoration. "I repainted the doors, the statues, added some color to the lips, that sort of thing," he said.

Amazingly, many of the locals say they haven't made the trip from the Castello district to Piazza San Marco in years, even though it's only a 15 minute walk away. "Everything a person needs is down here on Garibaldi," Mr. Scarpa said. "Fish, vegetables, good places to eat, good bars, good people. The gardens are here, the lagoon is here. The sea is a quick boat trip away."

***

So, there you have it. It's the work of a street artist, maintained by the locals. Sometimes I've wondered whether one of the major restoration groups around town should restore her, but she might loose some of her magic.
Many times aspiring writers ask me for advice. I'll tell you my secret -- all you have to do become a published author is give the Miracle Madonna of Corte Sarasina one euro, and you're on your way.

Ciao from Venice,
Cat
http://venetiancat.blogspot.com