Thursday, September 29, 2011

MUTANTS at the 55th Venice International Festival of Contemporary Music

Mutanti - Photo: la Biennale di Venezia © 2011


(Venice, Italy) Mutants and mutations is the theme of the La Biennale's 55th International Festival of Contemporary Music. Is mankind losing the ability to think deeply, vertically, on a profound level? Are we being fed superficial, horizontal knowledge? Are we losing our memory? Here are some excerpts of a conversation between Luca Francesconi, the Artistic Director of the music festival, and Enrico Girardi:

EG: The title of this Biennale, your fourth and last, talks about Mutants, mutations; about something that ends, at least in the form in which we know it, to become something else. What is ending?


Luca Francesconi
LF: We are witnessing a sort of genetic mutation in Western culture, in our tradition. We are living in a world that makes not only thought seem anachronistic, along with in-depth analysis and the effort that it requires, but even paper, practice, craftsmanship. At a time in which everything is available at the click of a mouse, even those of us who do not belong to a generation of "computer natives," but can compare a variety of modus operandi, are tempted to let go of memory as if it were a burden too heavy to carry. 


LF... I was saying that there has never been such a deep fracture like the one taking place today between the old "vertical" dimension of knowledge that implies depth of research and the awareness of the territory one is working in ... and the "horizontal" dimension of the here and now, which, on the contrary, is globalized, extra-territorial, capable of ... effacing differences, and always downgrading them. We don't know if this horizontality is a new form of knowledge or an illusion that makes you believe that you know more, but, in fact, invites you not to think, not to dwell on things, to bounce like a marble in a pinball machine between the knowledge of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia.  

Imagine a Piano in the Center
Imagine the Audience on all 4 sides
Someone who illustrated the ability to move both vertically and horizontally was Michaël Levinas, the Parisian piano soloist. The venue was dramatic. The piano was located in the center of the four columns of the newly (and beautifully) restored Sala delle Colonne, or the Hall of Columns at Ca' Giustinian, headquarters of La Biennale. The audience sat on all four sides. Levinas began with Beethoven's Piano Sonata op. 111 (1821-22),"the last in the series composed by the master from Bonn, who died in Vienna on March 26, 1827." It was music from heaven, and to hear it inside the Sala delle Colonne was magical.

Next Levinas played compositions from Études by Gyorgy Ligeti, 18 pieces composed over a period of time from 1985 to 2001. I could see the written score from my position in the audience and it looked technically difficult to play. Levinas succeeded brilliantly. From the program:


Photo at La Biennale
In the first study - Désordre - diatonic and pentatonic scales overlap in a proliferation of syncopated rhythms; Cordes à vide is a moment of intimate mediation; Arc en ciel represents a rainbow in a sequence of rising and falling chords, whereas in Automne à Varsovie Ligeti is thinking of the annual contemporary music festival in Warsaw in the is fascinatingly polychrome piece. 


Levinas then played his own collection of Three Studies for the piano composed in 1992. When he was finished, the audience gave him ovation after ovation. The applause would not stop. Levinas returned again and again to take a bow, then finally played an encore, another piece by Beethoven, this time an early work, the Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14, No. 2, composed in 1798-99 -- a perfect closing to a perfect performance. 


Opening Night at Teatro alle Tese
Photo at La Biennale
The opening concert was conducted by the Hungarian composer and conductor, Peter Eötvös, winner of this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement who "brings together an exceptionally fine ear and level of knowledge, with iconoclastic and experimental delight." The program included works by the Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th Century, Peter Eötvös' own work, the Concerto for two pianos, and Agon by Igor Stravinsky, who is buried here in Venice. 


The Silver Lion went to the Milan ensemble, RepertorioZero, for "innovative research -- in its way of working with today's music -- that seeks to expand on the experience of th traditional avant-garde, addressing a repertory yet to be constructed and with the need to find solutions to the many variables in contemporary music."


Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, September 23, 2011

LIONS, DRAGONS & BRUNI

Leone blu by Liselotte Hohs from ANIMAL MAGNETISM
(Venice, Italy) During the film festival, there are so many collateral events, parties and happenings that it's difficult to physically arrive at them all, let alone write about them. Here are a few standouts:

Pitunia
Liselotte Hohs' whimsical carpet exhibition ANIMAL MAGNETISM is located in one of the most prestigious venues in Venice: the Libreria Sansoviniana, the ancient golden library inside the Biblioteca Marciana, built by the great architect Jacopo Sansovino -- a work that started in 1537 and spanned fifty years. Scattered throughout the historic room are 40 of Liselotte's cheerful animal carpets, inspired by an encounter with a group of Tibetan carpet weavers in 2005, escapees who had fled to India. The quality of the weaving is spectacular -- they used cotton warp and high quality Tibetan or New Zealand woolen woof which they dyed personally; there are 20 Tibetan knots per square centimeter.

From Barbara Rose:
Austrian by birth, Venetian by choice, Liselotte Hohs has travelled the world. In her various adventures to faraway places she has gathered ideas, techniques and materials to use in her art. Indeed, we might say her spiritual nomadism is a precursor of the so-called "globalization of art" of which we hear so much today.

Paradiso
From Erica Jong:
Artists have always loved animals. And animals have always loved artists.
My grandfather, the painter, Samuel Mirsky, used to go to the zoo in Central Park every day after his commissions were done.
I would ask: "Papa, how was the zoo?"
He invariably replied: "The lion wouldn't pose."
But the lion will pose for Liselotte Hohs. The lion is blue like George Gershwin's  "Rhapsody in Blue" -- a happy blue lion of San Marco with a seagull on his back and the New Testament in his right paw. He comes to Venice to bring us happy blues -- blues of the ocean and the sky. ...

Unfortunately I had to dash and couldn't attend the intimate press conference, but I did have the honor of chatting with the delightful Mimi Kilgore, curator of the show and great friend of Liselotte. Mimi regaled me with tales of how she and Liselotte arrived on the scene in Venice years ago, two young women draped in Fortuny.

The star of the show, the Leone Blu, had sold before the exhibit even opened. Click to see some fabulous photos at Contessanally's visual online diary.

ANIMAL MAGNETISM runs through September 30, 2011.

Dragon by Mahdiyar Arab at OPEN 14
Mahdiyar Arab is an ancient spirit in a seven-year-old body. The young sculptor was here with his parents from Iran at the opening party of OPEN 14, the annual outdoor sculpture exhibition conceived and curated by Paolo De Grandis and co-curated by Carlotta Scarpa. In order to talk to Mahdiyar, we had to entice him to stop running around like a normal kid and sit with me on the grass -- the party was at Nicelli del Lido, Venice's private airport. Within a few minutes, Mahdiyar had created a helicopter out of clay, simply by gazing at a real copter and letting his fingers work their magic -- he doesn't look at his hands, he looks at the object.

Mahdiyar Arab
Mahdiyar Arab is the son of an ordinary Iranian couple. His father is a banker, and his mother is a housewife. They sat with me on the grass in an attempt to get Mahdiyar to cooperate with an interview. They spoke Iranian and no English or Italian. An interpreter joined us who could translate Iranian into Italian but not English. Mahdiyar did not want to be there at all, he wanted to play, but he dutifully agree to give me a few moments of his time.

Mahdiyar looked like a normal kid, spoke like a normal kid, but there was most definitely something different about him, and it's not just because he has an IQ of 148. I asked him if he spoke English, and he replied, "No, I do not speak English." Looking into his eyes, listening to him describe his process, he had the confidence of a 40-year-old artist who was channeling energy from the object into his hands and into the clay. Then he morphed back into a 7-year-old kid again, wiggling and squirming and gazing at the other children who are running around the party playing tag. He told me he "feels an object and he creates it." Mahdiyar likes to create primitive animals like dragons and elephants. He does not like to create people. His favorite food is pizza and hot dogs. "Now can I go, Mom?"

OPEN 14 runs through October 2, 2011.

Verso il Vento - Argentine Ushuaia by Virginio Bruni Tedeschi from MONDO  UNO
The opening of the traveling photography installation MONDO UNO by the late Virginio Bruni Tedeschi, "a sailor at heart," at the Giorgio Cini Foundation was a casually elegant fête. The Cini's cloisters had been transformed into a gracious outdoor living room with excellent food and drink, a noble celebration of the photographer's life and work. Virginio was the brother of Carla Bruni, the wife of French President, Nicolas Sarkozy; Virginio died of AIDS in 2006. His mother, Marisa Bruni Tedeschi, is the president of the Virginio Bruni Tedeschi Foundation. Two years after he died, his wife, Isabelle Bezin, "plunged into the 3000 snapshots he took during his numerous travels from Patagonia to India, going by Easter island and Polynesia." Together with Karine Chahin, she created a book that accompanies the exhibition. From Le Lavandou.eu:

The entire profit of the books and photographs sales goes as always to the Virginio Bruni Tedeschi Foundation. This foundation hasFondation Virginio Bruni Tedeschi been created on February 12th 2007 in memory of Virginio Bruni Tedeschi. This non-profit foundation exclusively pursues social solidarity by promoting and developing, through its own resources, projects and initiatives at world level, in the domains of the education, medicine and research.
Following a partnership with Unesco, the foundation is currently committed in four Southern African countries particularly affected by AIDS: Leshoto, Namibia, Angola, and Swaziland. Mondo Uno became a travelling exhibition in order to spread the good word in all four corners of the world.

MONO UNO runs through October 3, 2011.

Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Saturday, September 10, 2011

68 Venice International Film Festival - And the Winners Are!

Faust - Directed by Alexsander Sokurov
(Venice, Italy) Russian director Alexsander Sokuroy's FAUST won the Golden Lion, the top prize at the 68th Venice International Film Festival, so I guess all the gossip about some jury members walking out of the film was not true. When asked about Russian distribution, Sokuroy said he wasn't going to spend any money to promote it: "The film doesn't need the public. The public needs the film." Faust, of course, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for worldly knowledge and pleasure. Sokuroy said his goal in coming to Venice had been to simply to get the film shown. He stressed the importance of culture, and spoke very strongly about funding being an obligation of the government. He said, "If culture remains delicate and fragile, it will disappear and then we will disappear." (Today is the birthday of Giancarlo Galan, the Italian Minister of Culture, and he honored us with his presence in the audience at the award ceremony this evening.)

Michael Fassbinder in SHAME
The German-born Irish actor Michael Fassbinder won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor in the movie SHAME, directed by Steve McQueen, a graphic account of a man with a serious sex addiction. Fassbinder said he played the part because Steve McQueen had changed his life by casting him in HUNGER, and that he would always jump on board for him.

Fassbinder with Volpi Cup
"He always wants to talk about things that 'we' don't want to address." Fassbinder said it was nice to come to Venice and have an audience reaction where "people are honest enough and open enough to embrace it for what it is." Jury President Darren Aronofsky said that he had been "blown away" by SHAME and that it was the best orgasm he had seen since Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, and that as a director he was impressed with the enormous level of trust between an actor and a director.

The Chinese film REN SHAN REN HAIR (People Mountain People Sea) won the Silver Lion for Best Director, Shangjun Cai.

Italy won the Special Jury Prize for Terraferma, directed by Emanuele Crialese.

The United States did not win any awards at all this year even though the jury president was American Darren Aronofsky and included Scottish-born American David Byrne. Here is the Venetian Cat post about the jury if you are interested in seeing what kind of minds came up with this list of winners -- which went against the opinions of many people in the press. We must remember that Aronofsky studied film theory at Harvard, after all:)

The complete list:

Ermanuele Crialese directs TERRAFERMA Photo: agrigentooggi
 BEST FILM GOLDEN LION
- "Faust" by Alexander Sokurov (Russia)
BEST DIRECTOR SILVER LION
- Shangjun Cai for "People Mountain People Sea" (China)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
- "Terraferma" by Emanuele Crialese (Italy)
BEST FIRST FEATURE
- "La-Bas" by Guido Lombardi (Italy)
BEST ACTRESS
- Deanie Yip for "A Simple Life" (Hong Kong)
BEST ACTOR
- Michael Fassbender for "Shame" (Britain)
EMERGING PERFORMER
- Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaidou for "Himizu" (Japan)
BEST SCREENPLAY
- "Alpis" (Alps) by Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
- "Wuthering Heights" directed by Andrea Arnold (Britain)

Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, September 9, 2011

Texas Killing Fields - A Family Affair

Ami Canaan Mann & Michael Mann
(Venice, Italy) Texas Killing Fields is a real place, populated by the ghosts of dead girls and women. Almost sixty bodies of sexual assault victims have been dumped there over the years, all victims of different killers. Many of the murders are unsolved because no one knows where the women were actually killed. If you want to get away with rape and murder, dump the body in the Texas Killing Fields among the skeleton trees.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Brian
According to screenwriter Don Ferrarone, a retired DEA agent, the Indians who used to inhabit the land were the only cannibal tribe in North America. Years ago, Ferrarone was on assignment in Texas City, Texas when he heard the story and became intrigued. He met two Texas City PD Detectives, Brian Goetschius and Mike Land and based the characters in the film on them.

Ami Canaan Mann is Michael Mann's daughter, and Texas Killing Fields looks and feels like the Michael Mann production it is. Michael Mann literally put a very nice roof over my head; he gave my second husband a break and launched his directing career. After the press conference, I thanked Michael for it.

Sam Worthington as Mike
So for me, Texas Killing Fields felt a bit like home. Bonnie Timmerman is still the casting director. Ami Canaan Mann said her first involvement in her father's work was on his TV show Crime Story. That's when I came into the story, too, back when Las Vegas was vintage glitz, before the new hotels.

Ami Canaan Mann said she wanted the movie to have the feel of a haunted house, and she succeeded. We want to know what's in there, but we don't know if we want to go inside. In the film, many people who populate Texas City, a refinery town, are "throw-aways," the dregs of American society.

Something that is not in the movie: Texas City was already famous for being the site of the worst industrial accident in US history when fertilizer stored at the docks exploded in 1947, killing 500 people and injuring over 5000. The Texas Killing Fields run along I-45, just outside the Texas City limits. From Wikipedia:

The Texas City economy has long been based on heavy industry, particularly shipping at the Port of Texas City as well as petroleum and petrochemical refining.[5] The Texas City Industrial Complex is a leading center of the petrochemical industry. Within this complex the Texas City Refinery operated by BP is the second largest petroleum refinery in Texas and third largest in the United States

Jessica Chastain as Pam
There are some very scary moments in the movie, and a nifty car chase. It is sinister, intriguing and compelling to watch. Ami Canaan Mann brought a woman's sensibility that I really liked, and was not afraid to get down and dirty with the boys. The casting is terrific; the actors give strong performances -- though, even I as an American, had a difficult time understanding what they said. I often had to read the Italian subtitles..

However, there are too many holes in the story. I wanted more information. The bad guy that is floating free at the end needed to be more neatly resolved. Looking back, I can piece the plot together myself and figure out what happened, but it is not there on the screen. The audience should not leave the theater feeling as equally frustrated as the detectives trying to solve the murders. Or is that the point?

Director's statement:

Chloe Grace Moretz as Anne
On the outskirts of a small town called Texas City, thirty minutes south of Houston, the bodies of just under sixty murder victims have been found. Some women, some girls. Some prostitutes. Some schoolchildren. All victims of different killers. 


In the stacks of preliminary research that came with Don Ferrarone's brilliant screenplay, I found a map attached to a local newspaper article. It showed the faces of the victims near where their bodies were found. ...Arranged as they are on that map, they're a tapestry of beautiful ghosts, their eyes look right through you, asking for voice. And it is this reality, I believe, that pushed myself, cast and crew to try to tell this tough story in the most elegant way possible....

Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Spies are Pasty Nerds and Circus Freaks

John Hurt, Colin Firth, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gary Oldman, Mark Strong
(Venice, Italy) To the British, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was a sacred icon not to be touched. Thirty-two years ago, John Le Carré's classic spy novel had been transformed into a seven-episode television series starring another British icon, Sir Alec Guinness, who played British intelligence agent George Smiley, turning the fictional character into yet another British icon. It was in cement: GEORGE SMILEY IS ALEC GUINNESS.

Alec Guinness as George Smiley
I am trying to think of an instance in the US where a beloved novel has been turned into a beloved television series -- not a movie -- spawning a beloved fictional character, and can't come up with anything. British authors certainly excel when it comes to creating memorable sleuths and spies, perhaps because so many British authors have actually been sleuths and spies. John Le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, was an agent for MI6, the British version of the CIA, which he dubs the "Circus."

I have spent the last year doing intensive research about the CIA, MI6 and other mysterious organizations in an attempt to understand the bizarre events that have happened to me on a personal level over the past few years. Reading John Le Carré was part of that research, as was reading "Operation Mincemeat," the truth behind "The Man Who Never Was." One of the fascinating things I learned is that intelligence agencies love to hire novelists! (Since the fictional story they tried to impose upon me was written by a hack, one can assume that the story was written by an American or a very lousy British writer.) In any event, I did learn a lot about the spy business and was very much looking forward to this movie.

John Le Carré is a brilliant author, though I have not yet gotten my hands on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Nor have I ever seen Alec Guinness, a brilliant actor, in the TV series. So, my point of view is not colored by warm fuzzy images that come from a beloved television show, or an image I've created myself from reading a novel. George Smiley is a new character for me.

Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious
Gary Oldman, however, is one of my favorite actors. He is the new George Smiley in the movie version of Tinker, Tailor. I first saw Gary Oldman on the London stage in the 1980s before he became a movie star. Back then, he was a very talented, very bad boy, full of explosive passion and rage. Now, under the helm of Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, Oldman's passion and rage are internal, a smoldering volcano, completely under control.

Here is the review I agree with the most, Leslie Felperin from Variety:

John Le Carre reportedly once said, "Seeing your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes." Maybe so, but in the case of helmer Tomas Alfredson's version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," the result is best likened to a perfectly seasoned consomme. An inventive, meaty distillation of Le Carre's 1974 novel, pic turns hero George Smiley's hunt for a mole within Blighty's MI6 into an incisive examination of Cold War ethics, rich in both contempo resonance and elegiac melancholy. Finely hammered to appeal to discerning auds and kudo-awarding bodies, "Tinker" should do sterling biz.

Here is my favorite snippet from Leslie Felperin's review:

Gary Oldman as George Smiley
One of the pic's biggest departures from the source is to weave in flashbacks to a Christmas party, a scene that was never in the book. The party sequence efficiently reveals how Smiley learned about his wife Ann's infidelity, a crucial component in the theme of betrayal, and also sets an atmosphere and tone that makes this version of "Tinker, Tailor" feel fundamentally different from its predecessor: Under unglamorous strip lights redolent of '70s-era think tanks and the opposite of the gentlemen's club atmosphere of the TV series, the men and women who work for the Circus look more like the pasty nerds real Mi6 people probably were then (and maybe are now). They may hold the fate of the Western world in their hands, but many of them are outsiders to the regular establishment. 

They are a bunch of pasty nerds! I've met them! Not just the MI6 people, but also the CIA and State Department people! It was a conclusion I had reached on my own, and I am happy to have it confirmed. Except for some who are "born" into the business, intelligence agencies seem to recruit nerds who dream of being somebody: wanna-be actors, wanna-be writers, wanna-be artists, wanna-be photographers. There are inept clergymen (much more exciting to be a spy Chaplain), and inept doctors, judges and lawyers (cash kick-backs for spy doctors, judges and lawyers). And like members of a Circus, they are also often freaks. I kept running around saying: "Who are these people? SAG extras are better actors than these characters!" Because our image of spies has been colored by James Bond and Hollywood glamor, it was quite a shock to realize that in reality they are actually pasty nerds and circus freaks! Movie stars have made them glamorous, but in real life, they are not.

Colin Firth as Bill Haydon
However, there is a particular dark quality that separates a regular pasty nerd from a spy pasty nerd: spies out in the field burn with jealousy and envy toward legitimate professionals, and have no qualms about using defamation of character, whisper campaigns, violence, lies, and manipulation as their weapons. They are greedy, and see nothing wrong with having a job whose mission is to destroy innocent people. They lack empathy, so hurting other people -- physically, mentally or emotionally -- does not affect them like most of humanity.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam
Other people's suffering gives them pleasure, especially if the people they have targeted are glamorous or talented or sophisticated or don't agree with them. They are often sexually frustrated, and are obsessed with the sex lives of others. I am sure there are many legitimate, healthy people that work in intelligence, but the ones I've actually encountered are pasty nerds or so clever that I don't know they are spies. From what I've read, the original CIA was founded by elegant, sophisticated people who really wanted to serve the country, but nowadays the quality has gone down, and the quantity has gone up. If the world could grasp the enormity of this concept -- that the people who hold the fate of the Western world in their hands are a bunch of pasty nerds and circus freaks motivated by envy, jealousy and greed -- we will begin to understand much about why the world is in the mess it is today.

John Hurt as Control
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy illustrates this concept beautifully. It is a very European film which might be difficult for American audiences to watch. I wish there had been more of John Hurt, who was most definitely not a pasty nerd. One quibble I have is that I think the drunken Gary Oldman soliloquy would have worked better had it been done in flashback. Not that Gary Oldman wasn't brilliant, but the information he had to impart was too important to be delivered in a drunken monologue. American audiences would understand it better had it been acted out. Monologues are not part of our culture unless they are delivered by comedians on late night talk shows.

Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Contagion is Contagious - Al Pacino is Courageous - Michael Fassbender & Lots of Sex

Ensemble of Stars - Contagion
(Venice, Italy) Steven Soderbergh cast movie stars for CONTAGION so the audience would have familiar faces to hang onto as they are plunged into his fast paced global thriller.

Paltrow - Photo Just Jared
With the ad: NOTHING SPREADS FASTER THAN FEAR, the flick is a realistic view about an unknown, rapidly expanding global virus, caused because the wrong bat met the wrong pig. Just where and how this encounter took place and how to find the antidote as millions of people die is the problem Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle are assigned to solve. Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Matt Damon's wife, dies at the beginning of the film, coughing, sweating and foaming at the mouth. Paltrow said it was fun to have the seizures, chomping on a bit of Alka Seltzer to create the foam. At the press conference, when asked if she thought that her character was being punished for cheating on her husband on a layover in Chicago, a feisty Paltrow replied, "If death by virus was the punishment for extra-marital affairs there would be only about three dudes left in this room... maybe less. We are in Italy."

Al Pacino & Jessica Chastain
Al Pacino is getting rave reviews for his WILDE SALOME effort. He got a standing ovation when he entered the press room. At age 71, he looks great, is still in the game, and was charming and straightforward. He said he didn't know where he was going with the project for a long time and didn't know exactly what it was. "It's not a film. It's not a documentary. I wanted to make a kind of collage."

He was obsessed with the play SALOME. When he first saw it, he didn't know it had been written by Oscar Wilde, who he called a visionary. Pacino said he had made several other films for his own satisfaction, most of which no one will ever see. He said, "I know great directors and I know I am not that. I am a stage actor, a film actor." He wanted to make more people aware of who Oscar Wilde was, and what society had done to the man and his genius. Wilde, of course, one of the most brilliant writers of his century, walked on dangerous ground and was destroyed for it at age 46.

After Pacino encountered Jessica Chastain, he knew he had found the perfect Salome, and could make the film before the word got out and made her into a star -- which, of course, is exactly what has happened. Madonna presented Chastain with the 2011 Gucci Award for Women in Cinema at the Hotel Cipriani on Friday. Chastain is gorgeous, and said that Pacino was her "Acting Godfather." Pacino is also here at the 68th Venice International Film Festival to accept the Jaeger-Le Coultre Glory to the Filmmaker 2011 award, dedicated to an artist who has left an original mark on contemporary cinema. Referring to appearing at press conferences and film festivals, Pacino said, "This is a bit out of step for me. I don't usually do this. It's an honor to be here to present this experimental thing." 

Carl Jung whips Sabina Spielrein in A DANGEROUS METHOD
Michael Fassbinder is my newest favorite actor and it's not just because I've seen his penis (on-screen:). He is present in two films here in Venice. In David Cronenberg's A DANGEROUS METHOD Fassbinder plays Carl Jung, one of my all-time heroes. From the production notes:


Drawn from true-life events, A DANGEROUS METHOD takes a glimpse into the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, the troubled but beautiful young woman who comes between them.

In the film, Jung breaks a solid rule and has sex with one of his patients, the highly-intelligent Sabina Spielrein played by Keira Knightley, who arrives writhing and screaming into the institution where Jung works. Memories of a violent father make Sabina horny. Sabina likes to be tied to the bed and whipped with a belt, and Jung obliges. Then they analyze why they are compelled to behave in such a fashion. When a married, guilt-ridden Jung decides to end the relationship, Sabina tells Freud, played by Viggo Mortensen. Jung lies; Sabina forces Jung to tell Freud the truth; Freud is disillusioned with Jung and admires Sabina. 

In the film, Sabina is credited with discovering some of Jung's most important theories -- for example, the animus (male part inside the female) and anima (female part inside the male)-- which makes sense. In addition, it was Sabina -- and she wrote a dissertation about it -- who said the sexual urge was not an instinct of destruction, but an instinct of transformation. To me, it felt like something was missing in the history of Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielrein provides the answer. Jung, of course, felt that Freud was wrong to reduce everything to sex and went off in a much more mystical direction. I am firmly in Jung's camp, and doubt that he could have arrived where he did without the influence of Sabina Spielrein.



Carey Mulligan & Michael Fassbinder in Steve McQueen's SHAME



In SHAME, Steve McQueen's second feature, Michael Fassbinder's character is again compelled by sexual energy, this time without the love Jung shared with Sabina. Fassbinder plays Brandon, a New York executive who is so driven by the dark sexual urge that he masturbates at work, downloads massive amounts of porn onto his home and office computers, hires prostitutes, has random encounters both with men and women in varying combinations and is incapable of getting an erection with a woman he genuinely cares about. His suicidal sister, Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan, moves in with him. She likes to tempt subway trains and is a serial wrist-slasher, in addition to being a fledgling singer. No explanation is given for their extreme behavior.


At the press conference, Steve McQueen said he thought SHAME was a political film and that all of our lives had been changed by the violence present in the world today; that humanity is reacting by excessively and compulsively turning to alcohol, gambling, drugs, and food. 


In my opinion, the world is being deliberately manipulated in that direction. By sending women to war and allowing them to do other masculine jobs, we are generating too much animus into the female animal. In addition, men are being programmed away from their anima, or the female energy inside themselves. That Brandon cannot even get an erection after dating Marianne, a "real" woman (played by Nicole Beharie) is a sad, disturbing reflection on the times in which we live. 

Jung & Spielrein
The good news is that finally Sabina Spielrein is getting her proper place in history. 


Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Madonna's Press Conference & Polanski's Carnage

Madonna in Venice (photo at daylife)
(Venice, Italy) Madonna seems to run on solar energy, which is only natural since she is a Leo, ruled by the Sun. She is here in Venice to promote, W.E., a film that she not only directed, but also co-wrote. I haven't yet seen the film, which is about King Edward VIII giving up his throne to marry American Wallis Simpson -- a story that still seems to shock certain members of society. I have read warm reviews and scathing reviews. The thing I love about Madonna is that, of course, she knows she is going to come under fire for choosing this particular subject matter but she does it anyway because she in interested in the story. And why wouldn't she be? I'm interested in the story, too. Everybody is interested in the story of why a British king would give up his empire for an American woman who has been divorced twice, and marry for love. It's a good story.

Anyway, I am a big fan of Madonna, so I am sure I will enjoy her film. 

Here is a snip from the Baz Bamigboye review, which is titled "Madonna Makes Us All Fall in Love With Mrs. Simpson:"


Madonna's film about the celebrated romance between King Edward VIII and the twice divorced Mrs Wallis Simpson, and the grave constitutional crisis it caused, is exquisitely done — but it’s going prove divisive.

A lot of people will loathe it, simply because it’s been made by Madonna.

...We all know that the affair cost the King his kingdom, and an empire. But Madonna the film-maker, who wrote the screenplay  with her old friend Alek Keshishian, raises the question of what it cost Mrs Simpson.

To be sure, she became the Duchess of Windsor and lived a life of luxury but, as Mrs Simpson (played beautifully by Andrea Riseborough) points out, the King ‘used me to escape his prison, only to incarcerate me in my own’.
   
(UPDATE: September 2, 2011 - I have now seen the film, and loved it. Yes, it has some problems -- as do many films -- but certainly nothing to deserve the cruel reviews -- even a fake negative review -- it has received. The reviews I've read were all written by men. From my female point of view, the movie works all the way through the first and second acts, and stumbles a bit in the third. After hearing all the negative press, I had actually planned to leave early to catch a press conference I really wanted to attend, but the movie held me inside the theater and that is the truth. I didn't want to leave! I wanted to see what happened.


The two scenes of Wallis dancing that have been targeted for attack, to me, were two of the best scenes in the entire film. I could see how the King would love her to dance for him, to give him the sheer joy of being human and free and alive, and not always weighed down by nobility and responsibility. And the scene with Wallis doing the twist as the King lay ill in bed -- THAT SCENE MADE ME CRY. It broke my heart, the viciousness that this couple had been subjected to, and that sad, sweet little dance... that bit of normal life... well, it only made me admire Madonna more.


I saw the film with a mix of professionals and the general public and no one walked out of the movie, which we certainly would have done if it was so horrible. I walk out of movies all the time if they don't hold my attention -- especially if there is some place else I have to be! Madonna also got great performances out of her cast; it looks luscious; sometimes the soundtrack works and sometimes it doesn't.


Why would they try to destroy this movie before it even opens? Besides that Madonna, personally, pushes so many buttons for so many people? Well, it made me think how different the world itself would be today if King Edward had not abdicated the throne, and if the twice-divorced American woman Wallis Simpson had been allowed to marry the King. This moment is not part of American history, almost as if it had been intentionally erased. If Madonna's movie serves no other purpose than to turn a younger generation onto that story in an enjoyable way, then it has accomplished its goal.)

At the press conference, Madonna was likable and confident, and seemed, well, rather... human. She looked terrific. She was warm and funny. She said she spent three years researching and writing the film, along with Alek Keshishian. When asked why she didn't do the music, too, she said: "I didn't have time!" But that she loved the soundtrack.

Q: What attracted you to the story?
Madonna: I was swept up by the story of King Edward VIII giving up his power, giving up his throne for love, and I wanted to understand why he did that.

Q: You are the Queen of Pop. Would you ever give up your throne for the man or the woman that you love?
Madonna: I think I can have both... or all three.

Q. As a spiritual person, did you apply more restrictions on yourself to make the movie? Meditate more?
Madonna (laughing): What a question! In order to make a film, which is really hard to do, you have to have strength in your heart, mind and soul to tackle such a big project. You must believe in the subject matter.... Now that I am in Venice, there are no restrictions.

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski, on the other hand, is not here in Venice because he is afraid the Americans are going to try to snatch him again. Can you imagine such a thing? Well, I certainly can, since William Gill from the State Department itself offered ME a plane ticket "home!" In any event, Polanski has a big hit on his hands called "Carnage," which he adapted from the French play "Le Dieu du Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, who was here -- as was Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.

Here are a few production notes:

Academy Award-winning director Roman Polanski directs Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet, Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz, Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly in "Carnage," by multi-award winning French playwright and novelist, Yasmina Reza. The production designer is Academy Award-winner Dean Tavolaris; costume designer is Academy Award-winner Milena Canonero; make-up designer is Academy Award-winner Didier Lavergne. Said Ben Said produced; the Director of Photography is Pawel Edelman and Hervé Luze is the editor.

Here's Mike Collett-White's review, entitled

Polanski film cheered for wit, Winslet's vomit

Ciao from Venice,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog