Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LIVE! From the 71st Venice Film Festival - Birdman & The President

BIRDMAN directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, starring Michael Keaton

(Venice, Italy) The transitory nature of power and glory are the themes of both BIRDMAN and THE PRESIDENT, the opening films of the 2014 Venice International Film Festival.

BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, stars Michael Keaton as a movie star who once achieved international fame by playing the superhero "Birdman," and is now trying to revive his career by betting everything, including his Malibu house, on a Broadway show, starring in, directing, producing and adapting a Raymond Carver short story. BIRDMAN has received mostly positive reviews, including a bunch of raves.

Michael Keaton & Edward Norton
From VARIETY:

Michael Keaton pulls off a startling comeback in Alejandro G. Inarritu's blistering showbiz satire.

From the LONDON EVENING STANDARD:

The Venice Film Festival has pulled off a genuine coup by bagging the star-studded Birdman for its opening night, an expertly delivered black comedy about showbiz and celebrity, fantasy and reality



This is a phenomenal start to this year’s Mostra: grand, spectacular, star-powered cinema that makes us ask anew what cinema is for. Call it a Dark Knight of the soul.

Amy Ryan & Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton soars in Alejandro G. Inarritu's brilliantly directed dark comedy about celebrity and creation

 THE GUARDIAN feels differently:

This year’s Venice film festival begins with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s showbiz satire, a film as jittery, shallow and occasionally inspired as its hero

I'm with The Guardian on this one. I just wasn't sure what key we were in. Black comedy? Drama? Magical realism? During the press conference, Inarritu said he wanted to step out of his comfort zone, and that he realized for the first time that you could laugh on a set. He said he was terrified, but was happy to have done it.

He did some get great performances out of his actors. Emma Stone in particular was impressive, playing Keaton's daughter, Sam, just out of rehab. At the press conference, Stone said she'd "learned more on this movie than I've ever learned," and wanted to do it all over again.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot Gravity, does the same thing to New York City as he did to outer space -- makes us feel like are really there. Time Square, Broadway, the St. James Theater... I could smell the city. Amy Ryan, who plays Keaton's ex-wife, said that "New York is another character in this film."

When I think of other satirical films like, say, NETWORK, that aroused such a depth of emotion in audiences throughout the world, I don't think BIRDMAN matches that level of engagement. But if we compare it to yet another superhero action film, then it does reach the level of "inspired."

(As I write this in the press room, it is difficult to tell who is making more commotion -- the crowd roaring as the celebrities arrive on the red carpet, or the anti-cruise ship demonstrators protesting in the street below.)


THE PRESIDENT directed by Moshen Makhmalbaf
THE PRESIDENT, the opening film of the Orizzoni (Horizons) section of the Venice Film Festival by the Iranian director, Moshen Makhmalbaf was shot in Georgia, and is in the Georgian language with Italian and English subtitles. It opens with the dictator of an unnamed country holding his young grandson on his lap and illustrating how much fun it is to play with power when the boy complains he doesn't want his grandfather's job, he wants an ice cream. Grandpa picks up the phone and orders that all the lights in the major city below be turned off. Instantly, the city goes black. He hands the receiver to his grandson, who orders that all the lights be turned back on. Flash! The city lights up. The grandson then orders all the lights off once again. Again, the city goes black. But when the boy orders the lights back on again, nothing happens. The city remains black. And so starts the beginning of the revolution...

Dachi Orvelashvili and Misha Gomiashvili
His Majesty (as The President is called by everyone) and his grandson, are forced to flee their palace and disguise themselves as ordinary citizens, experiencing firsthand the pain and destruction the dictator's leadership cost his own people. 

From VARIETY:

Mohsen Makhmalbaf offers a didactic morality tale about a fallen autocrat and his innocent grandson fleeing murderous revolutionaries bent on vengeance.

During the press conference Makhmalbaf, who lives in exile in London, said he wanted to illustrate that not only the dictator, but the revolutionaries turn to violence. When you remove a dictator, the violence and thirst for revenge remains among the population, creating a vicious cycle. Variety said it expected more from Makhmalbaf; again, I disagree. Even though the message seems "obvious," given the state of current events, not many nations seem to grasp that simple thing.

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

1 comment:

  1. The transitory nature of power and glory are the themes of both BIRDMAN and THE PRESIDENT, the opening films of the 2014 Venice International Film Festival.

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