The 70th Venice Film Festival (28th August – 7th September 2013)
Matt Micucci reports from the fourth day of the Venice Film Festival, discovering that Stephen Frears thinks the Pope’s a good bloke and gets his first gulp of Ghibli.
The plan today is to wake up really early to sneak into the press screening for the film which I have been looking forward to the most here in Venice; Philomena. However, when I reach the Sala Darsena, I realise that it’s not going to happen. Catching the screening later on in the day will not be an option either, as us 28 Times Cinema members will have other activities going on.
I decide to go to the press room and catch up on my writing. The internet connection is quite good today. I stay there long enough to hear the first reactions of Philomena. Apparently it’s a masterpiece and I’m quite happy to hear that, as I am a fan of both Stephen Frears and Steve Coogan. On the other hand, the other big film of the day Child of God by Franco is apparently very dull.
I stick around the press room and for the first time I make full use of the televisions that are set up there for the press conferences by transcribing the one from Philomena, to make up for the fact that I wasn’t able to watch the film. I like the way Stephen Frears keeps repeating to show the film to the Pope, and when he is asked why he replies “he seems like a good bloke”.
At three o’clock I attend a reviewing workshop, which had been set up for a few of us. It’s pretty interesting but unfortunately I feel as if I am missing out on some great films that are screening at the same time. In the end, I attend the first screening at five o’clock, which is quite late. I am, however, excited about the fact that it is the screening of two experimental shorts; I am especially looking forward to the one by Miguel Gomes, the director of last year’s Tabu.
The first short, Con il Fiato Sospeso, is a work of docufiction inspired by the story of a young Italian pharmaceutical university student who died of lung cancer due to the unsafe environment in the college establishment and the dangers of toxic waste. Visually, it’s quite good, however the pace lacks a sense of urgency and on the other hand is also unsuccessful in coming across as hypnotic.
I am much more satisfied by the second short film, the one by Gomes, Redemption. It is a great mixture of essay documentary and clever political satire. Through a creative use of archive footage and voice over narration, it makes comments on the humanity of politicians and redefines the perception of the meaning of the term ‘public personality’.
The screenings are followed talks, and Gomes steals the show by walking to the front of the room in shades and with an eccentric attitude. Despite his arrogant behaviour which may come across as a little obnoxious, he does end up making interesting points about the film and filmmaking in general. “I think that cinema, in its one hundred years of images, has provided us with memory of things that happened but also the memory of things that have yet to happen,” he commented. “In the Italian part of the film, we see people flying. That didn’t happen. However, in the same part we also see the hanging of Mussolini is Milan. That happened. That is real life. Both kinds of images can be used and re-used to document something that happened but also things that haven’t really happen. There is a place in people’s minds that matches reality and the imaginary when imagery is used in a playful way.”
The next film I hope to catch is a documentary about a transsexual Lithuanian prostitute called Julia, but it takes place in a small room called the Sala Casino and it fills up quick, so it ends up being yet another screening I miss. Annoyed, I decide to run and make another screening, a Studio Ghibli film by Miyazaki called The Wind Rises. I also decide to go to it because I don’t know much about Studio Ghibli, as I admittedly never had a huge interest in that particular kind of animation, but this feels like the right opportunity to give it a go.
The screening starts at 10 at night. I’m not too impressed by it and the audience doesn’t seem to be either as people around me either leave during the film or have fallen asleep half way through. To make sure we don’t sleep, they even turn up the air conditioning. The film is about Jiro, a man who has a passion for airplanes and end up leaving a revolutionary mark in aeronautical engineering. It is interesting to note that the character of Jiro was inspired by the real life figures of the engineer Jiro Horikoshi and the author Tatsuo Hori, who lived at around the same time, which was at the start of the 20th century. However, the film is overly melodramatic, particularly in its second part and overall it seems to be pretty bland for a product of an animation studio which is highly regarded for its creativity.