Sunday, September 24, 2017

North American Indians in Venice - Imago Mundi "Great & North"

Luciano Benetton at Imago Mundi Great and North - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Luciano Benetton is one of the creators of the global fashion brand United Colors of Benetton. He is passionate about how art can bring together different cultures, and is putting some of his billions to good use. His Imago Mundi project envisions a world and art without borders. He is 82-years-old, and has the energy of someone decades younger. By the end of 2017, there will be more than 26,000 artists who will have participated in his Imago Mundi project.

The concept is simple: artists create a work of art using a small 10x12 cm format, like a business card. Established names and emerging artists are shown side by side, all on a voluntary, non-profit basis. There are artists from every continent from 140 countries and Native communities, and more than a hundred collections, with 140 to 210 artists in each collection.

The collection that is currently here in Venice at Palazzo Loredan in Campo Santo Stefano is Great and North, featuring the contempory art of Native North Americans. From the Inuit of Northern Canada to the Native artists from the United States, a cornucopia of works by artists of different disciplines are on display: painters, sculptors, engravers, designers, architects, photographers, writers and musicians.

Artist Cannupa Hanska Luger - Photo: Cat Bauer
Also here was Cannupa Hanska Luger, who grew up in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Engaging, humble and well-spoken, with elite Native American credentials (as well as being easy on the eyes:-), the multi-disciplinary artist is known for his ceramics, sculpture, video and installations. He is also a charismatic leader when it comes to Native American issues, saying "The United States wants to keep us to a historical past. We have the ability to navigate dissident worlds. Adaption is our greatest strength. This was never 'our land.' We are its people."

I had the opportunity to chat with Cannupa. I said, "When I was little, I used to pretend I was an Indian." He said, "When I was little, I used to pretend I was white." And, yes, he was at Standing Rock. The Los Angeles Times did a Q&A with him back in January entitled, The artist who made protesters' mirrored shields says the 'struggle porn' media miss point of Standing Rock

Imago Mundi Great and North will be at Palazzo Loredan - Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti through October 29th. Go to Imago Mundi for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

20 Quickie Reviews from the Venice Film Festival 2017

74 Venice International Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) This year the Venice Film Festival especially felt like you were traveling to another world because of the tight anti-terrorism security. Just to get into the area you had to pass through several cement barriers designed to prevent truck attacks. Every Italian police department seemed to be there; there were cops on horses, cops with bomb dogs, baggage checks and more -- and that was just to walk on the street. To actually get into the Palazzo del Casinò, where the press conferences are held and the press room is located, you had to have the proper accreditation, which was scrutinized. The security was not invasive, but professional, friendly and efficient.

Once you were inside it felt lovely and safe, a happy, relaxed bubble with children dashing and splashing in the new fountain, everyone drinking spritzes (with chips!), fans queuing-up outside the red carpet to see their favorite stars, and creative-types roaming the streets. There were sun-kissed white terraces and deep green parks -- it was idyllic, a cinematic world, far removed from the turmoil on the rest of the planet.

Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale, said: "The world in general is reacting beyond the most positive expectations with a sort of bold feeling of independence to the terrorism threat. Italy is full of tourists. We need to have faith in our institutions and in our selves. And I think that we, like all those who can feel threatened, can be proud of the way we are reacting.”

Kid-friendly fountain at the Venice Film Festival
I could not be more thrilled that The Shape of Water won the Golden Lion this year, and judging from the reaction in the press room when the winner was announced on Saturday night, that was the general consensus. I am sure it will be nominated for major awards in many categories -- including Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Here is the rave post I wrote, which includes links to a few critics' reviews:

The Movie that Everyone is Raving About: THE SHAPE OF WATER at the Venice Film Festival


Go to La Biennale for the complete list of winners.

The Shape of Water poster by James Jean
This year I managed to see 20 films. Since it is impossible to see everything, I tried to focus on American films, or English-speaking films, with a couple of exceptions. Here are my quickie reviews in the order in which I saw the films, and whether you should make the trip to the theater or stay home and stream it. I've linked the titles to the reviews I agree with the most -- not just the reviews from Venice, but also Telluride and Toronto -- so if you want to know more, click the link.

1. ***Downsizing directed by Alexander Payne opened the festival. Starring Matt Damon, it's a science-fiction comedy about a couple who decide to shrink themselves down to help save the planet (and immediately become rich). The best thing in the film was Hong Chau's dynamic performance of a Vietnamese dissident shrunk against her will. Worth a trip to the theater.

2. ***Nico, 1988 directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli, won the Orizzonti award for Best Picture. Starring Trine Dyrholm as Nico long after the singer left The Velvet Underground, the bio pic captures the last two years of the hard-living former beauty's life. The Orizzonti films have their own jury, and is the section "that represents the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema." See it at an art house, or stream it.

3. ***First Reformed, directed by Paul Schrader stars Ethan Hawke as a Dutch Reformed priest of a remote, historical church, frequented mostly by tourists, about to have its 250th reconsecration. Since it is a Schrader film, it is bizarre and intense, especially when the priest is called upon to counsel a suicide bomber. Definitely worth streaming.

4. *****The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro, is an adult fairy-tale, which I adored, as did most critics and the jury -- it won the Golden Lion for Best Picture. See it at the theater, then stream it, then buy it. But you MUST see it.

5. ***Human Flow directed by Ai Weiwei that illustrates and humanizes the refugee crisis on a global scale. An awesome effort. Stream it.

6. ****Our Souls at Night, directed by Ritesh Batra, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. I wrote a post: Robert Redford & Jane Fonda talk sex at 80, raising kids and growing old at Venice Film Festival that sums it up. Unless you are in NY or LA, you will have to stream it because it is a Netflix production, though it would make a great older folks's date night out.

Charlie Plummer in LEAN ON PETE
7. ****Lean on Pete, by British director Andrew Heigh, stars the next teen idol, Charlie Plummer, who is terrific, and won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress. Set in the US Pacific Northwest, "Lean on Pete" is the name of a race horse, owned by Del, played by a grizzled Steve Buscemi. Charlie has no mother; his father is involved with a married woman, with unfortunate consequences. A story about a lonely boy and the horse he loves. I thought it was terrific, and hope some clever marketers can figure out how to get teenage girls into the theater to see it.
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8. ***Suburbicon, directed by George Clooney, starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore. Based on horrific real-life events in Pittsburgh when a black family moves into a white neighborhood in the 50s, the story was merged with an old Cohen Brothers black comedy script. Then real-life sidetracked George Clooney when Trump was elected during the making of the film. It should have been great, but it feels like two different movies stuck into one. Stream it.

9. ***Victoria & Abdul, directed by Stephen Frears, starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. Based on a true story that was covered up for decades, Queen Victoria becomes smitten with an Indian clerk shipped over to England for her Golden Jubilee, and promotes him to her to be her "Munshi," or guru. At the press conference, Judy Dench said, "It's good to be the queen." Stream it unless you are in the UK, then see it in the theater.

10. ****The Leisure Seeker, directed by Paolo Vitzi, starring Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren is an American road film by an Italian director with Canadian and British oldster stars. He's got dementia, and she's got cancer, but that doesn't stop them from hauling out the old RV, "The Leisure Seeker," and heading from Massachusetts to Hemingway's house in Florida, escaping the plans of their adult children. I thought it was poignant, witty and wise -- a love story -- and hope folks see it in the theater.

11. ****EX LIBRIS - The New York Public Library, directed by Frederick Wiseman. All the wonders the NYPL offers. It needs some editing, but definitely worth streaming just to remind ourselves how marvelous human beings can be when knowledge is king.

12. ***Michael Jackson's Thriller 3D, directed by John Landis and the Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller, directed by Jerry Kramer. Of interest is you are a huge Michael Jackson fan. Stream it.


13. *****Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, directed by Martin McDonagh, starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. McDonagh is an Irish-born Londoner, and the film is set in Missouri, which gives the film a different take. After The Shape of Water, I liked this movie the best. McDonagh knows how to get the best out out his actors, taking them to extremes with a heightened, extraordinary vision that works. Frances McDormand is brilliant, and deserves an Oscar nomination -- as does Sam Rockwell. See it in the theater.

14. ****My Generation, directed by David Batty, narrated by Michael Cain. A fascinating history lesson about the class system -- and the reasons behind the 60s when the working class broke through to the top -- not with violence, not with protests, but by sheer talent -- and why the world is in the mess it is today. Stream it.

15. **mother!, directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Barden. This movie was booed in Venice, and called, "a spectacular disaster." People laughed, the way you laugh when a film is ridiculous, so self-important that it becomes silly, and just doesn't work. Usually I like Aronofsky, but this time he seemed almost cruel. Of all the critics, Xan Brooks had the guts to address the elephant in the room: "Aronofksy likes to push his audience to the brink. I’ve heard that he likes to do it to his performers as well. Mickey Rourke – Oscar-nominated for his brilliant performance in The Wrestler – described the director as “an old-style Jew gangster”. He has a reputation for being combative and controlling, for breaking actors down and shooting them in extremis." Jennifer Lawrence, the 27-year-old real-life girlfriend of 48-year-old Aronofsky, dislocated a rib. “I have oxygen tubes in my nostrils, and Darren’s like, ‘It was out of focus; we’ve got to do it again,'” Lawrence said. “And I was just like, ‘Go fuck yourself.'” See it in the theater to get the full effect -- if you must.

16. ***Jim & Andy: the Great Beyond - the story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman with a very special, contractually obligated mention of Tony Clifton, directed by Chris Smith, narrated by Jim Carrey. Like many other fascinating creatures, Jim Carrey is not of this earth, but he is earnest and compelling to watch. Stream it.

17. ***Loving Pablo, directed by Fernando Leòn de Aranoa, starring real-life couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, based on the book, Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar, by Virginia Vallejo, Escobar's real-life journalist lover. It kept me in my seat. See it in the theater.

18. ***Cuba and the Cameraman, directed by Jon Alpert is a documentary that spans several decades from the 70s and up to Fidel Castro's death. No critic seems to have reviewed this film. Weird. It is a "Netflix original" and labeled "provocative." I thought it was interesting, and definitely watchable, if only to see Cuba metamorphosize. Jon Alpert is the only American cameraman who was allowed to get up close and personal with Fidel Castro. He travels to Cuba over the decades, filming the same places through times of plenty and times of despair. Needs some snipping. Stream it.

Charlotte Rampling at Venice Film Festival press conference - Photo: Cat Bauer
19. ***Hannah, directed by Andrea Pallaoro, starring Charlotte Rampling. Pallaoro is Italian, but the film is in French, and it feels like a French film, which always frustrates me because we must see every little detail of ordinary life, and there is never a clear ending. However, Charlotte Rampling is so riveting and courageous -- she allows us to see every wrinkle on her 71-year-old body -- that I stayed until the end (just to learn that, once again, there is no clear ending, nor is there a clear story). Rampling justifiably won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. Stream it or see it in an art house.

20. ****Wormwood, directed by Errol Morris. This should count as two movies because I saw 258 minutes (4 1/2 hours) of all six episodes. Morris gets as close as anyone can to proving that the CIA deliberately assassinated biochemist Frank Olson in 1953 because he no longer wanted to do his job, part of which was developing biological weapons for the United States to use in the Korean War. He knew too much, so he had to go. The Feds first said he committed suicide by leaping from a hotel window in Manhattan after taking LSD. His son, Eric, who was 9-years-old at the time, has never bought that story, and has spent his entire life searching for the truth, which has included exhuming his father's body. (Did you know there is a 1953 CIA manual, "The Study of Assassination?!") For 60 years, Eric has relentlessly sought closure. Let's hope this series gives him some peace. Morris wanted the tagline to read: "The LSD was a red herring." It's a Netflix, so you must stream it.

Annette Bening, President of the 74th Venice International Film Festival - Photo: Cat Bauer
It is always difficult emerging from the high energy inside the Venice Film Festival cocoon and going back to the outside world, especially when Annette Bening is the President of the jury. We will be cheering all the contenders that premiered here when it comes time for the Academy Awards.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, September 7, 2017

All Together Now - The Venice Glass Week

The Glass Week press conference in Venice Town Hall - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) What is most amazing about the first international Venice Glass Week is how so many different organizations, businesses, venues and individuals in Venice have put aside their differences and come together to make it happen. At the press conference this morning, Venice's mayor, Luigi Brugnaro declared, "I love Murano glass and I love this idea."

Image courtesy of Fondazione Querini Stampalia
The Venice Glass Week starts on Sunday, September 10 and runs through September 17. It is promoted by the Town Council of Venice, and was conceived and organized by Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, LE STANZE DEL VETRO - Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Istituo Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti and the Consorzio Promovetro Murano. 

The Cathedral - Image courtesy of Najean & Sy
There are over 140 events, including exhibitions, meetings with the artists, open furnaces, conferences, parties, screenings, guided tours, educational activities and much more. It seems like the events are happening everywhere, in every section of town -- from Teatro La Fenice, to the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, inside most museums and art galleries, inside shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels, and, of course, out on the glass-blowing island of Murano.


Il trabaccolo Il Nuovo Trionfo - Image courtesy of ArtSystem
Not only that, it is very well organized, especially for an event of this scope, in both Italian and English -- which proves that they can do it if they want to:-)

I wrote a post back in 2013, sponsored by Promovetro, which explains how you can tell if a piece of Murano glass is authentic, and gives a bit of the history:

Treasures of Venice - Authentic Murano Glass


Image courtesy Venetian Dreams - Marisa Convento
If you will be in Venice (or you want to live vicariously and see what you're missing) The Venice Glass Week website has set up a system with plenty of filters where you can search by date, venue, topic of interest, etc. There will be a free App that you can download starting on September 10 from H-Farm, and free maps all over town from Venezia News.

Judi Harvest, Honeybee, 2017 - Murano glass + Pollen - Photo by Francesco Allegretto
For more information, go to The Venice Glass Week site and start clicking around.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Robert Redford & Jane Fonda talk sex at 80, raising kids, and growing old at Venice Film Festival

Robert Redford & Jane Fonda - Octogenarians at Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) Jane Fonda will be 80-years-old in November. Robert Redford is 81. They are here in Venice to receive the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award, and to promote their new Netflix film, Our Souls at Night, a poignant love story that Redford said he made because very few films are geared toward an older audience, and "I wanted to do another film with Jane before I died."

Both stars radiate youthful energy. They have known each other for more than 50 years, and have played lovers in four films, the most famous being Barefoot in the Park in 1967. Jane Fonda, feisty as ever, said: "I wanted to fall in love with him all over again. I've been in love with him in every movie we've done." She thought the director, Ritesh Batra, cut the sex scene too soon (so did I). "I live for sex scenes with him. He's a great kisser."

I found a YouTube clip of a slice of the press conference where they talk about sex and older love. (Fonda: "So my skin sags. So does his.") The beginning of the clip is a little bit scratchy, but hang in there. And if you don't want to know how the movie ends, stop watching at about 9:00:



Since both stars have been known for their political activism, they were asked several questions about US and global politics, which Redford mostly avoided. However, when asked what the most important issue was today, Fonda said: "Save the planet." Redford agreed: "We must do whatever we can to preserve the planet."

Our Souls at Night is about two older people who begin a relationship, which grows more serious, only to have it interrupted by their adult children. Fonda said, speaking about herself personally and her character, that you never get over the fact that you have not been the best parent, and that she had to seize the chance as a mother and a grandmother to make up for what she didn't do.

Barefoot in the Park (1967)
I grew up with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford always there in the background, Jane Fonda protesting against the war in Viet Nam, inspiring millions of women with her exercise videos, marrying Tom Hayden and then Ted Turner(!) -- Robert Redford exploding on the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, melting the hearts of young and old, then proving he was not just a pretty face when he started up Sundance -- so it was a great privilege to be in the same room with them and hear them speak. Even though their bodies were older, their internal energy -- their souls -- seemed the same, but more refined, like pearls. It was almost as if the two stars had become White People Elders, grown older and wiser, come down off the mountain to bring a message of hope for the future.

Jane Fonda said, "If you're brave, you can make the leap and become what you were meant to be, even if you've never been that before."

Our Souls at Night will debut on Netflix at the end of the month, and have a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles.

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog


Friday, September 1, 2017

Variety Soirée FACES OF A WOMAN Celebrates Annette Bening + the eVe Project

Annette Bening at Variety party - photo: Mirco Toffolo
(Venice, Italy) The exclusive Variety party held on the terrace of the Hotel Danieli is in its ninth consecutive year, and honors the President of the Jury of the Venice International Film Festival, which this year is Annette Bening -- the first woman to serve as president in 11 years. There have only been six female presidents in the history of the world's oldest film festival -- this is the 74th edition -- so let's hope her appointment shakes things up a bit. Over the years, it has been my experience that the president does influence the choices the jury makes, and I think it is in fine hands with Bening at the helm.

The name of this year's soirée was Faces of a Woman, with food and cocktails inspired by four different films in which Bening has starred, prepared by the executive chefs of four hotels: The Kids are Alright by The Western Europa & Regina, Being Julia by The Gritti Palace, The Grifters by Hotel Danieli and 20th Century Women by the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa.

Annette Bening at Variety party - Photo: Cat Bauer
Annette Bening was friendly and charming, gamely sampling each of the dishes and drinks created in her honor (the food was yummy, but some of it was pretty strange-looking), posing for photos, chatting with the guests -- I even had the opportunity to meet her myself.

At the party, I ran into Alberto Bozzo, the CEO of Al Duca d'Aosta, a fashion brand with shops in Venice and the Veneto. Alberto is always doing great things for Venice, like giving the gondoliers their own logo and line of clothing and donating a percentage of the sales to support the ancient profession, and providing all the white umbrellas when about 1,000 residents of Venice made a huge white heart in Piazza San Marco to show the world the deep love we have for our city.

Cat Bauer wearing eVe T-shirt: Words are not enough
Alberto invited me to a party yesterday evening during the film festival at the Terrazza Mediterranea overlooking the sea to promote his latest good cause: The eVe Project: Words are not enough, whose mission is to help women who have experienced a form of violence. Al Duca d'Aosta has created some very cool T-shirts and hats with the eVe logo, which you can buy during the film festival at Terrazza Mediterranea, which is directly across from the Palazzo del Casinò on the Lido. All the proceeds go to support The eVe Project. So, if you are at the Venice Film Festival, please stop by and support the very fine cause.

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat- The Venice Blog

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Movie that Everyone is Raving About: THE SHAPE OF WATER at the Venice Film Festival

The Shape of Water
(Venice, Italy) I love romantic fairy tales, and I always dream that I can breathe underwater. So I wasn't sure if anyone else would love The Shape of Water as much as I did until the industry audience broke into wild applause here in Venice this morning. Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro has captured a spark of the divine. It is a masterpiece.

I had never seen a Guillermo Del Toro film before, so I didn't know what to expect. What kind of fantastic mind imagines a plot like this: Elisa, a mute cleaner at a U.S. government aerospace facility falls in love with a captive watery Creature, a merman, during the Cold War.

Sally Hawkins & Guillermo Del Toro - Venice Film Festival
At the press conference, I fell immediately in love with Guillermo Del Toro, too, when he said that choosing fear over love is a disaster. "The Beatles and Jesus both can't be wrong, and when they disagree, I go with the Beatles."

Del Toro has drawn out the purest, most creative aspects of everyone working on the film. It is a perfect unit, led by Sally Hawkins' silent, sublime performance, and enriched by Alexandre Desplat's musical score. All the actors -- Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer -- are in top form as they bring the screenplay by Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor organically to life. The costumes by Luis Sequeira and production design by Paul Denham Austerberry are magical, captured by Dan Lausten's ethereal cinematography.

Venice has earned the reputation as an "Oscar Launch Pad," which The Shape of Water is certain to enforce. Guillermo Del Toro has created a timely gift for humanity. 

Sally Hawkins
Here are some rave reviews, which also describe the story:

From The Daily Beast:
A majestic 1960s movie palace, glistening in the rain. A derelict apartment awash in antiquity. A mute woman (Sally Hawkins, lovely as always) and her elderly gay caretaker (Richard Jenkins, ditto) parked in front of the tube. The Shape of Water casts a spell over its audience from its opening moments and holds you in its thrall long after the credits have rolled.
 From The Hollywood Reporter:
Guillermo del Toro delivers pure enchantment with The Shape of Water. A dark-edged fairy tale as lovingly steeped in vintage movie magic as it is in hypnotic water imagery, this captivating creature feature marries a portrait of morally corrupt early-1960s America with an outsider tale of love and friendship molded by a master storyteller.

Centered on an exquisite performance from Sally Hawkins that conveys both delicacy and strength, this is a visually and emotionally ravishing fantasy that should find a welcome embrace from audiences starved for imaginative escape.
Sally Hawkin & Octavia Spencer
From Variety:
A ravishing, eccentric auteur’s imagining, spilling artistry, empathy and sensuality from every open pore, it also offers more straight-up movie for your money than just about any Hollywood studio offering this year. This decidedly adult fairytale, about a forlorn, mute cleaning lady and the uncanny merman who save each other’s lives in very different ways, careers wildly from mad-scientist B-movie to heart-thumping Cold War noir to ecstatic, wings-on-heels musical, keeping an unexpectedly classical love story afloat with every dizzy genre turn.
Lit from within by a heart-clutching silent star turn from Sally Hawkins, lent dialogue by one of Alexandre Desplat’s most abundantly swirling scores, this is incontestably Del Toro’s most rewarding, richly realized film — or movie, for that matter — since 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
 From IndieWire:
At one unexpected moment in Guillermo del Toro’s virtuosic new film, the characters break into a song. The lights dim, the colors drain to black and white and Sally Hawkins’ otherwise mute Elisa takes Doug Jones’ unnamed creature by the hand, and the two begin hoofing old Hollywood style in a “Top Hat” reminiscent musical number set to the old standard “You’ll Never Know (Just How Much I Love You).” It’s just one more magical moment in a film full of them, another reminder that not only is “The Shape of Water” one of del Toro’s most stunningly successful works, it’s also a powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free.
The Shape of Water will be released on December 8, 2017 in the United States.

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog
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