The 70th Venice Film Festival (28th August – 7th September 2013)
Matt Micucci reports from the seventh day of the Venice Film Festival and encounters a strange man wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt, a John Waters moustache with an interest in twerking.
This morning’s panel session is with two journalists Grazyna Torbicka and Luciana Castellina. The former is a Polish film journalist who works on TV with a show on cinema, which apparently is a rare thing. The latter is a renowned film critic who insists that film criticism is more pure than film journalism, which often focuses on the gossip that surrounds the glamorous world of the flicks (can it be called that in the digital era anymore?). I expected this panel to have been helpful and interesting given my ambitions of becoming a professional journalist, but they offer no help or advice. When I ask them what my next step in becoming a ‘professional journalist’ should be, they literally look like they have no idea what to say.
Moving on, I have the third and final class of my film criticism workshop, which I have never really talked about because it would be pointless to do so. But the man who taught me, a renowned Serbian film critic by the name of Nenad Dukic took me by surprise when I told him I was from Galway and he knew everything about the Galway Film Fleadh. He called it a ‘very nice little festival’, so thumbs up guys!
The first screening I attend is a film by Juno Mak, called Rigor Mortis. It is a post-modern horror film with a Takashi Miike feel, which pays tribute to the older Japanese vampire genre films of the eighties. Juno Mak is introduced as a pop star whose records top the charts all over Asia. For some reason I instantly thought of the karaoke scenes in Only God Forgives, and that brought me down. However, the film completely surprised me with its mysterious and disturbing enigmatic nature and reflections of the theme of loneliness and fears of being forgotten.
Set in a Hong Kong tenement, the lead character is a washed-up former film star who has recently lost his wife and child. Little does he know that strange and horrible things take place in the tenement, involving ancient spells, vampires and zombies. Its special effects are incredibly creative and I am not at all surprised when, after the screening, he tells us that it took him six weeks to shoot but had a post-production which lasted one year.
Before the next screening, as usual I stop in the press room and the volume on the TVs are turned way up for the press conference of an Italian film called L’Intruso. At some stage, a strange man wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt, a John Waters moustache and a cheesy French accent stands up and asks the filmmakers and cast whether they made use of ‘twerking’ in their film. No one knows what twerking is, including the translator who asks for a reference. The man then refers to Miley Cyrus shaking her ass on MTV and the press room erupts into laughter. The strange man, however, persists in spite of a man angrily telling him to ask a serious question. He insists that most films make use of twerking. This goes on for quite some time and everyone has a good laugh.
Today is the day, however, of the press screening for Wajda’s new film Walesa. It is based on the life of Nobel prize winner Lech Walesa who funded the first Independent trade union in the Soviet bloc. Despite the fact that I am doubtful I will get in, as Wajda will be receiving an honorary award tomorrow and there is much talk of his new film being somewhat controversial, I end up making the ten o’clock screening and happily watch another solid film by the master filmmaker.
With Walesa, once again, Wajda casts new light on a certain event in Polish history. To do so, he goes back to what I would consider his most recognisable style and structure, which is also the one he used in Man of Marble, with use of archive footage, mixture of colour and black and white stock, parallel storylines set in different times. Walesa may lack a certain passion, but it looks magnificent and unravels at an exciting pace. I must admit that I was not familiar with Walesa and his importance in history, so the film didn’t have the controversial feel, although it had the historical appeal. Walesa is essentially portrayed as an ordinary man who rose to gain credibility among the working class and led them to a non-violent revolt. He is also shown as quite unlearned and ignorant but all at once smart and good-natured. This film also has a good sense of humour and while perhaps it may not rank among the filmmaker’s best, it is certainly quite an impressive film to be making at his age and with a budget of just 3.5 million.
After the screening Grazyna Torbicka, the Polish journalist from this morning’s panel session, asks me what I thought of the movie and whether I knew anything about Walesa and whether I could follow the storyline. We have a chat about it and in the end she asks me whether I would recommend the film to anyone, and I tell her that I would recommend Wajda to anyone anytime.