Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Guess who I ran into Today? All the Saints & All the Souls on the Island of San Michele, Venice, 2017

Micromega Arte e Cultura - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) I do not usually go to San Michele, the island where Venice buries her dead, on October 31st. I usually go on November 1, All Saints Day. With astonishing synchronicity, most times I have run into Mary de Rachewiltz, the daughter of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, whom I first met up in her castle in Tyrol.

I have written about this phenomenon before, which you can read here:

Island of the Dead - San Michele, Venice - All the Saints and All the Souls


It is uncanny how often I run into Mary de Rachewiltz on All Saints Day on the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery island. This year, I was far away from the tomb of her famous parents, Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, when Mary arrived in the afternoon -- usually I get there earlier, and so does she. I was in a completely different section of the cemetery at the tomb of my Venetian nonni trying to light a candle that the wind kept blowing out. After about ten attempts, I decided to go to the florist at the front of the island and buy a wind-resistant candle. I literally almost ran into Mary as she was heading in.

"Mary!" I cried. "I'm so happy to see you!"

"Cat Bauer!" she exclaimed. "I'm running into everybody today."


Now, we are in 2017. I had no plans to go to San Michele today, but I ended up in the general vicinity, and thought I might as well go a day early. Guess who was there? Yes! Mary de Rachewiltz! I said, Mary, you never come the day before All Saints Day, and neither do I. Yet, here we are both again, in the same place, at the same time. It is too much! Mary said something like, well, it is meant to be. We chatted, and caught up on some trials and tribulations, chuckling all the time. Mary is now 92-years-old, and is an Angel-on-Earth, completely in possession of all her clever wits. I really can't explain this phenomenon, but if I had gotten there 10 minutes later, I would have missed her.


Back in 2010, I wrote about how many people felt that Halloween did not have a place here in Italy, and how much I had enjoyed it when I lived in the States. Every year I see the influence grow stronger. This year, out on the Lido, they seemed to be embracing the festival, with little witches everywhere, and candy being handed out at all the shops. Hhhmm... Here's an excerpt from the old post; click the link to read the entire thing:

The Island of the Dead - Venice, Italy

 (ANSA) - Vatican City, October 29 - Halloween is pagan and against the spirit of Christianity, an influential Catholic Church group said Friday. Chiming in with the Vatican's annual warnings on the festival, the (Pope) John XXIII Association said: "Halloween was born as the perpetuation of a pagan cult which evolved over time and linked up with esoteric and occult practices". "We are faced with a sort of revival of neopaganism which, as such, is in open contrast with the spirit of Christianity". 

"Does our society really need all these messages exalting horror," asked the association's head, Giovanni Paolo Ramonda.

"At a time which should be devoted to the holy memory of our saints and souls, people unthinkingly set up 'noir' banquets, crime dinners and afternoons for children in macabre masks. "Everyone should be reminded that Halloween comes from an ancient pagan ritual in the British Isles practised by the Druids, the Celts' ferocious priestly caste".

The Northern League also disapproves:
The Northern League party, which jealously guards northern Italy's Celtic past, also came out against the feast this year, accusing it of being "inauthentic". "Halloween is not part of our identity," said the Northern League's mayor of the town of Calalzo di Cadore, Luca De Carlo.

Personally, speaking as a witch and a pagan, a self-declared Hindu (back when I was a teen) -- a Catholic and Protestant (with strong empathy for Jews, Muslim & Buddhists) -- not to mention the offspring of Freemasons -- as well as an "Angel With Teeth" in the New York City Village Halloween Parade -- I feel that Halloween is not something organic here in Venice, but is a sly attempt to penetrate the culture by outside forces. Good luck with that.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How Venice Handles Migrants Who Go Wrong: Through the Eyes of Children and "Fish of Peace"


Kids Swarm Palazzo Ducale for Pesce di Pace - Photo: Cat Bauer

(Venice, Italy) What a great idea! Nadia De Lazzari, of the Pesce di Pace or "Fish of Peace" organization here in Venice, gave 501 sheets of paper in the shape of the earth to children on three different continents: Europe, Africa and America.



Fifteen hundred primary school children from Italian, Tunisian, Moroccan and American schools illustrated the globes divided into three equal parts with colorful messages of hope, joy, peace and friendship. On the back, they wrote messages to their peers in their own languages -- Italian, English, Arabic, Berber, Hebrew, and French -- which were translated into Italian by male inmates in prisons in Venice and Trento, many of them immigrants and refugees, with the hope that the childrens' words and images will help transform the prisoners into new men.  

"hi my name is Austin.
I live in Waco texas.
I drew what Chrismas looks like for us In texas"
And today kids from 25 schools in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia-Giulia swarmed into Palazzo Ducale to see their exhibition hanging inside the Doge's Palace, which will run through November 5. Have a look and listen to what all that inspiring kid energy sounds like on a mind-blowing field trip:

https://youtu.be/vEZuldqo3Ck


 
There were multicultural speakers: Imam Yahya Pallavicini, Rabbi Scialom Bahbout, Patriarch Francesco Moraglia, Tunisian Ambassador to Italy Moezeddine Sinaoui, and our own Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, to name a few.

In other parts of the world, refugees and migrants might seem like an abstract concept, but here in Italy it is a serious consideration. According to the BBC, last year, 171,000 migrants made the trip across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa into Italy. Almost 5,000 died at sea. With war, terrorism and poverty wracking many regions, people risk their lives to provide a better one for themselves and their families -- as did many immigrants from Europe to America during the World Wars. According to The Guardian, much of the chaos is due to the unrest in Libya.


There is also a beautiful book illustrated with the kids' artwork, with messages from different religious and governmental leaders (grownups) titled, 501 Disegni a Sei Mani per 500 anni Veneziani - Venezia, Tunisi, Rabat, Hewitt or "501 Drawings by Six Hands for 500 Years of Venetians - Venice, Tunisi, Rabat, Hewitt." The very first book I ever wrote when I was six-years-old was titled, Children of Other Lands, so this was right up my calle.


From Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic of Italy: "The 501 works in this publication are the fruit of an imagination and mind that is free of any kind of prejudice, coming from children from different countries and cultures. Drawings and messages of friendship that offer an amazing testimony of dialogue and reciprocal respect that these young children have wanted to give to the adult world, using colours."

"Hello my name is Gabriel
i'm in 3rd grade.
I lived in Mexico but I moved to Waco
My favrite color is Blue
My farite wepon is a sword"
From Francesco Moraglia, Patriarch of Venice: "'Make bridges, make bridges in a society that is used to making walls... Where there's a wall, hearts are closed. We need bridges, not walls!": these words by Pope Francis truly seem to be the most suitable to described the spirit and content of this highly appreciated initiative."


From Enrico Sbriglia, Regional Superintendent of the Penitentiary Administration (I wish I had the space to share his entire statement; he is like a poet -- no wonder the prisoners are participating in this project): "Drawings and words, symbols and memories, different languages and skin colours that express the plurality of the world and the thousand ways of smiling and playing, of embracing one's mother and waiting for one's father, of invoking the divine and relying on it -- they all create the web where we lay out our lives. We have to be grateful for the "Fish of Peace," and to the children from different countries who, together with prisoners from just as many different countries -- with the signs and words they are giving us -- remind us that, if we really want, hope and compassion will save the world."


Mohammed Sadiki, Mayor of Rabat, Morocco: "This friendship, which started at school, will help promote peace, solidarity, brotherhood and reciprocal respect between peoples all over the world. This book offers hope for the future and it will certainly be an example to us all."

From Scialom Bahbout, Chief Rabbi of Venice: "Children can be the real Teachers and show how one can live an honest life with simplicity and true faith."


From Abdelaaziz Aamri, a prisoner from the Kingdom of Morocco: "Dearest 'Angels,' for me it is a great honor to participate with you from afar in a project for peace in the world. With the wealth and light that you radiate, you are making space in the dark dominating the planet. We have the task of working hard to make the whole world understand the importance of brotherhood so that it becomes a place of living, co-existence, and reciprocal respect between cultures and religions."

Nadia De Lazzari and her Pesce di Pace are on Facebook.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

When Venice's Loot Came Back from France - Canova, Hayez & Cicognara at the Galleria Accademia

Horse of St. Mark's plaster copy - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) When Napoleon forced the Venetian Republic to surrender on May 12, 1797 and ended the 1000-year-old realm of La Serenissima, his soldiers hauled a lot of loot back to France -- the most cherished being the four bronze horses on the outside of Saint Mark's Basilica, dating from antiquity. In 1205, Venice herself had plundered the four horses from Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire and Christian civilization. Napoleon hoisted the horses up on the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris to commemorate his victories.

The French swiped many other precious works of art, and hacked to pieces five thousand winged lions, the symbol of St. Mark, Venice's evangelist. They also nabbed the prized Lion of San Marco that was on the column in Piazza San Marco.


In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Gallerie dell'Accademia in 1817, much of the plundered art has been gathered together in an outstanding exhibition entitled Canova, Hayez, Cicognara - The Ultimate Glory of Venice, curated by Paola Marini, Fernando Mazzocca and Roberto De Feo. The show offers not only a chance to see some exceptional works of art, but also an opportunity to learn some history about the tumultuous time.

One quibble with the exhibit is that although the history might be familiar to Europeans whose ancestors were used to their lives being disrupted at the will of emperors, kings and queens -- many of whom were related to one another -- those in the English-speaking world might feel a bit bewildered. The timeline is in both Italian and English, as are the descriptions of the art, but the excellent catalogue published by Marsilio/Electa is only in Italian. And at the time of this writing, there is no information about the exhibition on the Accademia's website in either Italian or English, so I'm going to attempt to guide you through it.

Self-portrait by Antonio Hayez - Photo courtesy Accademia
To greatly simplify a complex timeline, after Napoleon's conquest, Venice was put under Austrian domination from October 1797 until December 1805, when the Treaty of Pressburg thrust it again under the French. Napoleon created the Kingdom of Italy -- in addition to the one under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, in existence since 800AD -- titling himself the "Emperor of the French and King of Italy." The French scattered Venice's heritage willy-nilly, suppressing convents and parishes, and dispersing works of art, hauling much of it off to the Musée Napoleon in Paris -- aka the Louvre.

Museum headquarters for Napoleon's new Italian kingdom was established in Milan at the Pincoteca di Brera, the main building of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera.

During all this commotion, in 1807 a commission was set up in Venice to conserve works of art. Venice already had an Academy of Fine Arts, which had been founded on September 24, 1750. Napoleon changed the name of the Veneta Academia di Pittura, Scultura e Architettura to the Accademia Reale di Belle Arti, or the "royal academy of fine arts" and decreed that it be reorganized along the lines of the art academies in Milan and Bologna, creating three national academies in the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Weeks earlier, Alvise Almorò Pisani had been appointed president of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice.

The headquarters of the Academy was moved from the Fonteghetto della Farina, next to where Harry's Bar is now and where flour was sold, to its present location at Carità at the foot of the Accademia bridge, which had been the Scuola Grande della Carità and the Church of Santa Maria della Carità, but was one of the religious complexes that had been targeted by Napoleon and disbanded. Napoleon himself showed up in Venice in November 1807 and stayed through December to visit his handiwork.

Then Alvise Pisani, the president of the Academy, died on February 12, 1808, and one of the heroes of our story, Count Leopoldo Cicognara, a theoretician, scholar and historian of international fame, was appointed president. Cicognara was great friends with the neoclassical sculptor, Antonio Canova, who was considered the pre-eminent living artist, celebrated through all of Europe, and who had already been commissioned by Napoleon.


Rinaldo e Armida by Franceso Hayez (1812-13) Photo courtesy Accademia
The Academy decided to give its top students a three-year scholarship to study art in Rome under the tutelage of Canova. The talented young Venetian painter Francesco Hayez was one of the first winners. Canova and Cicognara were determined to cultivate Hayez into an artist who would renew Italian painting and bring Italy back to its ancient glory -- hence the name of the exhibition, Canova, Hayez, Cicognara - L'ultima gloria di Venezia.

Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815, and then the Habsburg Emperor Franz I of Austria stepped up to the plate.

Things moved swiftly after that. Emperor Franz I demanded that the Louvre give back the plundered artworks in his territories. Canova was instrumental in getting most of Venice's stuff returned, and wrote to Cicognara on October 2, 1815 that "I have the consolation of telling you that our Venetian paintings have been returned and are already being crated for Italy."

One of the next things the Emperor did was give Venice back her beloved horses, which arrived on December 13, 1815 in Piazza San Marco with much pomp and circumstance, to the joy of the Venetians.

Re-situating Ceremony - Horses on the Pronaos of St. Mark's Basilica by Vincenzo Chilone (1815) Photo: Cat Bauer
On March 22, 1816, six crates of art from Paris arrived at the Accademia di Belle Art, all but one piece in good condition. In April, Emperor Franz I arrived with his daughter, Marie Louise for Holy Week, and to watch the prized Lion of San Marco, which had been damaged, be placed, fully restored, back up on its column in Piazza San Marco. The Accademia then put on a show so the public could view the returned artworks. When it was over, all the works with known original positions went back to their places, and the Academy kept the rest.

In August, the bequest of Girolamo Ascanio Molin (a renowned Venetian Senator, writer and historian, with a precious collection of assorted goodies -- but that's another story) arrived in the Accademia. Then the crafty Cicognara managed to transport Titian's Assunta, considered the most beautiful painting in the world, from the Frari Basilica to the Accademia.

When I heard this, I thought, What? I found one of the curators, Roberto De Feo, during the inauguration, and tried to have a conversation with him even though all of Venice seemed to be there, and we were constantly interrupted. De Feo said Cicognara had moved the painting to protect it from the "humidity." I said that after living in Venice for nearly 20 years, and writing about her culture, I didn't believe that story for one second. (Needless to say, the Assunta has since been placed back up on the high altar inside the Frari, where she belongs.)

Ideal Head of Helen by Canova (1811) Photo: Cat Bauer
In November, Lord Byron, the greatest living poet, showed up on the scene, and added some brilliance, romance, scandal and a lot of wild gossip to a city already throbbing with excitement. He would move into Palazzo Mocenigo on the Grand Canal along with his with 14 servants, two monkeys, a fox and two mastiff dogs. Ah, those were the days!  One of the rooms of the current exhibition is dedicated to Lord Byron, and includes Canova's sculpture of the Ideal Head of Helen, of which Byron wrote:

In this beloved marble view
Above the works and thoughts of Man
What nature could, but would not, do
And beauty and Canova can!

In June 1817, Hayez returned to Venice. Then, on August 10th, Count Cicognara inaugurated the first five rooms of the Gallerie dell'Accademia and the museum was born, while still maintaining its role as an art academy. It is this anniversary that we are celebrating today (give or take a month or two).

Polyhymnia by Canova
By this time, Emperor Franz I had married his fourth wife, Caroline Augusta of Bavaria, who was 24 years younger than he was, and he asked the Venetian provinces to pay a heavy contribution. Our wily Cicognara negotiated a deal where part of the tribute would include works by top artists and artisans in the Veneto, together with young students from the Accademia, for the new empress's rooms -- but only because he threw the magnificent statue of Polyhymnia created by Canova into the deal. Before the works went off to Vienna, the Accademia exhibited them in the great hall, all dominated by Titian's Assunta! The group of works were later divvied up by the heirs of the imperial family, but have been almost completely gathered together again for the first time in 200 years for the current exhibition (with the exception of Titian's Assunta:-) in a room dedicated to "The Tribute of the Venetian Provinces to the Court of Vienna."

Altogether there are more than 130 works displayed in ten thematic rooms:

1. The glorious and controversial return of the works of art requisitioned by Napoleon: the Horses of St. Mark and the Jupiter Aegis 
2. Cicognara - patron and promoter of the arts. Friendship and collaboration with Canova. Common trust in young Hayez
3. The Homage from the Venetian Provinces. An extraordinary collection of contemporary artworks for the Vienna court
4. The legacy of Giuseppe Bossi. The arrival of Leonardo and Raffaello's drawings in Venice
5. Masters and students of the Academy between Venice and Rome
6. Byron in Venice and the fascination for Helen by Canova. Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi and Giustina Renier Michiel, queens of intellectual salons
7. The myth of Canova - national glory and universal icon
8. Hayez, the true heir to Canova, creates Romanticism and leaves Venice for Milan
9. The antique molds in the collection of the Gallerie dell'Accademia
10. An interactive "hypertext" of the history of the Accademia
That is a brief summation of all the ultimate glories in store. There is much, much more to absorb when you visit the exhibition.
 
Practically every private international committee in town has also participated in this project: Venetian Heritage, Save Venice Inc., The Venice in Peril Fund, The Venice International Foundation, Friends of Venice Italy Inc. and the Comité Francais pour la Savegarde de Venice.

Canova, Hayez and Cicognara - The Ultimate Glory of Venice runs through April 2, 2018, so you've got six months to see it.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Native North Americans in Venice - The Luciano Benetton Collection: 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. At 82-years-old, he has the energy of someone decades younger. 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. By the end of 2017, there will be more than 26,000 artists who will have participated in the 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. Each collection is gathered into a book published by Fabrica.

Introspection by Joseph Sagai (2014) Native American Collection
The exhibition 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.

There are four different collections in the Great and North exhibition, which is described as being "dedicated to the North of the American continent: 759 artists give shape to the contemporary creativity of Central-Eastern Canada, Western Canada, the Inuit and North American Indigenous Artists." 

You can also view the images on Google Arts & Culture, where you can enlarge them to suit your sight. Click to go to the Native Art Visual Visions - Contemporary North American Indigenous Artists Collection.



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 both teenage girls and boys 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 7:30:



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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Live! From the 74 Venice International Film Festival! A Star is Born: Hong Chau in DOWNSIZING

Hong Chau in Downsizing
(Venice, Italy) Kudos to Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for writing a script with a great role for a woman -- and a Vietnamese dissident with an amputated leg, no less. Hong Chau will certainly be nominated when award season rolls around for her role as Ngoc Lan, a house cleaner who captures Matt Damon's heart after he shrinks down and moves into Leisureland, New Mexico, the ultimate suburbia for small people.

Searching for a compassionate solution to overpopulation, Norwegian scientists discover a method to shrink human beings down to five inches. The perk for the planet is that an entire community produces a single ordinary bag of trash in a year. But the real appeal for most of those who volunteer to undergo the procedure is that they instantly become rich.


Downsizing stars Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon arrive at the Venice Film Festival Credit:Joel Ryan
Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, who still lives in the same house in Omaha that he grew up in, first with his mother, then with his wife (Kristen Wigg). When they are turned down for a mortgage, they decide to join the ever-growing group of folks who have downsized after they learn that their assets of $125,000 would be worth $12.5 million in a town designed for the small. They could easily afford a McMansion -- not to mention spa treatments, tennis, jewels -- everything the consumer culture dreams of achieving, and not exactly what the Norwegian scientists had in mind when pondering ways of how to save the planet.

Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Hong Chau and Alexander Payne
The reviews are mostly positive, but with caveats:

From Variety:

Alexander Payne's science-fiction comedy about humans who get miniaturized to save the planet (and live like royalty) is that rare thing: a ticklish and resonant crowd-pleaser for grown-ups.

 ...Payne may be the closest thing we have to a studio-system classicist. His films are built with a craftsmanship so beveled and honed that it’s beyond impeccable, yet that very precision can, at times, rob his movies of spontaneity. ...the movie, in the end, is more amusing than exhilarating, and what should be its emotional payoff hinges too much (for my taste) on the director’s apocalyptic vision of climate change. “Downsizing” turns into a movie about saving the human race. But it’s most fun when it’s about saving one man whose life turns out to be bigger than a hill of beans.
What I liked best about the film were the international characters that Paul encounters in Leisureland and beyond, throwing him completely out of his Omaha middle-class comfort zone.

From the Daily Beast:

...Paul sets off on one of those oh-so-Hollywood journeys of self-discovery, encountering a series of outsize characters along the way. There is Dusan (Christoph Waltz, deliciously extra), a Serbian smuggler with a penchant for drug-fueled all-night parties in his penthouse suite, and Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau, extraordinary), a cleaning company owner who resides in a dilapidated tenement on the outskirts of Leisureland populated by the (predominately Hispanic) mini-forgotten.

During the press conference, a journalist asked if Payne and Taylor had intentionally set out to write a film where an American man gets educated by Europeans and an Asian woman -- a question I thought was terrific because I had wondered the same thing. Taylor sputtered a bit until finally admitting, "This is the first time we're hearing that."

Christoph Walz and Hong Chau
Hong Chau has been singled out for her dynamic performance:
Variety again: “...Hong Chau’s performance is remarkable. She starts off as a borderline stereotype — a bitter refugee spitting venom in broken English — and then melts into the film’s most surprising character.”
From The Wrap: "If there’s a standout here, it’s Chau, taking a character who could easily have been a saintly martyr and making her funny, bristly, moving and occasionally profane. As awards season kicks up, she should definitely be part of the conversation."
From The Telegraph: "..it’s rescued from mawkishness by some well-placed jabs of dry humour and a terrifically appealing performance from Chau, whose character’s snappy matter-of-factness beautifully complements Damon’s nicely pitched bluff affability. Their chemistry turbo-charges the film through its increasingly foreboding final stretch, in which the fate of humanity (really!) hangs in the balance."
It is a striking coincidence that the film premiered during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the catastrophic flooding in Houston, Texas -- even though Jim Taylor said they had been working on it for about ten years.

Downsizing opens on December 22.

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