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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Day 8 - 69th Venice International Film Festival


Some interesting films but what really surprised me as was very unexpected is how elegant young Hollywood actresses look today at their film photocall; check photos at the end of post.

Venezia 69

Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) by Marco Bellocchio

Definitively must be seen for me not only because is a Bellocchio film but also for the outstanding cast that includes Toni Servillo, Isabelle Huppert and Alba Rohrwacher. The three stories rotate about a not easy to watch and highly controversial (especially in a Catholic country) theme, euthanasia; that's why Eluana Englaro's, Italian famous cause-celebre, six last days are the frame where movie moves. The synopsis.

The film takes place in various parts of Italy over six days, which are Eluana Englaro’s last and whose story remains in the background. The stories of fictional characters from different faiths and ideologies are connected emotively to that case, in an existential reflection on the reasons for living life and for hope despite everything. A senator has to choose whether to vote for a law that goes against his conscience or not, going against the party line, whilst his daughter Maria, an activist in a pro-life movement, demonstrates outside the clinic where Eluana is being treated. Roberto, alongside his brother, is on the opposing secular front; an “enemy” who Maria falls in love with. Elsewhere, a great actress looks to her faith and a miracle to save her daughter, who has been in an irreversible coma for years, and for whom she has sacrificed her relationship with her son. Finally, there is the desperate Rossa who wants to die, but a young doctor called Pallido opposes her suicide with all his might. And against all expectations, at the end of the film, there is a reawakening...

Somehow surprising is to learn that film has wry humor, but then I came to realize that definitively will ease whatever we will see in movie. It is clear to me that Bellocchio's vision of Englaro's case will be emotional, as emotional as situation was for him. This is what Servillo said in a interview.

E' un film che piuttosto che occuparsi dell'aspetto fisiologico del coma, si occupa del coma dei sentimenti. Si occupa del coma delle idee, di un'anarcosi generale che viene raccontata come una possibilità di risvegli.

Plus see what Bellocchio says in the director's statement.

The film stemmed from the powerful emotions (and amazement) I felt at the death of Eluana Englaro. However, I also felt that this involvement risked limiting my imagination; I felt that it was necessary to broaden the horizon... I waited for two years and in that time the other stories were developed that were not far from Eluana’s but independent of it. They were “fished” from a distant time, from my whole life, childhood, adolescence, family, Catholic education, political compromise, moral principles. They came from the need to be consistent with one’s ideas, from the refusal to give up when faced with a life in danger that nevertheless retains all the potential for recovery and rebirth. Without Eluana dying there would be no Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty), who wakes up.

Has to be emotional. Films inspired in controversial real-events usually become also controversial and don't doubt that film will not be the exception. Still according to Italian media, film was received with applauses, so there is hope that film will not be that hard to watch.

Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine

Not really interested in watching this film because of cast (really dislike James Franco) and director, as I didn't liked his 2007 film Mister Lonely. But since is in competition decided to talk a little about it to share what is being said in the Net about film.

Headlines from "serious" reviewers (English and non-English) are not positive while some trendy English-speaking reviewers tend to say that film is great, even if is the director's most mainstream film and style. The last comment is important to conceptualize inside Korine's world as even his most mainstream will be really further away from standard mainstream movies.

I imagine film will become a cult movie in American Indie cinema, as many of Korine's film have become. My suggestion: watch at your own risk, as film has been labeled as bordering teen-ish porn. Sigh.

Out of Competition

O Gebo e a Sombra by Manoel de Oliveira

Can't say that I'm a director's fan but for sentimental reasons have to see Jeanne Moreau and Claudia Cardinale in the big screen as has been so long especially the last one. Also here great Michael Londsdale. Story could not be easy to watch but then the spoken language perhaps makes it easier as film is in French. The synopsis.

Gebo lives with his wife and his daughter in law, his only son’s wife, in a humble house. Their son has been silent in a while, to the mother’s despair. The father suspects his son is devoting himself to not so commendable activities, but he does what he can to keep it from his wife. The daughter in-law takes care of them as if they were their own parents. Nonetheless, she waits for her husband. Suddenly one night the son shows up. The mother believes in his return, but the father has no illusions. Intentionally or not, the father doesn’t hide the colossal amount of money he’s been keeping, belonging to the company in which he works as the treasurer. His son shamelessly steals from him. The father has no choice and keeps from his wife their son’s fraud against his employer...

From what I have seen film seems like theater and seems I'm not that lost as somehow there may be a relationship according to the director's statement.

The idea for this film stemmed from having been approached by a friend who asked me to make a film about the poor. Yes, that was a good idea, but making a film about the poor isn’t easy. Subsequently I recalled Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, which was highly discussed by the most prominent intellectuals. Accordingly, José Régio, who had always been a quite farseeing critic, reminded that, after all, Raul Brandão’s play, The Hunchback and His Shadow, was already the anticipation of what would become Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Which leads me back to Brandão’s The Hunchback and His Shadow, because despite being a play from the past century it easily adapts to our current situation, both ethically and economically, without any preconceptions. On the contrary—it remains contemporary and universal. Also, it’s not the first time I’m using France as the scenery of my films. The film is spoken in French. I’m a great admirer of France, a country which invented the cinematographer which gave birth to many works of art, essential today and in the future, I suppose. As the great Mexican director Arturo Ripstein said: “Cinema is the mirror of life.” Besides my acknowledgement of France as the country of invention, I also have a personal debt to the French critics as they welcomed my first film presented at the 5th Congress of Film Critics, in Lisbon, in 1931.

No matter the story or film style, the great cast makes movie highly appealing to me.

Venice Days

Heritage (Inheritance) by Hiam Abbass

I'm huge fan of Hiam Abbass performances and her debut as a filmmaker makes me very curious to learn her vision translated into the screen. Still, film is must be seen because Abbass also performs in what I call a classic story about Palestinians living in Israel explored thru human/family drama. The synopsis.

A Palestinian family living in northern Galilee gathers to celebrate the wedding of one of their daughters, as war rages between Israel and Lebanon. When the father falls into coma and inches toward death, internal conflicts explode within the family - secrets are revealed and lies are unmasked.

Have seen many films with similar stories and could watch many more. But, not often we have the opportunity to see this story told by a woman director, much less from a Palestinian born in Israel as Abbass describes herself. An excerpt from her comments.

As a Palestinian born in Israel, I´ve always wondered about my identity as a woman and an artist who grew up in a traditional society. I felt I was on the margins of non-Arab society in Israel, foreign to its tradition and ways of functioning. Yet I felt just as alienated from traditional Arab society laden with conservative values. The Palestinians of Israel are torn between tradition and modernism. They feel partially excluded from Israel, and therefore try to preserve what is left of their traditions in order to protect this threatened Palestinian identity. They embrace these traditions in a strong family structure that gives them the impression of creating a "true home" In this context, the men take power over the women, giving them little room to build their independence as individuals. Women are forced to fight for a certain form of equality. The path followed by the main character (Hajar) is similar to mine.

Hajar is played by none other than Hafsia Herzi, an actress that I also enjoy. As I imagined film had to be a very personal vision. Great. What do I expect from film? Great performances in a difficult family drama that reflect larger -political, social- conflicts.

International Critics' Week

No Quiero Dormir Sola (She Doesn't Want to Sleep Alone) by Natalia Beristáin

Lately have been very interested in learning more about the "new wave" of Mexican filmmakers that definitively are doing very unconventional films while telling not that uncommon stories. I have not enjoyed all films that have seen but do recognize that there is "something" going on in Mexico cinema, a new movement that is gestating and comes after what I call the "Carlos Reygadas movement". Very interesting indeed.

Finding this movie in the most unconventional section of any festival makes me think that Natalia Beristain probably belongs to the above trend, but also according to the movie clips I have seen in several director's interviews. The synopsis.

Amanda lives in a flat offered by her father, a famous actor with whom she is in bad terms. Although she has grown up in affluence, she is now adrift without a stable job. Besides this, she has also a psychological problem: she cannot sleep alone. Every night, she looks for someone to sleep with her, but the next morning this person is felt like a burden to her. This fragile balance is further shaken when she has to assist her grandmother, once a famous actress, and now an old person facing alcoholism and Alzheimer. Grandmother and granddaughter will slowly get to know each other to discover their respective human and affective spheres.

As expected story seems common, ordinary; how the story is told is what I believe it will matter. One of the few Latin American films in this year festival had a full theater plus collected applauses after the press screening. Italian media praises film and "unexpected" end. Good. Could this film be the Opera Prima award winner? Maybe.

News

The 2012 Robert Bresson Award for lifetime achievements went to Ken Loach.

Not So Serious

Let's start to speculate. More than half of the 18 films in competition has been screened, some with speculation that could be fest top award winner. If jury behaves like Italian and international media then NO doubt that the front contender for this year top award is The Master and not surprisingly both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are contenders for the Copa Volpi. Also a contender, Toni Servillo for any/both of his performances. Strangely enough there has not been much buzz about the Best Actress or Best Director, as seems media hasn't been impressed until today. But jurors do not behave like media and doubt that in their minds The Master is the movie to beat from first position.

Photos

Young Hollywood invades Venice. Very well-dressed and elegant Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez.


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