Special Report By Moira Sullivan
With the prizes given out, and the press, agents and stars all water taxied out of this historic city, some final words on the Venice Film Festival, just ended last week -- Hopefully some of the films lucky enough to be bought by distributors will come to a theater near you.
From Sean Penn's press conference at Cannes in May we learned that he hoped that the worldwide market would do justice to his film The Pledge, which the US public failed to acknowledge. Did Steven Spielberg hope for the same with debuting A.I out of competition at Venice? Unable to attend the event, the filmmaker made a 7 minute film, a kind of operation guide which he hoped would warm up a film he claims was worked through from Stanley Kubrik's original idea, HAL 9000 transformed into a modern day Pinocchio. It was significant to hear the number of boos to the film from the Italian audience where the 1883 Carlo Collodi story of a puppet who comes alive was created. William Hurt's technocratic Gepetto character is markedly underplayed in contrast to a now chilling underwater sequence where New York is buried, the tips of its tallest buildings surviving in a distant future. Its mentioned that Venice long ago sunk but the Blue Fairy and the happy ending suture characteristic of Hollywood films lives on, hence the hisses.
The question is if films like A.I. aren't designed to enter the lion's head at Venice from their inception. Last year Ed Harris' Pollock debuted at the festival, a film about artist Jackson Pollock and art philanthropist Peggy Guggenheim, the only foreigner allowed to have her own gondola and whose home is now an art museum on the Venetian Grande Canal. This year Bruce Wagner's Women in Film , a tale of three women working in the Hollywood film industry ,is most upfront about the goal orientation of films for glittery festivals like Venice.
On another note, films in competition this year have been made in collaboration with Italian cable TV and movie giants: 'Tele +' with exclusive rights to the opening and closing ceremonies helped finance -- Amos Gitai's Eden Allejandro Amenabar's The Others, and Clare Peploe's The Triumph of Love, also a Bernardo Bertolucci production, Peploe's husband. And 'Rai Cinema' produced Secret Ballot Babak Payami which won the special director's prize.
One beloved Italian -American who made an appearance was Martin Scorsese. Last year he disappointed the festival for not finishing his film Il Mio Viaggio in Italia, but this year in a sort of retribution he presented two old refinished films about Italian immigrants to the US. Scorsese said that one is always an immigrant and can never end that relationship no matter how many years in a new country. In contrast, veteran Italian filmmaker Citto Maselli who together with 33 other filmmakers have assembled more than 290 hours of footage on the images the public has yet to see from the G8 uprising in Genova this summer , responding to a question by Movie Magazine International broadcast from San Francisco a city with a significant number of Italian -Americans--- that they would not be interested in this film nor the truth about Genova.
Roger Guenveur Smith received a standing ovation for a brilliant performance as Huey Newton at a public screening of Spike Lee's digital documentary A Huey P. Newton Story At the films worldwide debut, Smith told the audience he was glad to come to the progressive country of Italy. When noting people shaking their heads, he referred to the G8 uprising in Genova. When someone in the audience asked if the Black Panthers still existed Smith answered no, not what Bobby Seal and Huey Newton had created. He was then asked why, indicating the success of the film in reaching today's audience. In the category of 'New Territories' the film was well placed but as a filmed staged production it falls short of being revolutionary.
Perhaps the most classic and timely aspect of the festival was the choice of filmmaker and theoretician Guy Debord who committed suicide in 1994, to be honored in a retrospective of his work. In The Society of the Spectacle' based on his book by the same name, he argues that 'the tangible world is replaced by a selection of images which exist above it',. Complete with shots of students throwing stones at police in a series of uprisings during the 60's the film is prophetic on several levels. It spoke to the young audience of the festival who not only wondered where the Panthers went, but what really happened in Genova. And as the Italian media becomes more and more consolidated by the Berlusconi administration, it is hoped that the Venice Festival will continue to represent divergent and independent international voices and images of high quality.
This is Moira Sullivan from Movie Magazine International, Venice, Italy
© 2001 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 9/01
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