Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nymphs at the Venice Film Festival - Uma Thurman & Charlotte Gainsbourg Rock the Sala Darsena Theater

Uma Thurman - Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) The divine Uma Thurman was in the audience last night for the world premiere of the 3-hour Lars von Trier Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume II, although she is not in the movie. However, she is in the 2-hour 35 minute Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume I, where she blows everyone else off the screen with her impressive appearance in one amazing scene. Thurman is a wife who shows up with her three kids to confront her husband who has decided to abandon them and move in with nymphomaniac, Joe, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who was also in the audience for both films.

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Venice Film Festival
Celebrities are always in the theater to watch their films after making their red carpet appearances, so that was not unusual. What made it different is that usually they are in the Sala Grande theater up in the non-balcony (the Sala Grande doesn't have a closed balcony that separates the stars from the audience, only stairs and a rail). Industry professionals can't attend the prime-time evening screening in the Sala Grande, only the public. By the time the red carpet screening arrives, the press has already seen the film and listened to the celebrities at a press conference.

Sala Grande
What was unique about Thurman and Gainsbourg watching Nymphomaniac with the audience is that it screened in a different theater, the fabulous Sala Darsena, freshly-restored, which, in the past, was limited to the press and industry professionals. The Sala Darsena has no balcony at all, just three different levels of seating. Years ago, it was an open-air arena. Now it is a totally cool theater with 1400 seats, sort of retro-contemporary hip with a fantastic sound system.

President Paolo Baratta in Sala Darsena
I had never seen either Nymphomaniac flick before, and went to both films, which is a total of five-and-a-half hours of Lars von Trier's revolutionary work. The first one started at 2:00pm, and I arrived at Sala Darsena just couple of minutes before. Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild was cranking and a bunch of security guys were there. I asked the guy who checked my badge what was going on, and he said he had no idea. I was going to wait outside to see, but the film was about to start, so I went in.

Nymphomaniac: Volume II
I was surprised to see that the theater was packed. I thought I saw Alberto Barbera, the Director of the Venice Film Festival, in the audience, and I knew something was up. Then, the music exploded, and the delegation of Nymphomaniac paraded through the door -- including Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard, who also stars. The delegation entered the center of the theater, a dynamic entrance; such an entrance would not work for all films, but was perfect for Nymphomaniac. The audience got to its feet and roared. 

I ended up sitting in the same row as the delegation, although in a different section, and it was riveting to watch the film with the people who had made it. I kept glancing at Charlotte Gainsbourg out of the corner of my eye as I watched her extreme actions on screen, and thought how fortunate she was to experience such a thing -- to watch yourself perform in a ground-breaking film in the company of 1400 simpatici strangers. To use a dusty expression: Far out! It used to be that everybody was doing far out things; now most things have become pedantic. Forty-two years ago it was socially acceptable to go to the movies and see Deep Throat; it seems we should be further ahead.


Stellan Skarsgard at Venice Film Festival
I thought the Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume I was one of the most amazing films I've ever seen, a movie that finally addressed female sexuality in a mythic way. Lars von Trier had said that his ambition was to create a film that had the characteristics of a literary novel. The first part succeeded in doing that, especially if we consider that a nymph is a divine spirit that animates nature. 

Skarsgard co-stars as a seemingly compassionate bachelor named Seligman who finds a beaten Joe lying in an alley and takes her home. He tends to her wounds, and listens as she tells her life story. We watch Joe grow up, compete in a seduction game on a train with her friend, and experience the touching relationship she had with her father, who is played by Christian Slater. 


Nymphomaniac: Volume I
At 7:00pm, the Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume II was much darker; to me, it lost its direction because it became too masochistic. Earlier, during a bizarre press conference at which von Trier was present only cyber-ly by iPad through lifelines relayed by Stellan Skarsgard, he said: “Everything that is masochistic in the film is me,” said von Trier (via Skarsgard). “The women, to a certain extent, is some of [von Trier], but every time something masochistic is shown, it’s [von Trier].” 

That was the problem. The masochism felt imposed upon Joe's character, not something that had developed organically. The nymph stepped out of Nymphomaniac, replaced by a satyr.

Nymphomaniac: Volume II
 From The Daily Beast:

The reclusive—and controversial—filmmaker vowed to never speak publicly after his ‘Nazi’ scandal at Cannes. But he broke it to discuss the uncut version of Nymphomaniac at the Venice Film Festival (kind of).

Nymphomaniac
There was a glimmer of hope near the end of the film, but it was not to be. For me, it would have been more satisfying if von Trier had had the courage to follow the sun -- since he was brave enough to make the film in the first place -- but instead he wimped out and opted for the darkness.

Here is an informative review from Roger Ebert.com.

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

1 comment:

  1. The divine Uma Thurman was in the audience last night for the world premiere of the 3-hour Lars von Trier Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume II, although she is not in the movie. However, she is in the 2-hour 35 minute Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume I, where she blows everyone else off the screen with her impressive appearance in one amazing scene.

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