Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 2 - 69th Venice International Film Festival

After the festival opening ceremony and party, Venice wakes up to the first day full of movies. The first two movies in competition are screened today as well as the opening films in the autonomous sections. So, the real Cinema Festa commences today. Great.

Venezia 69

Izmena (Betrayal) by Kiril Serebrennikov.

I'm always very curious about Russian cinema -some of my most adored directors are Russian- so this film no matter if is labeled as a "disaster movie" by the director, seems like the kind of movie I like as is an exploration on human relationships . This is the synopsis.

A man and a woman, two casual acquaintances, learn that their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. This discovery drives them to do things they didn’t dare to do before. What will prevail—the feeling of jealousy or the passion? What to choose—revenge or forgiveness? The protagonists are looking for something to build a new life upon, but it is not easy: their every action is influenced by the fact of infidelity, and this infidelity has its own logic.

My first reaction to the story is hoping that is not similar to other films that have taken us into explorations of spouses reactions to finding about the affair and then end-up having an affair themselves. But then even if it is as the following director statement suggests, truth is that I haven't seen theme from a Russian perspective.

I made a “disaster movie” about man-woman relationships. The conjugal infidelity serves as the driving force of my story. It is a movie about hidden emotions and thoughts. About things that possibly have even no names in human language. We excluded many things from our movie: the city the protagonists live in, their friends, their enemies. There is only the air full of infidelity, the space of infidelity, the flesh embodying infidelity. Every detail emphasizes the same theme—the ardent desire of the protagonists not to stay lonely and their instinctive yearning to love somebody.

Absolutely a must be seen film for me. As press already have seen movie reviews are out if you wish to check them.

Let's see if there are no major spoilers in the press conference video, so I can fully see it. First question is about why director chose infidelity as the theme, he sees theme just as a beginning (as he says in above statement). Oh! spoilers in awful long question, will close my ears. Answer is good and talks about how he film (tech specs) is made. Video is not really nice to watch as has Italian translation while you can still hear Russian (hate when they do that, they should mute original language). Think will stop watching as more spoilers come and can't stand translator voice. Sigh.

Superstar by Xavier Giannoli.

Will not deny that I see everything with Cécile De France, so there is no surprise that this film is must be seen for me because the actress. Before Venice lineup was announced and because my love for French cinema, I knew about this movie. My first impression was that probably will not like story and film style but nevertheless knew will watch it. To find film in competition at this fest gives me hope that style could be better than what I saw in trailer plus made me curious to find if film was not as mainstream as I imagined.

Film synopsis at official site is brief: Overnight, a complete nobody becomes a celebrity without knowing why. But director statement explains more.

I began with a scene in the metro: passengers photographing and asking autographs from a nobody, who has no idea why they’re interested in him. He is Martin Kazinski and up until this day he was just another face in the crowd, with no ambition other than to do his job and lead a “normal” life. But the more he refuses this absurd celebrity, wanting only to return to his anonymity, the more people will love him. The more Martin will say modestly “I don’t want to be famous,” the more they will reply “That’s why we love you.” The more he tries to escape the system, the more he will lose himself in it. Martin is trapped in a contemporary labyrinth, with its rapacious media, intrusive social networks, crumbling human values and collapsing culture. Right away, I wanted to give his race to escape the madness that seems to take hold of the world a cinematic energy, simultaneously Kafkaesque and Hitchcockian. I wanted us to grow close to this man like a brother, to feel his hopes and his fears, to stick with him through his ordeals—by turn cruel and funny—to be moved by his melancholy view of a world collapsing to the soundtrack of an automatic talk show applause. It’s the story of a lone man standing up against oppression. The story of a man who wants to preserve his dignity, his anonymity, and his decency. I hope it’s also the story of human societies, past and contemporary, and their need for idolatry and sacrifice, that blind madness that can take possession of crowds, inciting them to cut off heads, burn books or tweet while watching cable tv. This is the turmoil in which I wanted my camera to venture, these are the faces on which I wanted to seek what human truth remains for us, and the spaces in which I wanted to examine our History.

Film suggest to be a exploration about today "celebrities", especially the kind that have no reason to be one -now very common in USA pop culture-, perhaps could be interesting.

Let' see the press conference (if just to see Cecile). Unfortunately can't hear original language, but at least video lowered original language, still is the same translator with the annoying voice (lol!). Oh! doing comparisons to Woody film!? Giannoli admits to similarities to Roberto Benigni character in Woody Allen film... hmm, "an homage to Woody". Closing my ears, spoilers, but continue watching Cecile. Should suggest Rai to have two versions, one with the original languages (for those that understand them) and another with translation to the fest official language (just as Cannes does). French newspaper woman does the great question, the role of media in making celebrities, fortunately is Cecile who answers but wisely avoids to directly answer the question, to talk about her character motives. Smart. Director has it easy and follows Cecile until starts to sort of answer the question... at the end says nothing clear. lol. There is no way someone is going to say whatever they really think, the room is full of journalists! (LOL). Seems changed the translator or the woman is losing her voice (!!) as sounds deeper and better. "La société moderne et sa folie".

There is a short interview video with director plus the two actors is in French with no translation (yay!) watching but has spoilers. Because chance not purposely film has similar "essence" story to A la Origine, hmm. Reality TV surfaces again but question is kindly related to Cecile role. A catastrophe film, a society with a catastrophe cultural! Yes, agree Mr. Giannoli. Good like the interview, not bad questions and better answers.

Have to comment that I find strange that film is in Venice as yesterday was released in Belgium and France. Can happen with Asian films, but is about the first time I notice happening with an European film in a major European festival.

Out of Competition

The Iceman by Ariel Vromen.

Not dying to watch film mainly because story but know will watch as films stars include Michael Shannon and Winona Ryder. Synopsis is brief: The Iceman is the true story of Richard Kuklinski, loving husband, devoted father, ruthless killer. He is believed to have killed more than 250 people between 1954 and 1985. This synopsis makes film more interesting to me as can imagine Shannon in the main role and know will be not only highly credible but bordering into scary. Check the director statement.

I always responded to the duality of Richard Kuklinski. In one life, he was an attentive husband and father and in the other he was a professional hit man working for the Italian mob. There is just so much inherent suspense in this story that I couldn’t get it off my mind, particularly when you consider that it’s all true. It’s an epic story about a character that kept his true identity from his loved ones for decades in order to maintain those relationships. He needed that love in order to hold on to his sanity and to feel normal, despite being anything but. The Iceman is a film with intense characters with great moral flaws that still manages to resonate entirely with the audience.

Probably film could be déjà vu for the story, but definitively even do I conclude that is fiction based/inspired by true events, film will have strong interpretations by great cast and will allow me to get to know better this Israeli director. Also in film, Ray Liotta and James Franco, the first is in Venice, the second is not.

They didn't left English in press conference, lol, so frustrating. Winona looks very good, older but more attractive. Video is worth watching for what Winona says with words but mostly with her body language around minute 19 up to 21. Director has had virtual contact with one Kuklinski's daughters as is his friend at facebook and that's the only contact with the real events. Not much interesting, with some spoilers but worth watching for Ryder and Shannon interventions.

Brief interview in English. Ah! there is a book and a documentary. Relation to Killing Them Softly story, but perhaps this is more a character study? Yeah, probably. Story, character are not black and white. Except for last question, questions were interesting as well as answers.

This is another movie that press have seen and has reviews all over the net, check them if you wish. Trailer has been released a few moments ago is at the trailer blog if you wish to check it, film seems to be not-easy to watch but looks and feels like a great movie.

Shokuzai (Penance) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

It is not until this moment that I really pay attention to this film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) only to discover that according to IMDb is a TV series and one reviewer tells us that is a miniseries with 5 episodes. Truth is that in the fest official site film is listed to have 270 minutes, which tells me that at Venice they will see the complete five episodes, great as is the best way to watch episodic series, in one run. Also tells me that Venice is following Cannes example by also screening TV films on their Official Selection.

You could ask me why would I be interested in talking about a TV series by a director that's famous for Japanese horror (J-Horror) films, when I don't like genre? First, we have to recall that Kurosawa also directed outstanding 2008 Tokyo Sonata and second, the mini-series is based on a book by Kanae Minato with the same name; perhaps some of you recall that Minato is the writer of Kokuhaku (Confessions), a novel that became a film by Tetsuya Nakashima, which went to be Japan's submission to 2011 Oscar. Most important, if you read my Kokuhaku review you will know that film blew my mind for story and movie as a movie. Immediately miniseries became must be seen for me.

Story is undoubtedly similar to Kokuhku; but in difference, does not stay among children as story is centered in the children adulthood. Check synopsis.

Fifteen years ago, tragedy struck a small town when a young elementary school girl Emili was abducted and killed by a stranger. Four girls who had been playing with Emili at the time are the first to discover her body. The abductor is never found and the crime goes unsolved. Crazed with grief, Emili’s mother Asako condemns the four girls, none of which can remember the abductor’s face. She tells them, “Do whatever you have to to find the killer. Otherwise, you can pay a penance that I approve.” Deeply affected by Asako’s condemnation, the four girls become adults burdened with the curse of “penance” which eventually triggers a chain of tragic events.

Director fascinating statement only makes me more curious thanks to him expressing surprising naiveté and doing what not many directors do, caring for viewers reactions.

I think of “murder” as an impulsive and irrational crime. Yet, I suppose it must be a process that takes years, maybe decades to culminate... I’ve never directed a film that chronicles such an extraordinary span of time. In this film, I had to grasp five such intervals at once, and it was staggering. How do I portray not one, but five such disparate lives? But in the end, I think this was the best way. When five tragic paths converged, I pictured a flowing, inevitable force called fate. Which of the five characters will viewers empathize with? Or will they just sit, mesmerized, holding their collective breaths? With a powerful story, amazing staff and dynamic actors supporting me, I may have captured true tragedy for the first time in my life.

There is a video with the press conference that I have not seen as I have enough information to make this film a must be seen for me. Great!

Out of Competition - Special Screenings

Come Voglio Che Sia Il Mio Futuro? Un Progetto di Ermanno Olmi by Maurizio Zaccaro

Ermanno Olmi developed this project with the students of the last five years of the workshop "Ipotesi Cinema Formazione" in Bologna. The hundreds of interviews conducted throughout Italy, selected and edited, have now become a film under the artistic direction of Maurizio Zaccaro, offering a significant cross section of the expectations, hopes, disappointments and fears of young people today.


Tango Libre by Frédéric Fonteyne.

The fourth film by Fonteyne brings us a love story, not a duo or a trio but between four people, one woman and three men; what calls my attention is that according to director, film also makes music and dancing the "part belle" These are his words: "Tango Libre est une histoire d’amour. Non, pas à deux ni à trois, mais à quatre. C’est aussi un film qui fait la part belle à la musique et à la danse." More dryly here is the synopsis.

JC is a prison guard. He is an ordinary man with an uneventful life. His only extravagance is tango dancing, once a week. In class one evening, he dances with a newcomer, Alice, who is in her 30’s, radiant and the mother of a 15-year-old teenager. The next day, he sees Alice again in the prison visiting room. She has come to visit two inmates, Fernand and Dominic, age-old friends and “partners-in-crime”—one is her husband, the other her lover. JC, the ordinary man, finds himself as a spectator to the all too eventful life of this uncommon woman. A woman who lives according to her desires and according to her own rules, divided between her men and her son. Prison regulations prohibit socializing with inmates’ families... JC is about to break all the rules that have defined his life. Tango libre is the last part of a trilogy by Frédéric Fonteyne about how women and love work. After Une liaison pornographique and La femme de Gilles he offers us—through the eyes of a prison guard in love—the portrait of a free woman who accepts life’s constraints in order to better overcome them.

I know will watch film that starts Sergi Lopez (usually enjoy his performances) but let's check the director's statement.

Tango and filmmaking have something in common. They both reveal things about bodies that you wouldn’t have seen, reveal the tragicomic awkwardness of the characters, its beauty. Tragicomedy, and, even more so, comedy, is about bodies and sex. The story always revolves around that... and the absurdity, awkwardness and beauty that goes with it, also, the stupidity, which fascinates and inspires me... and to which I feel a certain kinship. Not the stupidity that turns into violence, but the other kind, the one filled with love, the one we are guilty of because we try to make things work out. Prison is also a metaphor for the impossible nature of relationships between men and women. More than a prison film, this is a “visiting-room film,” a film about the place where families meet.

Seems that could enjoy film more than what imagined. Available the press conference video that I didn't watch.

Gli Equilibristi by Ivano de Matteo.

Valerio Mastrandea and Barbora Bobulova star in this film that seems to me like a regular good Italian drama. The synopsis.
Giulio is forty and lives a seemingly quiet life: a rented house, a permanent job, a car paid for by instalments, a rebellious but nice daughter, a sweet dreamy son and a wife he loves and cheats on. Giulio is caught out and dumped. His perfect life suddenly falls apart. So what happens to a couple that “dares” to separate these days? Through a series of sometimes tragic, sometimes ironic events, Gli equilibristi takes us by the hand into the world of a man who suddenly discovers how easy it is to be one step away from losing everything.

Pagine Chiuse, Gianni Da Campo, Italy, 1968
Director’s Statement: I made this fi lm because I wanted to expose the traumas that the pre-Vatican Council II Catholic education infl icted on so many human beings. In the 1950s Catholicism was the paradigm of violence, dishonour and bullying. In the fi lm there are insensitive priests who talk about Christ but do not know him.

Venice Classics - Restored Films

Heaven's Gate by Michael Cimino, USA.
Before movie screening Cimino receives the 2012 Persol award. Of course have seen what many consider as the biggest flop in America cinema, but no matter if it did not make money, I liked movie starring none other than Isabelle Huppert among other American actors. Restored film has the "original" 219 minutes and story is considered today as a "visionary critique" of American expansionism.

Camicie Rosse by Goffredo Alessandrini and Francesco Rosi, Italy, 1952
Another film starring Raf Vallone this time along extraordinary Anna Magnani that have seen a long time ago. It's a Giuseppe Garibalidi story, but seen from the wife perspective. A remake of a 1910 silent film. Worth watching if you haven't seen it and enjoy watching older films with a different style from contemporary cinema.

Sunset Blvd. by Billy Wilder, USA, 1950
Classic movie with William Holden and Gloria Swamson that I watched on TV when I was a little person.

Also today the following shorts.
Terra Animata by Luca Patella, Italy, 7', 1967
SKMP2 by Luca Patella, Italy 30', 1968

Venice Classics - Documentaries
Section screens today the following documentaries.
Miradas Múltiples (La Máquina Loca) by Emilio Maillé, Mexico, France and Spain (Puzzling)
Monicelli, La Versione di Mario by Mario Canale, Felice Farina, Mario Gianni, Wilma Labate and Annarosa Morri, Italy

Special Screenings
Convitto Falcone by Pasquale Scimeca. Seems like a regular Italian movie.

Venice Days

Women's Tales by Zoe Cassavetes, Giada Colagrande, Lucrecia Martel, Massy Tadjedin
The long "ads" by great filmmakers with crazy stories and truly visually stunning. Have seen all as the last one was released today. Check trailers blog if you wish to see it.

Pinocchio by Enzo D’Alò.
Have to be honest, don't like the drawings maybe the storytelling is nice but animation does not appeal to me. Sigh. The words from the director: "It was the most difficult, absorbing, experimental and tricky film I have ever made. Over three hundred artists shared my joy and pain for over four years, in an extraordinary atmosphere of collaboration. You can see all of this in every scene from Pinocchio, our very own darling in search of happiness".

Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley.

Sarah Polley's performances as an actor always impress me, some really scare me, but when she is behind the camera as a director, she impresses me more. Her latest film is a documentary inspired by a painful personal incident in which she learned the man who is her father was not her biological father. Here is what she says about her film:

“Making this film was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It took five years and tormented me. I didn’t want to make it, and I wanted to give up many times along the way, but I also didn’t want this story to be out there in the words of someone other than the many people who lived it.”

The story behind this documentary seems fascinating, especially when you consider that Polley's mother died when she was 11-years-old and found about her biological father by accident. Definitively will watch for story but mostly because Polley is behind the camera.

If you wish to learn more about film suggest to check the "story of how this film came to be" in a post by Sarah Polley at the NFB blog.  I can't write about the film as has not seen it but definitively will see it and then comply with Polley's request: "I hope people will write about the film itself and not only the story it is based on". Can't wait.

Film reviews are out and one particular harsh critic that I follow liked the documentary (!!!), good; browse net to find reviews.

International Critics' Week

Water by Nir Sa'ar, Maya Sarfaty, Mohammad Fuad, Yona Rozenkier, Mohammad Bakri, Ahmad Bargouthi, Pini Tavger, Tal Haring

The opening film is screened out of competition. A short collection about Istrael-Palestina relationships.  Check the synopsis.

In the countryside, a young couple from Tel Aviv has to share a fountain with a group of Palestinian workers, between ancestral fears and hints of solidarity (Still Waters by Nir Sa’ar e Maya Sarfaty). During the summer, a Palestinian water seller supplies tanks and wells in the Bethlehem area, as it is left dry by the settlers (The Water Seller by Mohammad Fuad). An Israeli soldier on the verge of a nervous breakdown and a Palestinian peasant who violates curfew to water his watermelons. Together, they try to tame a donkey. (Raz and Raja by Yona Rozenkier). A famous actor and his two sons have a particular relationship, based on misunderstandings and eyedrops, with their neighbour, an old woman who survived the concentration camps (Eye Drops by Mohammad Bakri). An old Arab man, who lived in the US for years, manages a swimming pool. Here we find Palestinian families, who have never seen the sea, but then bossy Israeli settlers come to invade this space. (Kareem’s Pool by Ahmad Bargouthi). An Israeli soldier, during a break from his drills, remembers an episode from his childhood: his mother was washing his hair in the bathtub, while his father was urging him on to hurry up. (Drops by Pini Tavger). A young and shy orthodox Jew is waiting for her parents to take her to a Shidduch, the meeting to combine a marriage. In the meanwhile, she has a bizarre conversation with an Arab plumber through a closed door. (Now and Forever by Tal Haring).

The directors: The shorts composing Water are directed by (clockwise from top left): Nir Sa’ar e Maya Sarfaty (Israel), Mohammad Fuad (Palestine), Yona Rozenkier (Israel), Mohammad Bakri (Palestine), Tal Haring (Israel), Pini Tavger (Israel), Ahmad Bargouthi (Palestine).

Special Events

Homage to Simone Massi with screening of seventen of his shorts. To read more go here.

Not So Serious

Been reading articles that this year the fest has not much "celebrities" but definitively is a matter of opinion and/or what writer consider as celebrities. In my book the fest will have many very good actors of the present and the past, but I do accept that most come from non-American films. For example today in Venice we see great Cecile De France, puzzling Sergi Lopez and interesting Valerio Mastandrea. Know that some of you might not be familiar with them but they're very well-known actors across the pond. Then maybe not Hollywood A-listers but today are here Michael Shannon, Ray Liotta and none other than Winona Ryder.

Last night was the festival opening ceremony but tonight start the less formal affairs, so we will see what we find tomorrow.


Laetitia Casta today and Kate Hudson last night.  Should remind you that just click any photo to see slide show.  Enjoy!

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