Friday, September 28, 2012

Apocalypse Venice - Cruise Ship Parody

(Venice, Italy) I love this parody from so much that I just had to share it on Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog itself.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Anti-Cruise Ship Demonstration in Venice - September 16, 2012

Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
(Venice, Italy) There was a festive atmosphere when I arrived at the demonstration against the cruise ships here in Venice at the Punta della Dogana on Sunday, September 16, 2012 a bit before 3PM. During the Venetian Republic, the Punta della Dogana was the customs house, holding precious cargo from all over the world that arrived by sea. These days it is owned by billionaire Frenchman Francois Pinault, and contains contemporary art exhibits.

 Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
On Sunday, the tip of the triangle at the Dogana was crowded with locals and over 100 bicyclists (and their bikes) who joined the protest from the mainland, in addition to curiosity-seekers who bought up home-made sandwiches and red "No Grandi Navi" tee-shirts. Aretha Franklin belted out "All I want is a little respect" over the loudspeakers. A flotilla of small boats -- many of which contained children -- decked out with "No Grandi Navi" flags and colorful balloons bobbed in the lagoon, surrounded by a strong police presence.

An article entitled Venice Rebels Against Cruise Ship Invasions written by Colleen Barry for the Associated Press on February 5, 2012, gives a good summary of the situation:

If the cruise ships were modern buildings, which they strongly resemble, they would certainly not be allowed in Venice, a UNESCO heritage site that mandates the view of protected places cannot be permanently altered. But because they move, there is no official sanction against them.

 ...Even before the Concordia disaster, Venice Mayor Giorgio Orsoni and the chief port official signed an agreement for new studies on alternative routes — but passenger terminal officials believe that passing by St. Mark's is a key attraction.

Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO's assistant director-general for culture — and a Venetian himself — said longer-term solutions are needed.

"The city is a very fragile city. This is a city that comes to us from the Middle Ages," Bandarin said. "It is not designed for having that kind of traffic. It is designed to have ships, and we will always have ships around Venice, but not these kind of ships."

Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
In March of this year, a ministerial decree was passed making it a crime for ships that weigh more than 40,000 tons to sail too close to the Palazzo Ducale, the ancient palace of the Doge, but that law has been suspended until an alternate solution can be found.

There were three cruise ships that were due to leave Venice on Sunday: the 3,000-passenger Costa Fascinosa, 1,712-passenger MSC Opera and 2,536-passenger MSC Musica, which were delayed by the flotilla of small boats. From USA Today:

The protest is just the latest from groups arguing that the growth of large cruise ships visiting Venice in recent years has had a negative impact on the destination.

Cruise ships sailing into and out of Venice pass within yards of the city's famed Piazza San Marco, a route critics say is risky due to the possibility of environmental damage or an accident impacting historical treasures. The criticism has grown louder since the Costa Concordia accident off the coast of Italy earlier this year.
Berlusconi boards MCS Divine
The day before, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi himself -- who, in his youth, had a job as a singer on a cruise ship -- and a group of supporters cruised out of Venice on the MCS Divina, the largest ship to ever enter the lagoon, on a trip sponsored by the conservative newspaper Il Giornale, which is owned by the Berluscoi family. Apparently, Berlusconi is contemplating whether to run for office again. From Reuters on September 15, 2012:

Speaking to reporters in Venice where he was preparing to board a cruise ship, the 75-year-old media magnate said his decision would depend on "the conditions that emerge, and what the electoral law will be."

One of the protestors' slogans was: STOP THE RAPE. Nearly every day up to nine monstrous cruise ships ram themselves through the fragile Giudecca Canal, forcing the narrow passage to accommodate their intimidating presence. The enormous ships gang-bang Venice, leaving behind a pornographic wake. Every ship that passes through the Giudecca Canal rips through the souls of the Venetians. Venetians are connected to the water, and to the lagoon, which is sacred and part of the culture. The locals witness the abuse of their city, and are trying to save her. They are behaving like any one of us would behave if we were forced to witness the repeated abuse of someone we love.

Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
I have been following the debate, and it seems that what the Venetians are asking is that a different berth for the ships be found immediately; that a ban on all ships of more than 40,000 tons be enacted immediately; that the impact of the cruise ships on the health of the local popluation be studied; that the air quality be monitored; that a daily quota of tourists be established; that the tourism be wise, controlled and regulated, and have a light foot inside the ancient city, benefiting everyone, not just a few. From a July 17, 2012 piece in The Guardian:

A ministerial decree was issued in March banning ships over 40,000 tonnes from sailing too close to the Doge's Palace, but it will only come into force once an alternative solution has been found. "All the authorities – the harbour master, the ministry of public works, the province, the municipality – are all putting the responsibility on someone else," says the senator for Venice, Felice Casson.

Increasing numbers of ships are mooring in the port, at the end of the Grand Canal. "The two or three big cruise operators which control international business have massive clout," says Francesco Bandarin, Unesco assistant director general for culture.

The head of the local council, Giorgio Orsoni, worries about "the damage to the city's foundations from ships passing through the Giudeccia canal, only 10 metres deep. The water they displace acts as a pump for the seabed, shaking even the San Marco basilica".

"We are victims of the state," Orsoni adds. "The San Marco basin is state property … The big cruise ships deal with the port authorities who report to central government. [The ships] pay €40,000 ($49,000) each time they moor, with 3,500 calls a year, but Venice gets nothing out of it. The 2 million passengers who disembark spend very little, maybe just buying a drink."

 Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
It is difficult to find accurate information and actual statistics of the impact the cruise ship industry is having on Venice. Are Venetian businesses benefiting at all? Or is the money all going to the State and special interest groups? I did find a December 17, 2010 report by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute entitled Cruise Control that said more research was needed, and stated:

To fully assess the impact cruise ships have on mobility, WHERE (emphasis mine) the passengers are going after they disembarck (sic) needs to be determined. Many of the ships are turnaround so the passengers are often not going into the city of Venice but rather to the airport or the train station.  

If that is so, then why not put the dock for the cruise ships someplace where it doesn't create so much damage? Then provide quick, easy transportation for those individuals who are getting off the boat and going to other destinations.

La pescheria vecchia by Ettore Tito, 1893
Personally, I find it unimaginable to come all the way to Venice and not get a glimpse of some of the gems she has to offer. Create small boat tours that do not impact the environment for those who want to drive-by Palazzo Ducale without putting their feet on the stones. Create hotel/tour packages for those people who want to visit the magnificent city of Venice the way she should be seen. Introduce educated travelers to local cuisine, shops and products. But don't drive an enormous condominium through an ancient city leaving damage in your wake. And it's not only the Giudecca Canal. They were going to try to force the ancient fish market to move out of Venice to make way for more cruise ships until there was a major uproar to stop that.

It is a miracle that the city of Venice still exists in the year 2012. The architects who designed its glorious structures were geniuses, but even they could not imagine what impact a barrage of cruise ships 500, 1000 years in the future would have and plan accordingly. Venice's delicate infrastructure should be preserved, not destroyed. From a January 20, 2012 Daily Beast article entitled Italy's Cruise Ship Disaster has Highlighted the Threat the Ships Pose to Venice by Manfred Manera:

It’s not just the risk of collisions that makes the passage of the mega-ships through Venice dangerous. These ships use a polluting sort of bunkerfuel, which is harmful to the lungs of the city’s inhabitants. The fuel’s sulphuric content also contributes to the corrosion of the stones of Venice’s monuments. The passage of each of these ships through Venice produces exhaust equivalent to the fumes of 14,000 cars or 2,000 trucks. The San Marco basin is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Would UNESCO allow this kind of traffic through the Valley of the Kings in Egypt or through the middle of Pompeii? I asked this question of Engelbert Ruoss, head of the Venice UNESCO branch. “Certainly not,” he said. “But as strange as it may sound the criteria are enforced in a much stricter way with the new sites on the World Heritage List, in developing nations, rather than with the old ones of the developed world, like in Italy or Spain.”

Church of Redentore, 1592-Giudecca Canal
I took a peek on the Cruise Critic message boards, where cruisers themselves were discussing the topic. They seemed to be very reasonable, and had no problem with changing where the cruise ships dock or they way they approach Venice from the water. They said it was enough to be in Venice, and that there are other ports that are not inside the main attraction. They also said there were other ways to get to Venice than by ship. 

Roberto Perocchio, the managing director of Venice Terminal Passegeri, said, "We need the city to understand that we can’t take the risk of investing precious funds if the city is not committed to cruising." I think the city would be more understanding if the cruise ships took their very valid concerns seriously. The Venetians have better things to do than fight with the cruise ships.Venice is so unique that people will always find a way to get here. Why not work with the Venetians instead of antagonizing them? Why not make the cruise ships a lucrative, thriving business that is welcomed instead of despised? Why not respect the lagoon and share the wealth? Why not practice sustainable tourism rather than squeezing the life out of the town?

Photo: Arved Gintenreiter
I left the peaceful, cheerful protest after about an hour, which seemed more like a Venetian party than a demonstration. I had spoken to the police when I arrived, and asked if the protest was legal, and they said yes, that the organizers had all the proper permits, and that as long as they stayed within the regulations, the demonstration was legal. So I didn't witness what happened later on in the evening. Apparently there are disputes about the intentions of a low-flying police helicopter which scared the little boats and flew so low they were sprayed with water, and other confrontations. On the other side, there is talk about charges being filed against the protesters by DIGOS, which is a special division of the Polizia di Stato, or the Federal Police, who investigate terrorism and organized crime. The protesters find the idea of a "suicide boater" laughable. But all in all, it was a successful, peaceful protest. No one got hurt; the police were reasonable, and the cruise ships were delayed for about three hours. The protesters are confident that enough people witnessed and documented the event so that the truth will come out. Here is a YouTube clip from their point of view:

Here is an amateur YouTube clip of what Venice looks like from the cruise ship point of view:

And here is what a passing cruise ship looks like from a pedestrian point of view:

Ciao from Venezia
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, September 10, 2012

AND THE WINNERS ARE! The 69th Venice Film Festival

Pieta by Kim Ki-duk
(Venice, Italy) The 69th International Venice Film Festival ended on Saturday, September 8, 2012. The winner was Pieta by Kim Ki-duk, which I saw after the Golden Lion award was announced at the press conference. It's an uber-violent film by Kim Ki-duk of the Republic of Korea, and tells the story of a gruesome loan shark who cripples people for the insurance money when they don't pay back their loans on time. The mother who abandoned him shows up after thirty years, awakening human feelings in the brute.

Paul Thomas Anderson of The Master won for Best Director, which also won in the best actor category. The award was shared by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who flew in at the last minute and accepted both the awards on behalf of everybody. Hoffman apologized for his rumpled appearance, saying he had changed into a suit in the men's room.

Everybody's yacking about the rumors that The Master was supposed to win the Golden Lion, but couldn't because it had already won best director and best actor, and the rules in Venice are that the winner of the Golden Lion can't win any other awards. The entire jury, headed by Michael Mann, was up on the podium during the press conference after the award ceremony, presenting a united front -- in the past, it's often been only the president of jury fending off the journalists. They said in no uncertain terms that the decisions had been arrived at after much serious consideration, and pointed out that they were truly an international jury, each member coming from a different country. The Venezia 69 Jury was comprised of Michael Mann, Marina Abramovic, Laetitia Casta, Peter Ho-Sun Chan, Ari Folman, Matteo Garrone, Ursula Meier, Samantha Morton, and Pablo Trapero.

The Jury
Shekhar Kapur, the Indian director whom Americans will know best from his film Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett, was the head of the Luigi De Laurentiis award for the Lion of the Future. He spoke sincerely and said that after heading the jury, he was sure that the future of filmmaking was in very good hands. He was impressed by the quality of the contenders, the depth of the subject matter the young filmmakers were interested in, and pleased with their concerns about humanity.

As an aside, a couple of documentaries I really liked were Witness: Libya by Abdallah Omeish and Valentino's Ghost by Michael Singh.

From Ahramonline:

Director Michael Mann's production of "Witness Libya" is being shown out-of-competition at the Venice Film Festival, where he is chairing the jury that will decide the winner of the coveted Golden Lion.
"Witness Libya" is one of a four-part HBO documentary series following combat photographers into conflict zones. In the Libya entry, a small crew follows American photographer Michael Christopher Brown into Libya a few months after the death of leader Moammar Gadhafi.

From the Hartley Film Foundation:

Valentino's Ghost is a 110-min. film that takes viewers on a chronological journey through more than a century of images of Muslims, Arabs and Islam in the U.S. media, from the early-20th-century fantasies of romantic sheiks and golden palaces to today's portrayals of fanatics. Polls show that 46 percent of Americans hold negative views of Islam, such as "Islam is a religion of hatred and violence." Valentino's Ghost will explore the media's role in perpetuating stereotypes about Arabs, Muslims and Islam as well as the media's role in setting the record straight.

Kim Ki-duk and his Golden Lion
The full list of winners is below.

GOLDEN LION for Best Film to PIETA by Kim Ki-duk (Republic of Korea)
SILVER LION for Best Director to THE MASTER by Paul Thomas Anderson (USA)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE to Paradies: Glaube by Ulrich Seidl (Austria, Germany, France)
COPPA VOLPI for Best Actor to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix
in the film THE MASTER by Paul Thomas Anderson (USA)
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
COPPA VOLPI for Best Actress Hadas Yaron
in the film LEMALE ET HA’CHALAL by Rama Bursthein (Israel)
MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD for Best New Young Actor or Actress to Fabrizio Falco
in the films BELLA ADDORMENTATA by Marco Bellocchio (Italy) and È STATO IL FIGLIO by Daniele Ciprí (Italy)
for the film APRES MAI by Olivier Assayas (France)

Apres Mai by Olivier Assayas
for the film È STATO IL FIGLIO by Daniele Ciprì (Italy)
as well as a prize of 100,000 USD, donated by Filmauro di Aurelio e Luigi De Laurentiis to be divided equally between director and producer

ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST FILM (full-length films) to
SAN ZIMEI by Wang Bing (France, Hong Kong)
SPECIAL ORIZZONTI JURY PRIZE (full-length films) to
TANGO LIBRE by Frédéric Fonteyne (France, Belgium, Luxembourg)
CHO-DE by Yoo Min-young (South Korea)

CHO-DE by Yoo Min-young - YouTube Award
TITLOI TELOUS by Yorgos Zois (Greece)

to Francesco Rosi
to Spike Lee
to Michael Cimino

Heaven's Gate by Michael Cimino
to Giulia Bevilacqua

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, September 7, 2012

Brian de Palma's Passion in Venice

(Venice, Italy) Brian de Palma says that Passion is a woman's film. Perhaps that's true, since several of the reviews I've read that were written by men are scathing. I thought the chemistry between Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace was real and dynamic. From the production notes, de Palma responds:

With the sexy scenes and provocative dialogue, is the film an erotic thriller?

It's hard to say. In the original movie [the 2010 French film Crime d'Amour] Alain Corneau tiptoed around the sexual attraction between the characters. But Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams played it straight out. I did not say to them: "kiss each other and be erotic." They just did it. And it was quite effective.  

Still, there is the shower scene, the black underwear, the sex toys, which are part of your film's DNA. Are you a voyeur like some of your protagonists?

As I said over and over again, I prefer photographing women than men. And here we have absolutely drop dead gorgeous women who were not afraid of nudity. However, this film is about women, but it is also for women, which is why I wanted to make it more elegant and refrained. The same goes for violence: I did not make it too explicit because women are turned off by it.

Even though Passion is billing itself as "an erotic thriller in the tradition of 'Dressed to Kill' and 'Basic Instinct,' it's way too campy for that. But if you look at the film from a steamy romance-novel point of view, it works. I could definitely see it as a cult chick flick, a Fifty Shades of Grey kinda thing, a girl's night out -- and that's how I would market it.

I grew up with Brian de Palma movies playing in the background. Back in 1974, Brian de Palma had directed one of my absolute favorite films, Phantom of the Paradise. I was living in California and must have seen that film a dozen times; it was a cult classic. A couple years later, I was an extra in Robert Zemeckis' first feature film I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Nancy Allen, who was a little bit older than me, played one of the four leads. I was actually kind of a "special" extra. I worked every day, and I had specific action to do, but no lines; it was my first time on a movie set. So, Nancy Allen made a big impression on me.

Then, Nancy Allen married Brian de Palma! He seemed so old for her back then, but now I see he was only ten years her senior -- he will be 72-years-old on Tuesday, September 11th. He sexed up her and stuck her in films like Dressed to Kill, eroticizing his wife with great success like only a Catholic man can.

Rachel McAdams
Nancy Allen

Anyway, something about Rachel McAdams reminds me of Nancy Allen thirty-five years ago.

Noomi Rapace
 I thought Noomi Rapace was terrific. She said she knew she was playing an emotionally disturbed woman who was cracked inside, and actually had her character's illness diagnosed by a psychiatrist. She said the part got into her brain and her soul, and gave her crazy dreams -- when you see the film, you will understand exactly what she means.

The film is set in an international advertising agency in Berlin, which I thought worked extremely well. I loved the euro-look; the fashion; the 'tude. Change the marketing and you can get the girls out to the theaters just to look at the sex toys and cartoon-kink.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Robert Redford Keeps Good Company

Robert Redford The Company You Keep
(Venice, Italy)  Robert Redford is 76-years-old, and though he's got wrinkles on his face, his energy has not diminished. He has grown wise. Like fine-wine, he has aged to perfection, and is now a richer, deeper Robert Redford. 

Susan Sarandon
The Company You Keep, which Redford directed and stars in, answers the question: Where is the Weather Underground today? The Weather Underground was a group of white radical students in the late 60s, early 70s who decided to use violence to get the US government's attention because peaceful protests weren't working. It would be as if a radical sector of the Occupy Wall Street movement decided to start blowing up Goldman Sachs and Bank of America and Citibank because nothing was changing. Ordinary people do not usually start blowing things up unless they are enraged, and one thing the Weathermen were enraged about was being forced to go to Vietnam and fight a war that no one wanted.

Think about it: if your options are to be forced to go to war and kill innocent people, and/or die yourself, and/or come back without your legs -- as opposed to hitting the symbols that are forcing you to do such a thing -- if you are an American with certain principles being forced to take an extreme position against your will -- you might just decide to blow up the Department of State, or the Pentagon, or the Capitol. (Which is one reason why there is no draft today.)

I am from the school that thinks violence begets violence, so I don't go along with it. But that's just me.

From Wikipedia:

The bombing attacks mostly targeted government buildings, along with several banks. Most were preceded by evacuation warnings, along with communiqués identifying the particular matter that the attack was intended to protest. For the bombing of the United States Capitol on March 1, 1971, they issued a communiqué saying it was "in protest of the U.S. invasion of Laos". For the bombing of the Pentagon on May 19, 1972, they stated it was "in retaliation for the U.S. bombing raid in Hanoi". For the January 29, 1975 bombing of the United States Department of State building, they stated it was "in response to escalation in Vietnam."

From the production notes:

Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is a civil rights lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the tranquil suburbs of Albany, New York. His world is turned upside down when a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) exposes Grant's true identity as a former 1970s antiwar radical fugitive wanted for murder. After living for more than 30 years underground as a lawyer, Grant must now go on the run. He is the center of a nationwide manhunt, and with the FBI in hot pursuit, he sets off on a cross-country journey to track down the one person that can clear his name.

During the press conference, Robert Redford said he was not part of the movement, and although he sympathized, he did not get involved with it. He said the movement felt that it was hypocritical for the United States government to claim to be for equal opportunity and freedom of speech if Americans did not have those rights themselves.

More from the production notes: "I was raising a family and starting a career, so I wasn't politically involved at the time. If there was politics in my life, it was all activism centered around the environment. On the other hand, I had a lot of friends who were involved. I saw what was happening; I could see what was the good of it. The reason people were so passionate was because there was a draft then... People didn't want to fight a war they didn't believe in and so they rebelled against it. I sympathized with that at the time, but I didn't get involved." 
Speaking about today's political climate, Redford said that back then, there wasn't such bipartisan extremism as there is today, and that the upcoming American election is about change. Obama's side accepts that change is inevitable, and wants to make it positive. The other side is afraid of change and will do anything to prevent it.

Julie Christie
It was great to see Julie Christie and Nick Nolte, who are both 71-years-old, back on the screen, along with the always-fabulous Susan Sarandon, who will be 66 in a few weeks. And 26-year-old Shia LaBeouf was terrific as the tenacious reporter in relentless pursuit of the story.

Here is the Hollywood Reporter review by David Rooney:

Shia LaBeouf
VENICE – Robert Redford does his most compelling work in some time as both actor and director in The Company You Keep, a tense yet admirably restrained thriller about a fugitive forced out of hiding after 30 years to prove his innocence. Adapted with clarity and intelligence by Lem Dobbs from Neil Gordon’s novel, and lent distinguishing heft by its roster of screen veterans, this gripping drama provides an absorbing reflection on the courage and cost of dissent.

Someone asked Redford that since he had a German wife, if he liked being in Europe. He said that he was very, very envious of Europe because of its culture and age. He said that the US was powerful because of its physical environment, but since it is only 200 years old, it is lacking in culture. Speaking of Venice, Redford said, "Just the fact that it is here is a miracle!" I quite agree.

Palazzo Ducale - More than 1000 years old
Ciao from Venezia,

(Robert Redford is on the Red Carpet right now as I type this, and he sure looks good:)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

69th Venice Film Festival - Assorted Bits & Reviews

Zac Ephron & Maika Monroe - At Any Price
(Venice, Italy) An acquaintance recently asked me how the Venice Film Festival was going. I said it felt like home. In a world bombarded by war, crisis, financial meltdowns, etc. -- all the horrors that snake throughout the planet -- it is an honor to be surrounded by enlightened beings that try to make sense of it all. Plus, we've got this very cool new space out in the front where the hole for the new cinema used to be -- the new cinema that vanished with the last regime -- where everyone gathers for spritz & chips when the evening comes; the soundtrack pumping in the background runs the gamut from Mozart to Stevie Wonder. The atmosphere is different than years before. Less frenetic. The vibrations of the molecules have transformed into something higher, more refined.

Tomorrow's arrivals:

Robert Redford for The Company You Keep

Brian de Palma for Passion

Can you imagine such a thing: Robert Redford and Brian de Palma, two ancient warriors, still going at it?

It's fascinating how subjective movie-going can be. I've been playing catch-up, reading reviews of the films we've screened here at the 69th Venice International Film Festival, especially because some of the movies that premiered in Venice are now making their way to Telluride and Toronto.

At Any Price, directed by Ramin Bahran and starring Dennis Quaid is set in rural Iowa and about the dark side of the American farm industry. Trivia: Unknown 18-year-old Maika Monroe got the part because she sent in a home-made video of herself skateboarding. She is a natural. Check her out on the red carpet at The Sun.

Photo: Reel Life with Jane
Review I agree with most from Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian:

It's an unusual premise and some of the acting isn't bad, but the story is messy and unsatisfying with a plot-hole you could drive a dozen combine harvesters through, the ending is an outrageous fudge and the lead performance from Dennis Quaid is strange to say the least – for which responsibility must probably be shared between director and actor.

Utterly different point of view from Alex Billington at

Nearly every aspect of At Any Price is spectacular, and Bahrani does not miss a single detail. From the very start, which opens with Super 8 cam footage of the family growing up, to the score, to the performances, to the intricate story itself, to the human relationships and characters. Even what the local community thinks of them, and the dynamic relationships between farmers and customers and corporations, it's all there, and all accurately portrayed. It's beautifully shot, tremendously acted (by Quaid and Efron) and honestly, very affecting. The emotional journey this film took me on was phenomenal, and I did not expect it at all.

Michael Shannon in The Ice Man
The Iceman directed by Ariel Vroeman is based on real-life New Jersey hit-man, Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), a loving family man with a wife (Winona Ryder) and two daughters whose job was to murder people for the Mafia. My favorite line, from The Telegraph review by Robbie Collin:

James Franco has a grimly brief cameo as one of Kuklinski’s victims, who prays for mercy as the Iceman reaches for his revolver. “You think you can convince God to come down here and stop me?” asks Kuklinski. “Go ahead. I’ll wait.” 

Winona Ryder
Trivia: Winona Ryder: "I've never played a Mom before."

Though The Iceman is not my cup of tea, I thought Michael Shannon gave a brilliant performance, and was warm and articulate during the press conference. Review I agree with the most from Geoffrey Macnab at The Independent

Michael Caine once explained that the secret of screen acting was to "be like a duck… remain calm on the surface but paddle like hell underneath". This is advice that the brilliant American actor Michael Shannon has clearly taken to heart. Shannon gives a bravura performance as the real-life mob hitman and New Jersey family man Richard Kuklinski in The Iceman.

... The Iceman is a slickly made and very violent thriller. There is more than a touch of Goodfellas about it. Like Martin Scorsese's film, it offers a deglamorised and very detailed picture of mobster life. The presence of Ray Liotta as the utterly ruthless crime boss Roy DeMeo, who takes Kuklinski under his wing, reinforces the sense that we are back in Scorsese's world.

Ray Liotta
Different point of view from Oliver Lyttleton at Indiewire:

There are some good instincts at work in the film from Vroman. It’s never a painful watch, more of a faintly dull, seen-it-all-before one. If nothing else, it’s evidence that these days, being based on a true story isn’t enough to elevate a film in a well-worn genre ahead of the pack. Fans of Shannon might get a kick out of seeing him front-and-center in a film like this, but for everyone else, it’s likely a rental at best.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Paul Thomas Anderson
 The Master, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson has gotten rave reviews from just about everybody. If you are expecting a Scientology exposé, this isn't it, though Anderson freely admitted that he based Lancaster Dodd, the character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, on L. Ron Hubbard. During the press conference, Paul Thomas Anderson said he had been trying to get Joaquin Phoenix to be in one of films for a long time, and writes parts with Phoenix in mind. The word "feral" came up to describe the character, and seems to have made its way into a few reviews. I thought the performance should have been better controlled by Anderson. When Phoenix vanished in the middle of the press conference, he reinforced that point of view. (He did return.) To me, he is a very fine actor who needs to work with an icon instead of his buds. Anderson and Hoffman seemed hung-over and both needed grooming.

Amy Adams
The Master's wife, played by Amy Adams, was the stand-out. I just discovered she was born in Vicenza, about 40 minutes from Venice, on the American military base. Her performance was spooky.

Trivia: Phoenix really broke the toilet in the jail at San Pedro, which was an "antique" in Los Angeles, where time is counted in doggie-years. Anderson said, "It was a protected toilet. They were pissed off when they found out we broke it."

Review from Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian:

Anderson conjures a strange and dysfunctional world, a world that looks like 1950s America, but perhaps more like some alien planet that happens to look exactly like ours, a world pregnant with disturbing secrets. The setpieces and extended scenes are magnificently realised, arresting and bizarre. Freddie the seaman mumbling and masturbating on a beach, Freddie the department store photographer, Freddie the field hand, Freddie the bum. His tattered life passes before us, in its various phases, as in a frieze, stumbling towards his destiny and then onward, leaving even that behind. When he is being broken down by Dodd, the scenes are extended, happening almost in real time: it is discomfiting and bizarre. Hoffman's performance is not quite as distinctive as Phoenix's – and he arguably displays some mannerisms from previous movies – but he is utterly plausible as the leader and pseudo-scientific thinker, somewhere between Mussolini and Dale Carnegie.

Ben Affleck &  Rachel McAdams
Rumors were that most of Ben Affleck's part had been cut from To The Wonder by director Terrence Malick. Affleck is there; he just doesn't talk. None of the actors showed up for the press conference -- not even Malick, the director -- except for the female lead Olga Kurylenko, who spun around in circles most of the movie, and the vibrant Italian actress Romina Mondello, who stole the film with one scene. Nobody seemed to like the film except for Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, who defends it:

Malick goes unhesitatingly out on a limb and the branch creaks a bit. When To the Wonder ended, there was the now traditional storm of hissing and booing at the Venice film festival. Malick gets this treatment, while the most insipid, unadventurous movies here can fade to black and roll credits in respectful quiet. I can only say that I responded to its passion and idealism.

Ciao from the 69th Venice International Film Festival,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, September 3, 2012

Regata Storica of Venice September 2, 2012

Photo: Diana Jinaru

Photo: Diana Jinaru

Photo: Diana Jinaru
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog