Tuesday, August 11, 2015

#Venezia72 Check No. 1 - The Italians Part 2

In the second part of the Italian directors in #Venezia72 competition will check Luca Guadagnino and Marco Bellocchio.

Luca Guadagnino

Born in Palermo, Sicily, Italy in 1971 but spent his childhood in Ethiopia. He and his family went back to Italy in 1977. Has a degree from Rome's University La Sapienza, faculty of History and Critics of Cinema, where he graduated with a thesis on film director Jonathan Demme. Cinephile and occasional cinema critic he begins his filmmaking career with a 1996 documentary about Algeria presented at the African Cinema Festival.

His first short film 1997 Qui opens in the Taormina Festival and two years later in 1999 does his debut feature film The Protagonists that opens at the Venice fest and yes, movie is in English. This film is the first of several collaborations between Guadagnino and Tilda Swinton. After many short films, documentaries and videos, Guadagnino does his debut feature film in Italian, 2005 Melissa P. which has the questionable achievement of toping the Italian box office because is based on a scandalous book by Melissa Panarello.

We arrive to 2009 and his third feature film, multilingual (Russian, Italian and English) Io Sono L'Amore (I'm Love) starring his by now called "fetiche actress" Tilda Swinton. Film opens in the Orizzonti section of the 66th Venice fest, goes to 2010 Sundance and surprise, is screened at 2010 Berlinale in the Culinary Cinema section. Not many films can claim to be screened in 2 of the top 3 festivals, this is one of the few. Film goes to collect multiple honors, including a Golden Globe nomination and an Oscar nod in Best Costume category.

Guadagnino goes back to do shorts and documentaries, until 2015 when he does his fourth feature film, A Bigger Splash, that even before having a world premiere assured distribution in the largest, most desirable market, USA via Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Film screenplay is written by David Kajganich based on a Alain Page story. Worth noting is that Page in 1968, under the pseudonym of Jean-Emmanuel Conil, wrote the story of the Jacques Deray's movie La Piscine starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin and Maurice Ronet. So you can say that A Bigger Splash is a remake of infamous La Piscine. If there is one film I vividly recall is La Piscine as cast was must be seen for me and story shocked my young self. Sigh.

So the idea of watching a remake does NOT thrill me as wish to keep my La Piscine troubling memories and do not wish to change them by watching the movie once again, now when I'm much wiser (lol). But then I have to see everything with Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts has been consistently performing quite well in his films after Rust and Bone, and yes Guadagnino captivated me with his 2009 Io Sono L'Amore, also starring Tilda Switon -plus great Alba Rohrwacher.

I do have expectations for A Bigger Splash; perhaps they are not too high as definitively do not appreciate this trend with Italian directors directing films in English, but acknowledge that Guadagnino has done before great films in English. Still, hope to see good performances by Swinton and Schoenaerts plus maybe, just maybe, with the plot subtle changes story will look/feel different from La Piscine.  In my opinion the biggest challenge that Guadagnino's A Bigger Splash has is to successfully arouse the same incandescent sensual/sexual perturbation/tension strongly present in La Piscine. Some French films have tried to replicate it but none has succeed as much as what Delon, Schneider, Ronet and Birkin did under Deray's guidance.  If you're in the mood to watch some old footage check La Piscine trailer here.

Tilda Swinton will be once again in contention for the Best Actress Coppa Volpi; she already won one in 1991 for her performance in Edward II by Derek Jarman.

Basic info about A Bigger Splash
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writers: David Kajganich (screenplay), Alain Page (story)
Language: English
Runtime: 120 min
Production Countries: Italy and France
Production Companies: Frenesy Film Company (Luca Guadagnino), Cota Film (Michael Costigan), Studio Canal, Poisson Rouge Pictures
Distribution: Fox Searchlight Pictures (USA), Studio Canal (France, Germany and UK) Lumière (Belgium and Netherland), Frenetic Films (Switzerland), Fabula Films (Turkey), Studio Canal (World Sales)

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson

Plot Summary
#1 -Remake of the French detective film La piscine (1968), A Bigger Splash is a thriller featuring the rock star Marianne Lane and her fiancé, the film director Paul, who are on holiday in the idyllic and remote island of Pantelleria. The sudden visit of Harry, an old friend and Marianne’s secret lover, and of his daughter Penelope, will drag all the characters into a whirlpool of passion and jealousy. (From Biennale site)

#2 -In A Bigger Splash, the lives of a high profile couple, a famous rock star and a filmmaker, vacationing and recovering on the idyllic sun-drenched and remote Italian island of Pantelleria are disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter creating a whirlwind of jealousy, passion and, ultimately, danger for everyone involved.

Film Promo Photo

Marco Bellocchio

Born on November 9, 1939 in Bobbio, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. He is one of the most renown contemporary Italian directors; he made a big impact on radical Italian cinema in the mid-sixties and was friend of one of my most admired directors, Pasolini.

Studied Philosophy in Milan and in 1959 he goes to Rome to frequent the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia; goes to Slade School of Fine Arts in London and directs his first three short films: Abbasso lo zio (1961), La colpa e la pena (1961) e Ginepro fatto uomo (1962). Worth mentioning is his short, I pugni in Tasca that went to win the Silver Sail at 1965 Locarno fest.

Bellocchio career is long and large as just in IMDb has 44 credits as director, 43 credits as writer, 10 credits as an actor, 9 credits as producer and more in other filmmaker tasks; I do know that there are omissions in what IMDb recorded but for the purpose of this exercise, mention this data to get a clearer idea of how large is his filmmaking career. Not surprisingly he has been numerous times in Berlin, Cannes and Venice; he has collected major honors in those festivals and worth mentioning is the Silver Bear Special Jury Prize for La Condanna at 1991 Berlinale. In 2011 Venice fest he won a Career Golden Lion and has been honored with retrospectives in multiple festivals.  Just now at #Locarno68, Bellocchio will be honored with the Pardo d'Onore 2015.

From his more recent filmography perhaps his better known films are Vincere that premiered in competition at 2009 Cannes and Bella Addormentata that opened in competition at 2012 Venice fest. He comes back to Venice once again in competition for a Golden Lion with Sangue del Mio Sangue.

To me Bellocchio was another Italian director that didn't shine as much as his most famous colleagues, Pasolini or Fellini; but with his later work, from the 1990's, he has become quite interesting to my eyes with good storytelling, great cinematography and high production values films. Have no doubt that Blood of My Blood (aka L'Ultimo Vampiro) will have all of the above plus a great performance by one of my favorite contemporary Italian actress: Alba Rohrwacher. Do have expectations but perhaps what makes them a bit lower is the vampire story, as for me is hard to imagine another vampire movie that could be truly different from what could be found in the massive vampire filmography from allover the world.

Not sure if Alba Rohrwacher role is long enough for her being considered as a contender for the Coppa Volpi Best Actress; but if she does then will be quite an achievement if she wins, as she won that award last year with her performance in Hungry Hearts by Saverio Costanzo.

Basic info about Sangue del Mio Sangue (Blood of My Blood)
Director: Marco Bellocchio
Scriptwriter: Marco Bellocchio
Language: Italian
Runtime: 105 min
Production Countries: Italy, Switzerland and France
Production Companies: Kavac Film, IBC Movie, Rai Cinema, Barbary Films, RSI-Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Amka Films Productions
Distribution: 01 Distribution (Italy), Bellissima Films (France); The Match Factory (World Sales)

Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio

Plot Summary
Just like his twin brother -a priest-, Federico - a young businessman - is seduced by Sister Benedetta, who is condemned to be walled up alive in the ancient prison of Bobbio. Centuries later, another Federico, self-declared ministerial inspector, comes back to the same place. He discovers that the building is still inhabited by a mysterious lord who comes alive only during the night


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