Special Report: The 61st Venice International Film Festival

By Moira Sullivanr
Movie Magazine International
The 61st Venice International Film Festival which ended September 11 is memorable for so many films and happenings and director Marco Mueller pulled off a great lineup as the new director.

Mike Figgis made my festival experience in the opening days by his eloquent and passionate statements about digital film. He headed the Cinema Digitale jury and met with a fraction of the press corps-- to discuss the nature of the digital medium. This after a packed room all juiced up for "The Manchurian Candidate" with Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington on hand. Sometimes you forget that the Venice event stands for innovation in film when star struck journalists rush up to get autographs from the stars like school kids.

At any rate, Figgis says the future of cinema is digital and the films are easy to make. He'll be in Ljubljana/Slovenia from November 1 to 8 to help students shoot their own feature films in a European Film Academy master class In a special 'cinema digitale' event Tim Robbins was on hand to receive a standing ovation for Embedded about the invasion of "Gommorah" by a rogue state run by the "Butcher of Babylon". Robbins wrote, acted and directed the piece for a live audience with insertion of video clips projected during the performance.

In addition to the international critic's week films, and cutting edge digitale work was a retrospective on the Italian Kings of the B's. Quentin Tarantino said he loved this section and who knows if he'll draw any inspiration here for his next project. One film in particular should be played during election year: the late Luciano Salce's satire "Coup d'etat" from 1972, featuring an American computer which makes the Italian communists win the election, The President of the United States, a great Italian Lyndon B Johnson look alike threatens to bomb Italy while the rich flee the country. Includes nice touches such as a female TV singer as troubador. It's hard to understand why this was a B film. It seems far better than Kubrick's "Dr Strangelove".

At Michael Radford's "Merchant of Venice" press conference almost all questions went to Al Pacino who only understands a little Italian and fielded questions donned with headphones. He revealed that director Radford was great in telling him how to take down the volume in his performance as the Jewish merchant Shylocke and revealed some of the subtleties in bringing Shakespeare to screen. Lynne Collins who plays Portia and the 'young doctor' was excellent in her gender bending performance. The film was shot in Luxembourg and Venice--with one extra thrown in the smelly, polluted Venetian canal--I hope he survived.

I had to leave all my recording equipment at home in order to see "Howl's Moving Castle" by Hayao Miyasaki - where bags were checked and slowed down the lines - those lines for fast food coffee and restrooms. But in time you learn to flow with the flow and how to find the ebbs. The festival's most powerful film against war produced the biggest crowd turnout, and least amount of screenings.

Quite less of a crown turned out for festival jury member Spike Lee's "She Hate Me" - about the artificial insemination of 18 lesbians including Monica Bellucci who really was pregnant in the film and recently had a baby with Vincent Cassel. There was another film that tackled new relationships "Agnes and her Brothers" a slick German production of three siblings: a transgender, a sex addict librarian and a rageaholic politician starring last years best Actress at Venice Katja Reimman.

Giving the Palme d'or to Michael Moore might have been premature. Is there something more to learn about the disruption of civil liberties and the panic button then the antics of the present administration? In "Land of Plenty", by Wim Wenders in the festival competittion Wenders digs into this areas in his digital film blown up to Cinemascope with fantastic cinematography.

The first four days were spent with the Hollywood films that kept the festival slow. Some American journalists complained about the lines and you probably read their syndicated articles in your local paper. But generally press screenings went off like clockwork with seats to spare. Remember all these big screenings are designed to pump up the Venice event for the celebrity press, the paparazzi. You can feel the money pumped into these big films, that are so different from the standard competition. Spike Lee rather naively said there was a lot of diversity in big budget films like The Manchurian Candidate, The Terminal, Man on Fire, Collateral and Finding Neverland, She Hate Me included. Tom Hanks said he heard something about a festival competition going on stepping out of the lagoon taxi with Steven Spielberg. With three Dreamworks projects from Jerry Katzenberg, it's all about reaching Italian markets through distribution and Mueller went to Hollywood to flag down producers. Hollywood films actually do better abroad at the box office and this is an opportunity to present the films. Many of the films at Venice have some reference to Italy from handbags, to "The Godfather", and Italian actors or descendants from Italia --Bellucci, Turturro, De Niro.

Manoel de Oliveira said film was born in France but you wouldnt know it here. The Italian American link is strong no matter what and theres not a word about Cannes --it doesnt exist in Venice.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Venice Italy
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The 61st Venice International Film Festival