6 September 2019.
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL
There are 3 top film festivals in the world – Cannes, Venice and Berlin. These are vintage and heavy with stars, tradition and intellectual content. Others, with different categories and direction, are catching up since quite a while – Toronto, Sundance, Tokyo, Locarno, Deauville, etc., etc… to the tune of hundreds of them all over the world and calendar.
But these three are the oldest and most prestigious, and it seems Venice, in its grand 76th year, is edging ahead in star-quality and Oscar-material films. Maybe due to its convenient date at end August/beginning September, the charm of its setting – those canals, the glorious architecture, the terraces of the Excelsior on the Lido, and the sea… And maybe due to its smart, clear-minded director, Alberto Barbera.
It’s another world here – film is revered with passion, in fact their whole life is like cinema, for the Italians are a unique lot – the men, proud, nattily attired peacocks, the women, beautifully polished butterflies, except for the busy mamas…And they have been known for centuries for their talent in art and culture – was the Renaissance – and CineCitta – not theirs?
But the rules and regulations are vague, sometimes difficult to comprehend, other times forgotten completely. So goes this relaxed, enjoyable festival which had some superb international cinema to offer the world this year: The opening film was LA VÉRITÉ by Kore-eda Hirokazu, starring Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Then there was Steven Soderbergh’s THE LAUNDROMAT, a brilliant comedy on money laundering, starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas. The powerful, historical J’ACCUSE from Roman Polanski, starring the multi-talented Jean Dujardin. GUEST OF HONOR, an always mysterious, very personal work by the talented Armenian/Canadian Atom Egoyan, with an outstanding portrayal by David Thewlis. A gigantic, very convincing reworking of the Henry V/Agincourt saga, called THE KING, directed by David Michod, starring a superb Timothée Chalamet and Joel Egerton (out of competition). A tiresome Roy Andersson film, ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, which was exactly that… And all the critics’ darling – THE JOKER, by Todd Phillips, and starring an unanimously acclaimed Joaquim Phoenix. There is a lot of Oscar talk around many of these In-Competition works… There were also little jewels in the other categories, as the quirky UN DIVAN A TUNIS, (also called ARAB BLUES) by female director Manele Labidi, starring the luminous Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. Or the unforgettable NEVIA, produced by Matteo Garrone and directed by another woman, Nunzia De Stefano – a delicate tale of a young girl trying to get out of her Mafia-infused world. Grazia, Mr. Barbera!
FÊTE DE FAMILLE *** (vo French)
In this very French film, it’s Catherine Deneuve’s birthday and all the family has come to celebrate it with her in their sprawling country home. There’s wine and outside dining and decorations in the trees…A play by her grandkids is being rehearsed… There are her two sons and their respective families and loves, and then her very disturbed daughter who has come back after years away. She is a troubled character full of highs and lows and is a terribly disruptive element to the harmoniously-planned celebration for her loving and patient mother. But then the brothers are pretty high-maintenance too – one, a responsible but nervous family man (played by the director, Cedric Kahn), the other, an irresponsible loser who has brought along his gorgeous Argentinean girlfriend, both high on all sorts of drugs. Deneuve tries hard to remain positive and is wonderfully delicate in her restrained control of the situation, while actress/director Emmanuelle Bercot, who plays the erratic daughter, deserves a César for her distraught, overpowering performance. This is a naturally-acted, entertaining family comedy/drama which might leave you drained with all its high-powered relationship woes…but it’s worth the bumpy ride.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.