Sunday, 4 September 2011

Venice Days 1,2 & 3

My third Mostra in a row, and finally I have some time to watch films. For the past two years I have attended Venice in official capacity as part of the CICAE Art Cinema Management course, and this time, I rocked up just for the movies. Here's a round-up of what I have seen so far:

ALPS is the follow up from DOGTOOTH director Yorgos Lathimos, and follows the same twisted logic of that first film, but fails to bottle the same tension the second time around.

David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD is a very un-Cronenberg-like film in its execution, an elegant period piece with a sharp script by Christopher Hampton. Its themes, though, are thoroughly in the vein of the Canadian filmmakers’ oeuvre: sex, violence and psychology. It was enjoyable despite some heavy handed acting from Keira Knightley, complete with dodgy Russian accent.

PERSEPOLIS was one of the most entertaining films of 2009, so I was looking forward to Strapjani’s follow up, CHICKEN WITH PLUMS, a foray into live action with one of the most talented actors around, Matthew Almaric. It was a huge disappointment – sentimental, clich├ęd and very much attempting to pull off a Jeneut-sense of wonder without the skills to do so.

Al Pacino is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, and he’s brought a film with him: WILD SALOME, an essay-film very much like his directorial debut, LOOKING FOR RICHARD, in which the actor explores the process of putting on Oscar Wilde’s play Salome. It was self-indulgent and had true moments of Spinal Tap-ness about it, but Pacino still has an electric face and voice.

Fassbender is everywhere. Within 24 hours of his turn as Carl Jung, he shows up here in Steve McQueen’s follow up to HUNGER, as an executive with a predilection for prostitutes and porn. SHAME suffers in comparison to HUNGER because of its almost purposefully low-stakes plot, and Carey Mulligan is miscast as his troubled sister. There are a few moments of humour and originality, but overall its just too lightweight and familiar ground.

My favorite film so far has been Emmanuelle Crialese’s TERRAFERMA (pictured), a gentle and straightforward story about a Sicilian island and the struggles of its inhabitants in the age of tourism, dwindling fishing stocks and increasing African immigration. The characters were funny, interesting and real, and the director of THE GOLDEN DOOR has a sharp eye and ear for the Sicilian people and landscape.

Watch this space for more reviews throughout the week.

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