Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 3 - 69th Venice International Film Festival

Today is a slow day for me as there are not many movies that I'm interested and the movie that really calls my attention is one that I have seen from one of my most admired directors, a 1969 movie by Pier Paolo Pasolini.No, I don't feel like revisit film, what I have in my memory archive is better than what I could see today.

Venezia 69

Paradies: Glaube (Paradise: Faith) by Ulrich Seidl

Thanks to Cannes we already know about Seidl trilogy and just a few months later we have the second installment that continues to explore sex but this time related to religion. Sex and religion are by itself complex themes, but having them together I'm sure will be even more complex and yes, more controversial.  The synopsis.

In PARADIES: Glaube Ulrich Seidl explores what it means to bear the cross. For Annamaria, an X-ray technician, paradise lies with Jesus. She devotes her vacation to missionary work, so that Austria may be brought back to the path of virtue. On her daily pilgrimage through Vienna, she goes from door to door, carrying a foot-high statue of the Virgin Mary. One day, after years of absence, her husband, an Egyptian Muslim confined to a wheelchair, comes home. Hymns and prayers are now joined by fighting. PARADIES: Glaube recounts the stations of the cross of a marriage and the longing for love. PARADIES: Glaube is the second film in Ulrich Seidl’s “PARADIES-Trilogy.” PARADIES: Liebe, the first part, is about Annamaria’s sister Teresa, for whom paradise is to be found in more earthly love in Kenya.

Wonder why the sex component was skipped from the synopsis, but not only early film reviews already have headlines with the sex and religion words, but we know that in the trilogy sex is a main component. Still, sex is clearly stated in the director's statement.

The starting point for the screenplay was a true story that I showed in my documentary, Jesus, Du weisst, and that I developed in PARADIES: Glaube using fictional means. It’s about a woman who, disappointed with earthly love and her marriage (to a Muslim), turns to Jesus—whom she not only worships and loves spiritually, but also desires sexually as a lover. Over the course of the film’s genesis, which spanned four years, my interest turned more to the conjugal conflict that erupts one day when Annamaria’s past catches up with her: she is unable to recognize that her blind love of Jesus leads to inhumanity and an inability to love—and the loss of the Christian virtue of loving your fellow man.

As some of you recall, I was not able to finish watching Seidl's Import/Export and wonder if I will enjoy his trilogy; maybe I'll watch the first installment for the dark humor I saw in clips but the second installment seems will not appeal at all to me. Then maybe if I like Love then could give a try to Faith.

At Any Price by Ramin Bahrani

Not particularly interested in movie that to me seems more mainstream than anything else and since I have an eclectic taste for movies know will watch this movie just because was in this festival but my expectations will be quite low. Not as bad as it seems as with low expectations film could surprise me.

Film stars are Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham, Zac Efron among others and has the following synposis.

Set in the competitive world of modern agriculture, ambitious Henry Whipple wants his rebellious son Dean to help expand his family’s farming empire. However, Dean has his sights set on becoming a professional race car driver. When a high-stakes investigation into their business is exposed, father and son are pushed into an unexpected situation that threatens the family’s entire livelihood.

Story seems like a father-son story but if we read the director's statement we realize that's more than that.

During the six months I spent with farmers in the American Midwest, the two phrases I heard most were “Expand or Die” and “Get Big or Get Out.” These mantras fuel American and global dreams of success. Modern farmers run multi-million dollar businesses with highly advanced technology, while doubling as genetically modified seed-salesmen, who constantly check the global markets on their smart phones. The pressures are immense. I wanted to know what happens to a man when he values expansion of business over his family, his neighbor, his community and ultimately himself. Can his family stay together in the face of this intensely competitive world?

Can't help but to mention that is surprising that Dennis Quaid is not in Venice as actually he is the lead in movie; maybe they want to promote the younger actors. Sigh. In this moment the live streaming of the movie red carpet with many teen girls screaming for Efron, no, will not watch it (lol).

Out of Competition

Tai Chi 0 by Stephen Fung

A film for Martial Arts movies fans, which I'm not even do I have seen my share of genre films. Filmed along the sequel Tai Chi Hero I don't doubt that both films will please fans. Here is the synopsis.

As an uncommonly gifted child, Yang Luchan had a fleshy abnormality that holds tremendous power growing on his forehead. However being teased as the town fool, Yang’s mother spurs him to practice martial arts, and following her wishes, Yang travels the distance to come to Chen village to learn Tai Chi. At this legendary village, everyone practices Tai Chi and uses Tai Chi in every aspect of their lives. Nevertheless, it is forbidden for a villager to disclose Tai Chi to an outsider, and Yang learned this the hard way. Upon arriving at the village, locals discourage Yang by challenging him with fights. From the strong men to hold ladies to children, everyone defeats Yang with their Tai Chi moves. After facing the toughest battle and being defeated by Master Chen’s beautiful daughter Yuniang, Yang is determined to master the art of Tai Chi and he needs to fi nd Master Chen. Little does Yang know, the poor strange man who he befriended with is in fact Master Chen who then saved him from the duel with Yuniang. Master Chen realizes Yang’s genius and disguises himself to secretly guide Yang to his self realization of Tai Chi. One day, a frightening steam-powered machine came to the village, lead by Fang Zijing, a childhood friend of Yuniang. He has bribed government officials to permit him to build a railway that will run straight through the village. Yang decided to join forces with Yuniang to defeat Fang Zijing and destroy the machine. This brave act may just win the hearts of the villagers...

To me seems like a classical story in the genre, which I confirm with the director's statement.

Tai Chi is an action adventure trilogy about a hero’s journey that takes place within an “altered history” universe. Instead or working in the realm of a clear historical background, it mixes elements from different eras in China’s past and brings together different fi lm genres in a completely unique way. When it came to how the film should look, producer Chen Kuo-fu and I were in complete agreement that we needed to create something fresh that would appeal to a younger audience. As fascinating as the true history of Tai Chi martial arts may be, our intention was never to preach about its philosophy. Instead, we let the true spirit and philosophy of Tai Chi seep into the story naturally whenever it serves the purpose of the narrative.

There will be a third movie for fans enjoyment. Sigh.

Out of Competition - Special Screenings

Bad 25 by Spike Lee. Lee describes film as his "love letter" to Michael Jackson; he "wanted this film to concentrate on the music".
Preceded by Glory to The Filmmaker Award to Spike Lee ceremony.

Sfiorando Il Muro by Silvia Giralucci and Luca Ricciadi.

Documentary could be interesting just because is about Silvia Giralucci's exploration into the incidents around her father's death; Graziano Giralucci was killed by the Brigate Rosse in 1974 in the MSI headquarters in Padua. Along with Guiseppe Mazzola, they were the terrorist group first victims.

El Impenetrable by Daniele Incalcaterra and Fausta Quattrini
Documentary seems interesting as is about the naive "aim of returning land to its original owners" while facing opposition from other landowners and Government corruption that "promote" aboriginal extermination. All happens in El Chaco, Paraguay. Check the director's statement.

What does being the owner of a piece of land in one of the last frontiers between “civilization” and nature mean today? This question and the role of the owner gave me the basis for the film. In fact, all of the people I met whilst filming opened their doors to me not as a filmmaker but as a landowner. In a system dominated by economy, there is still space for a different idea to the one that sees the planet merely as a chattel to possess and to exploit and where human lives count for nothing.


Wadja by Haifaa Al Mansour

A film by a female director with a nice story that could be interesting. The synopsis.

Wadjda is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and always pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, a neighborhood boy she shouldn’t be playing with, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda’s mother won’t allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. So Wadjda decides to try and raise the money herself. At first, Wadjda’s mother is too preoccupied with convincing her husband not to take a second wife to realize what’s going on. And soon enough Wadjda’s plans are thwarted when she is caught running various schemes at school. Just as she is losing hope of raising enough money, she hears of a cash prize for a Koran recitation competition at her school. She devotes herself to the memorization and recitation of Koranic verses, and her teachers begin to see Wadjda as a model pious girl. The competition isn’t going to be easy, especially for a troublemaker like Wadjda, but she refuses to give in. She is determined to continue fighting for her dreams...

A girl story that seems common but what makes it different is that is set in the Arab world which undoubtedly allows exploration of the role of women in a men driven society. The director's statement shows more clearly about what I believe film will be about.

I’m so proud to have shot the first full-length feature ever filmed entirely inside the Kingdom. I come from a small town in Saudi Arabia where there are many girls like Wadjda who have big dreams, strong characters and so much potential. These girls can, and will, reshape and redefine our nation. It was important for me to work with an all-Saudi cast, to tell this story with authentic, local voices. Filming was an amazing cross-cultural collaboration that brought two immensely talented crews, from Germany and Saudi Arabia, into the heart of Riyadh. I hope the film offers a unique insight into my own country and speaks of universal themes of hope and perseverance that people of all cultures can relate to.

There are some film reviews out and seems that what impresses some is the young lead actress performance.

Poslednyaya Noch (The Last Night) by Julij Jakovlevic Rajzman, USSR, 1936
No, haven't seen film and of course will simply love to be able to watch it.

Venice Classics - Restored Films

Porcile by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy, 1969
Very complex film but very Pasolini. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for? If you're not familiar with director, this is NOT the first film you should see, try Teorema (still my #1 film of all I have seen) after all was the first Pasolini movie I saw.

Il Caso Mattei, Francesco Rosi, Italy, 1972. A classic starring great Gian Maria Volonté.
Followed by Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award to Francesco Rosi ceremony.

Karumen Kokyo Ni Kaeru (Carmen Comes Home) by Kinoshita Keisuke, Japan, 1951
No haven't seen it, yes will love to watch it even when is a comedy. The first ever color film shot in Japan.

Venice Classics - Documentaries

Dai Nostri Inviati - La Rai e L'Instituto Luce Raccontano La Mostra del Cinema di Venezia 1932-1953 by Giuseppe Giannotti, Davide Savelli, Enrico Salvatori
Yes, the fest this year celebrates its 80th birthday, but closed its doors during war time to re-launch in 1946. Documentary tells a slice of the fest history.

Venice Days

Queen of Montreuil by Sólveig Anspach

Not until today I paid attention to this film and after watching again trailer/scene believe that definitively like the filmmaking style even when film is labeled as a comedy. Then surely has to be a darker comedy. But who am I kidding, I love (good) French cinema, so will watch everything. Check the synopsis.

It is early summer, Agathe has come back to France and is at home in Montreuil. She is trying to recover from her husband's death and wants to return to working as a film director. The unexpected arrival at her house of a mother and son from Iceland, a sea lion and a neighbor who she has always desired but never managed to seduce, will give Agathe the strength to get her life back on track.

Synopsis clearly states the comedy lineaments but let's see what director says about his film.

Queen of Montreuil is a comedy about Agathe, and the closure that she will finally get thanks to the arrival of Icelanders accompanied by a sea lion. Queen of Montreuil is about the families we create for ourselves, because sometimes, standing on your own two feet is hard without roots, and because in any case surrounding yourself with many people is better than being alone.

No kidding, when roots are gone is very hard to stand on your own two feet, do I know it. Sigh. Not familiar with director but this film could allow me to meet her.

International Critics' Week

La Citta Ideale by Luigi Lo Cascio

Know that Critics' Week in any festival usually screen "strange" films and this films seems will not be the exception. On the positive side, it's about the first contemporary Italian film that does not look or feel like regular Italian movie. The synopsis.

Michele Grassadonia is a fervent environmentalist. A long time ago, he moved from Palermo to Siena, its ideal city. He has carried out an experiment in his flat for longer than one year: living in full self-sufficiency, without running water or electricity. On a rainy night, Michele gets caught up in a series of confusing and mysterious events. From this moment on, his joyful experience in the ideal city starts to waver.

Collateral Events
Mare Chiuso by Andrea Segre and Stefano Liberti. A documentary about Libyan refugees.
Followed by Council of Europe Meeting

Special Events

Salma Hayek-Pinault will present today the 2012 Gucci Award for Women in Cinema. The five candidates are:
Colleen Atwood, costume design, Snow White and The Huntsman
Nadine Labaki, director, Where do We Go Now?
Brit Marling, actress, Another Earth
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, director, Saving Face
Thelma Schoonmaker, editing, Hugo

Update: This year winner is editor Thelma Schoonmaker.

Always related to Women filmmakers, yesterday Venice Days opened with the Women's Tales shorts but is today and tomorrow there will be Q&A sessions exploring women's creativity in film. It is a chance to dialogue with the short filmmakers but also with Susanne Bier, Mira Nair and Liliana Cavani among others. Great initiative.

Not So Serious

L'Oreal celebrates five years as festival sponsor with a photography exhibition called L'Oreal Paris, omaggio alla bellezza e al cinema, with some quite outstanding black and white photography by Danish photographer Kenneth Willardt. In expo there are photos of the likes of Aishwaraya Rai, Diane Kruger, Gwen Stefani, Leila Bekhti, Claudia Schiffer, Gong Li, Milla Jovovich and more.

Photos celebrating Women Filmmakers

In photo Nadine Labaki, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Thelma Schoonmaker, Brit Marlin and Colleen Atwood.

Group photo with the four directors of Women's Tales.

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