Special Report: 62nd Venice International Film Festival, Report 1

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
I have been to five Venice International Film Festivals since the year 2000. The first festival was my first time in Venice and for anyone who has been there its absolutely amazing to see how a city can be completely serviced by boats. Venice may be full of tourists in this floating museum, still it is glorious to be on the water and experience this beautiful city.

To avoid the mob, I have been staying with Swedish journalists in rented apartments on the Lido. This is a summer vacation spot for Italians and home to the Venice Film Festival for many years back. The festival is the oldest of them all and began in 1932. That year Rouben Mamoulian's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was screened.

There have been quite a few festival heads, and Marco Müller has been in place since last year, a respected expert in Europe on Asian cinema and Chinese literature who speaks Chinese fluently.

Last year there were complaints that were too many Hollywood premieres, and long lines to get into the films. I didn't experience this at all however because why go to a festival to see films that within a few months will be shown in your local theater.

You have probably heard that Ange Lee's Brokeback Mountain won the Golden Lion Award for the Best film this year, a story of two cowboys and their growing passion for one another despite married life on the ranch. My reports on the Venice festival, however, will be about the Venice that isn't usually covered in the media.

This year the opening film by Tsui Hark, Seven Swords came from Hong- the tale of the origins of martial arts in China where peasants learned to defend themselves from renegade bandits and gang lords. The film stars Charlie Young, a petite Chinese actress who learned how to brandish a sword to help defend her village.

Hiyao Miyazaki, the Golden Lion lifetime achievement award winner this year, said he came to receive this honor because of Marco Müller's passion. He doesn't have a DVD player nor does he send email. This humble man with a sweet sense of humor makes animation for all ages. He especially wants children to learn from his characters who battle formidable foes and consequently grow as individuals. Miyasaki was honored with several long standing ovations. At a special press conference the same day he told us his characters are the people around him. Short but sweet, Miyazaki told me doesn't want to explain his films, he simply wants people to see them and discover them on their own.

During the festival, free vaporetto boats to the nearby island St Giorgio were provided for screenings of ten restored Chinese films in a special section entitled the "Secret History of Asian Cinema", with films from Japan and China. Zonglie tu (The Valiant Ones, 1975) by King Hu and Wutai jiemei (Stage Sisters, 1965) by Xie Jin were two of them.

In "The Valiant Ones", a group of peasants and intellectuals, all of equal skill and importance, including a fierce turban-bearing woman, successfully battle against Chinese-Japanese pirates during the Ming dynasty. The battles are majestically choreographed.

"Stage Sisters" is about two women who work for a small countryside opera and who eventually move to Shanghai and become successful artists. Focus is on the plight of Chun hua who escapes from an arranged marriage, refuses to sleep with a military chief, is tied up in the town square for three days and is almost blinded for working independently in Shanghai. Later she joins the Cultural Revolution and creates operas for the people.

For many festival-goers, these retrospectives provide unique opportunities to experience landmarks of world cinema.

Next week and the week to come, more from the festival that ended on September 10th.

For Movie Magazine This is Moira Sullivan, Venice Italy

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62nd Venice International Film Festival, Report 1