The 70th Venice Film Festival (28th August – 7th September 2013)
Matt Micucci reports from the sixth day of the Venice Film Festival.
Because Venice is also about panel meetings, talks, debates and presentations, I am not too disappointed to know that today I will not be attending many screenings. For us 28 Times Cinema members, it is a day of panel discussions.
The first one of these is with the filmmaker Costanza Quatriglio, whose film Holding My Breath (Con il Fiato Sospeso) I watched two days earlier. It talks about the issue of unhealthy work environment and the precarious state and health of young university students. It’s quite an unusual kind of documentary, in the sense that it feels hypnotic and draws inspiration from a real life case by deconstructing it and reconstructing it in a different kind of creative narrative.
She talked about her beginnings and that when she decided to become a filmmaker, she was a law student and she drew inspiration for her films from the cases she studied and the social issues she dealt. She is especially interested in stories that have something to do with civil rights. After the panel, I go up to her and ask for a short interview, which despite the little time she has she is agrees to do. One of the things I ask her is how films that are as long as hers, which wraps up at just over thirty minutes, can be exhibited and exposed to a wider audience. She answers, “well, I think that the short film can be seen when it escapes its shorter format to espress itself within a dramatic structure and aspect that the spectator finds fulfilling. So, considering that there really isn’t a short film culture in cinemas, we should work on that. We have to work on making room for short films and making room to the other different formats of films because, for example, this film is not simply a short film – it’s a short film in its length but it’s also a short that has many elements of a feature length film. It’s thirty five minutes long simply because the narrative device of the interview could not last any longer than that.”
After that, we get a chance to meet with the director of Kill Your Darlings John Krokidas, whose film is a quite a good period coming of age drama with a modern feel. Despite the fact that it was his feature debut and the prejudice particularly surrounding the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as beat poet Allen Ginsberg, the film impressed the vast majority of the audience.
Krokidas ends up being a really good talker and told us that he drew inspiration from himself in telling the story of Ginsberg. He also mentions that as a gay man, he could connect with the theme of homosexuality very well and one of the things which kept him going and made him really want to keep working on getting the film made was the element that back in those days, as illustrated in the film, you could get away with murder by revealing your victim to have been a homosexual, which as he mentions is the same thing that is happening in Russia right now.
He speaks about his beginnings in the film industry in script coverage. “Believe it or not a lot of the executives in the film industry don’t read the script that is submitted to them, they read a two page book report that people like me write them,” he says At the end of that, you write down why you think it is or isn’t a good movie and why. So, I applied and got a job at Miramax, starting to do script coverage. I was working for free. But by reading and doing script coverage you get an idea of what’s a good script, how many of them are similar to each other… And if there is anything I’ve learned from doing that is reading other people’s bad art is a way of making you feel really good about your own and to get confidence.”
However, he delivers the best quote I have heard at the festival so far when he refers to the film’s casting choices and narrative development with the line, “I f**cked Harry Potter up the ass and killed Dexter!”
The film critique masterclass I attend takes up some more time, and the only film I end up seeing is this film made by the producer of films like The Full Monty and Palookaville, Still Life. It is a stylised vision of loneliness and death. It is the story of John May, a man whose city council job it is to investigate whether or not the dead people he encounters in his line of work have family ties or friends who will pay for the funeral. Essentially, the film is a deadpan comedy, though the comedy is so slight it is almost just macabre. While the film struggles to stay remain entertaining, it is certainly interesting throughout how still the camera is and how Eddie Marsan in the lead role is able to give a performance which feels perfectly unaware of the camera. In many ways, it is an ultimate exercise in ‘anti-acting’ where ego and the seduction of the camera is left behind in favour of a more genuinely bare performance.