Sunday, September 8, 2013

70th Venice Film Festival Wrap-up

Maserati at the Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) SACRO GRA (Italy, France), a documentary by Gianfranco Rosi, won the Golden Lion for Best Film last night at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. It's been 15 years since an Italian film won the top prize, and the first time ever for a documentary.

Bernardo Bertolucci, the President of the jury, quipped that there had been some discussion about whether to give the Volpi Cup for Best Actor to Donald Rumsfeld for his performance in the documentary THE UNKNOWN KNOWN. Instead, that prize went to Themis Panou for MISS VIOLENCE, a Greek film, which also won the Silver Lion for Best Director for Alexandros Avranas. It was unusual for a film to win more than one prize -- in fact, everyone is always arguing about it. But last year THE MASTER (USA) won the Silver for Paul Thomas Anderson and Best Actor(s) for Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, so, perhaps, it is a new trend.

I hadn't seen either winning film, so I went to the screenings after the awards. SACRO GRA is about the real life characters that live around Rome's Ring Road highway. I would have given it three stars, not the top prize. MISS VIOLENCE starts with a girl committing suicide by jumping off the balcony on her 11th birthday, and then slowly peels away the layers of dysfunction in which the other members of family have wrapped themselves. It was skillfully insidious, and well deserved the Silver Lion. Difficult, but necessary, to watch.



Maserati was the main sponsor of the festival this year, and it was a thrill to see all the Quattroporte (Four Door) luxury sedans lined up outside the Excelsior Hotel, ready to whisk the celebrities off to the Red Carpet. The engines sounded like lions purring. It's been a while since a car turned me on, but this one has got it all: style, class, elegance, beauty and it's sexy.

"Maserati begins its relationship with the 70th Venice Film Festival as main sponsor of the event, cementing the relationship between the prestigious film festival and the Fiat Group." 

Excelsior Hotel Terrace 1932

The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival on the planet, created by Count Giuseppi Volpi in 1932. In the archives area are all sorts of nifty news clips such as Winston Churchill taking a dip in the sea, Marilyn Monroe arriving on the Lido, George Cukor and other classics. This year, the press got to see some vintage clips before the screenings, much to everyone's delight.


Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) caused a pedestrian traffic girl-jam when he showed up at Coin Department Store in Venice to promote Kill Your Darlings, a movie about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation.

The Guardian: "Kill Your Darlings... is the real deal, a genuine attempt to source the beginning of America's first true literary counterculture of the 20th century."


****GRAVITY by Alfonso Cuaron (USA) - There is nothing like starting off a film festival with a good old fashioned Hollywood blockbuster set in outer space. 

***WOLKFSKINDER (WOLF CHILDREN) by Rick Ostermann (Germany) Proving that no one group of people have a monopoly on suffering, after World War II had ended, Russian soldiers hunted down and murdered German children orphaned by the war just because they were German. A little-known piece of history finally gets explored. (Part of Orrizzonti competition.)

***1/2 JOE by David Gordon Green (USA) - Prediction: Nicholas Cage will be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. Last night, Tye Sheridan did win the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress. The two of them had great chemistry.

From the Hollywood Reporter: "Powered by raw yet expertly measured performances from Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan as an ex-con fumbling for atonement and a luckless boy reaching out for a father figure, respectively, the film captures both the grit and the compassion for its characters’ pain that are hallmarks of the writing of novelist Larry Brown."

** The Canyons by Paul Schrader (USA) - I wrote a post about it HERE.

**Night Moves by Kelly Reichardt (USA) - I never got emotionally involved in this story about three radical environmentalists who blow up a damn to make their point. 

From Variety: "...this tale of three environmental activists planning a dangerous act of eco-terrorism has a quietly gripping first hour that builds to a suspenseful peak, then yields faintly diminishing returns thereafter as the doubts and implications set in."

****1/2 Philomena by Stephen Frears (UK) - I loved it; I thought it should have won the Golden Lion; I wrote about it HERE. It did win Best Screenplay here in Venice.

**Child of God by James Franco (USA) - I'm sorry, but, to me, there is nothing interesting about watching a serial killer defecate in the woods unless he does it differently from the rest of us.

From Variety: "Descending into the cavernous lower depths of human depravity inhabited by Lester Ballard, modern literature’s most famous necrophile, Franco has emerged with an extremely faithful, suitably raw but still relatively hemmed-in adaptation that compares favorably with his earlier films, yet falls short of achieving a truly galvanizing portrait of social and sexual deviance."

***1/2 Parkland by Peter Landesman (USA) It is always difficult to watch John Kennedy get assassinated. The State of Texas does not come off well in this version.

From The Guardian: "...if the film finally doesn't tell us anything we did not already know, the approach makes a worn-out old tragedy feel supple and urgent."

***The Armstrong Lie by Alex Gibney (USA) - I wrote about it HERE.

The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam
***The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam (UK; USA) Wacky, wonderful and worth-seeing, it seemed to really appeal to 21-year-old guys. From The Guardian: "...the film has a ragged charm, a Tiggerish bounce, and a certain sweet melancholy that bubbles up near the end. It is a wilfully iconoclastic film from a wilfully iconoclastic man. And it shows, for better or worse, that Gilliam is still in the game and eyeing the prize, despite his spectacularly ill-starred recent career."

**1/2 Locke by Steven Knight (UK) Interesting because it's in real time, but since the only action is a man driving while talking on the phone, it belongs on television -- or in the theater. Only Tom Hardy's performance makes it worth watching. 

From The Guardian: " Locke is played by Tom Hardy, who affects a rich Welsh delivery that I could listen to all day. After sitting through the entirety of this bold, well-acted yet ultimately exasperating movie, I almost feel I have."

**Disney Mickey Mouse "O Sole Minnie" by Paul Rudish (USA) Venice looked more like Las Vegas, Mickey wasn't charming and Minnie had no motivation.

****The Unknown Known by Errol Morris (USA) - I thought it was brilliant. I wrote about it HERE.

**1/2 Harlock: Space Pirate [3D] by Shinji Aramaki (Japan) Great for tweenage boys. 

From Variety: "...this is a glorious marshaling of state-of-the-art technical expertise that boasts topnotch stereoscopy, but the portentous script is too nerdy to cross over to the mainstream" 

*Under The Skin by Jonathan Glazer (UK) - I have not so disliked a movie in many years. Except for Scarlett Johansson's body, it was utterly boring.

From The Independent: "Even Scarlett Johansson can't save Jonathan Glazer's laughably bad alien hitchhiker movie" 

***1/2 Une Promesse (A Promise) by Patrice Leconte (France, Belgium) Restrained performances and a romantic script make this a French film worth seeing -- especially because it's in English and it stars Alan Rickman. Nobody else seemed to like it but me -- and the New York Times: "It is a pity that this artfully directed and subtly acted drama is not eligible for these awards, for which it would have been a worthy candidate." (Ha! I just read the entire article and mumbled to myself: "I have the same taste as this writer" -- and then saw it was Roderick Conway Morris, who is based here in Venice and whom I've known for years.)

Another p.o.v., from Variety: "Led by a trio of lackluster performances from Alan Rickman, Rebecca Hall and “Game of Thrones” thesp Richard Madden, this awkward, passionless drama conveys neither the sensuality nor the drawn-out sense of longing required by its period tale of a young secretary who falls in love with his employer’s wife."

***1/2 Walesa. Man of Hope by Andrzej Wajda (Poland) An enjoyable history lesson about Lech Walesa, one of the world's most dynamic and unlikely leaders -- proof that even an electrician can become the president of a country. 

***1/2 Amazonia [3D] by Thierry Ragobert (France, Brazil) - if a monkey could win best actor, it should go to this adorable creature who plays a domesticated capuchin monkey that lands in the Amazon rain forest after a plane crash. The film will leave you wondering how they ever shot it.

From Variety: "Kids and adults mature enough to handle mild animal peril will be duly enchanted by this universally distributable picture."

The Ukraine is Not a Brothel Photocall
 ***Ukraine is Not a Brothel by Kitty Green Australian filmmaker Kitty Green followed Femen, the radical Ukrainian "feminists" who bared their breasts to protest a patriarchal society, and discovered there was a man behind the scenes. 

Venezia Salva by Serena Nono (Venice) - is a film with non-professional actors who are guests in one of Venice's homeless shelters. Loosely based on Simone Weil's unfinished play, "Venice Saved," Serena takes us behind the facades of Venice as only a local girl can. I wrote about the filming of the story last year HERE


Ciao from Venezia,

1 comment:

  1. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) caused a pedestrian traffic girl-jam when he showed up at Coin Department Store in Venice to promote Kill Your Darlings, a movie about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation.