Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Sacred Feminine - Out of the Shadows and into the Light

The Gift of Athena Onka or 
The Goddess with the Head of a Sacred Donkey and her Sweet Daughter, the Spring of Thebes
by Fernanda Facciolli
(Venice, Italy) The artist Fernanda Facciolli is convinced that our planet Earth once worshiped mother goddesses and the elements of nature. The moon, mountains, trees and waters were deities to be revered. Before the Classical Greek priests of Zeus deliberately rewrote the story in about 480-323 BC and gave us the gods on Mount Olympus, there existed a different group of gods adulated by the Archaic Greeks, centuries before. The Sphinx was an actual mountain, Cadmus, grandson of Poseidon and the founder of Thebes, was really a subterranean torrent, and Semele, the mother of Dionysus, was the personification of the moon.

Before the Olympic gods, the Archaic Greeks worshiped a matriarchal religion, inspired by the beauty of nature they saw around them. Shepherds gazed upon mountains and saw animals and sleeping goddesses, giving them distinct names. Waterways were gods and goddesses that gave life -- rushing rivers were masculine; gentle springs were feminine; two rivers of equal size that flowed together in a common bed were man and wife.

Jocasta, Oedipus and the Dragon of Thespiae or 
The Main River of Thebes floods his Mother the Spring during a terrible tempest at Thespiae by Emmet
When Classical Antiquity came along, the patriarchal society repressed the Archaic goddesses and rewrote the myths, transforming Hera into the shrewish, jealous wife of the almighty god Zeus, who originally was simply Hera's husband. Demeter, Zeus's older sister, was reduced to obeying her brother's will. Zeus' wine-loving son, Dionysus, was originally the female Dionysa. Even though the name was changed from feminine to masculine, Dionysus kept the clothes that Dionysa wore, and her long, flowing hair. This radical transformation of the Archaic, matriarchal vision of the world into the Classical, patriarchal point of view emerged in Greek philosophy, art, and literature, providing the basis for European civilization that still exists to the present day.

Fueled by her determination to uncover clues to back-up her conviction, Fernanda and her husband, who uses the nom de plume "Emmet" as an artist, traveled to Greece in 2012 guided by Periegesis, the ancient text of Pausaias (110-180 AD), who, in turn, had made a similar journey influenced by the even more archaic writings of Hesiod (750-650 BC). Using scholarly research, original theories and their artistic abilities, the two artists present a new way of examining what lies under the foundation of our civilization.

Quando gli Eroi erano ancora fiumi, i Giganti erano ancora montagne e le Ninfe erano ancora fonti
When Heroes were rivers, Giants were mountains, and Nymphs were watersprings

What the couple discovered in Thebes and Boeotia inspired a series of paintings, accompanied by a text published in three languages -- Italian, English and Greek -- by Marcianum Press, with a preface by Paolo Leoncini, the distinguished former Professor of Italian literature at Ca' Foscari University, Venice.

The Island of Ogygia or 
When the City of Thebes was an Island in a Lake and her Name was Ogygia, the Ancient by Emmet
For those of us who need to brush up on our Greek history, just who were Pausanias and Hesiod, and where is Thebes and Boeotia?

In ancient Greece, Thebes was the largest city in the region of Boeotia, as well as a major rival of Athens and Sparta. According to Fernanda and Emmet, Boeotia -- the region that gave us the mighty Hercules -- was the real birthplace of most of the original Greek myths and legends -- stories that were later rewritten. .

Even in ancient times, there were travel writers, and Pausanias was one whose words have come down to us today. Also a geographer, he was from Lydia, an area of Greece that is now part of Turkey, and lived around 900 years ago, about 110-180 AD. Before he traveled to Boeotia, Pausanias had been to visit the pyramids in Egypt, to Jerusalem and to Rome, among many other places. He not only wrote about the people and sights he saw, he was also fascinated by the myths and history that had created the cultures he was visiting. He wrote a ten-volume set entitled Hellados Periegesi (Description of Greece), and focused on ancient Greece and its holy relics, gods and sacred objects in their local context, rather than the contemporary Greece under Roman rule he was visiting. Even though he was a follower of Zeus, he was open-minded about cultures that followed different gods.

Hesiod was thought to be a Greek poet who lived around 750-650 BC in Boeotia, around 800 or 900 years earlier than Pausanias, or about 1800 years ago. Like any good travel writer, Pausanias used the writings of the local poet Hesiod, among others, as part of his research to uncover the ancient past of the area he was visiting when he went to Boeotia.

Menestratus, Cleostratus and the Dragon of Thespiae or 
Mother-Moon, Daughter-Spring and the Terrible Storm that Flooded the River at Thespiae
by Fernanda Facciolli
In 2012, Fernanda and Emmet traveled to Boeotia for 14 weeks, and used the research of Pausania -- who had used the words of Hesiod -- to step back nearly 2000 years into Archaic Greece. Fernanda, a Venetian, has had a long fascination with ancient myths. Now a pixieish 64-year-old, she literally ran into Emmet more than 50 years ago when she was a young teenager late for art class at the Liceo Artistico Accademia and he was an older student. All the other girls were already wearing stockings while she was still in knee socks. As she dashed off down the hall, Emmet thought: "That is the woman of my life."

After being married to others, and careers spent teaching art, ten years ago Fernanda and Emmet found each other again. Emmet developed a passionate interest in his wife's philological studies, and became her trusted supporter and adviser, bringing his own interpretations to her work. By examining name origins and journeying to the source, the couple attempted to reconstruct local religious beliefs in Ancient Boeotia before the advent of the Olympian gods based on their own scholarly research, intuition and imagination. 

The Sphinx of Thebes by Fernanda Facciolli
There was only one Sphinx in Greek mythology. She had the head of a woman, the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle and the claws of a gryphon. The monstrous Sphinx guarded the entrance of the city of Thebes, asking all travelers the famous riddle to allow them access: "Which creature walks first on four, then two, then three legs?" The Sphinx killed everyone who got the answer wrong, until Oedipus came along. He answered the riddle correctly: "Man," then killed the Sphinx and carried her body into Thebes on the back of a donkey.

Fernanda and Emmet disagree with that interpretation. Tracing the origins of the Boeotian word for "Sphinx," they deducted that the mount where the Sphinx had her sanctuary was once covered by a lush oak forest, and the correct name of Mount Sphynghion, the Boeotian hill of Thebes, should be "The Mount of Oaks." Instead of Oedipus, the King of Thebes, killing the Sphinx, he was actually leading the triumphant goddess into Thebes on the back of the sacred donkey, which was held in high esteem for the milk it provided, similar to human mother's milk.   

The Lion and the Lioness or 
The Animal Face of the Sphinx and the Lion of St. Marco by Emmet
And as for the depiction of the Sphinx as a hybrid, lioness, woman and eagle? What Fernanda and Emmet saw with their own eyes inspired some of their most profound work. One day, as they were looking towards the mountain, they suddenly saw an enormous natural sculpture, a mountain molded in the form of a winged lioness about to rise out of the plain on powerful wings.  The next morning, as they were driving to the west of Thebes, they turned and looked back at the sacred mountain to say farewell. Instead of a winged lioness, the head of the Sphinx had transformed into the supine profile of a woman gazing up toward the heavens.

The winged lioness had revealed her true essence as a goddess of the earth.

 The Human Face of the Sphinx or 
The holy procession up the face of the Sacred Mountain by Emmet
 Fernanda Facciolli and Emmet will present FOLLOWING PAUSANIAS IN SEARCH OF HESIOD - When Heroes were rivers, Giants were mountains, and Nymphs were watersprings on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at the Biblioteca dello Studium Generale Marcianum at 5:00 PM by invitation only. The artists' work can also be seen at Galleria Il Dictynneion in Campiello del Sole, San Polo 911, every afternoon, or by appointment.

Quando gli Eroi erano ancora fiumi, i Giganti erano ancora montagne e le Ninfe erano ancora fonti

5:00 PM
Dorsoduro 1
entrance: Seminario Patriarcale alla Salute
by invitation only

Galleria Il Dictynneion
Campiello del Sole
San Polo 911/a
Vaporetto stop: San Silvestro or Rialto Mercato
Open afternoons or by appointment
+39 333-774-8603
Fernanda Facciolli

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog
This is a sponsored post.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Venice Film Festival - Cat Bauer's Top 10 & George Clooney gets Married in Venice

Amal Alamudden & George Clooney
(Venice, Italy) Some reports complained about the lack of Hollywood shazam at this year's Venice Film Festival. No worries -- I think the star power that will soon descend on the Venetian lagoon will boil the waters when George Clooney marries Amal Alamudden here in Venice.

Roy Andersson with Golden Lion Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images
The Swedes have already infilitrated our homes by way of IKEA. Now, in addition to Electrolux buying GE, the Swedes also soared this week by winning the Golden Lion for "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence," by Roy Andersson. I was initially intrigued by this film, but eventually walked out in frustration a bit more than halfway through. To me, it belongs in the theater, not on the big screen. It needs a live audience living in-the-moment to really pull off what it's trying to accomplish, which was brilliant, but film is the wrong medium. Obviously, my opinion is in the minority. 

In eleven or so days, I saw 22 feature films, and more than half of 4 others. That is an intense amount of film watching. The wonderful thing about the Venice Film Festival is that we get to see films from every corner of the planet, films that people have literally risked their lives to make. It really puts things into perspective, and it is a great honor to watch history in the making. 

Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad wins Best Screenplay for TALES
I lived in Hollywood for about 20 years. I love Hollywood movies because I like the structure, which is based on the Hero's Journey. At this year's festival, I saw a movie I had not planned to see simply because I went early to get a seat for the Paoslini and Burying the Ex press conferences, and stumbled into the press conference for Theeb. On the panel were a group of Bedouins, part of an Arabian tribe who lives in the desert. I was fascinated and went to see the film. It was truly a Hero's Journey told through the eyes of a young boy. When the film was over, Theeb got a 10-minute standing ovation. It also won the Best Director award in the Orizzonti section.

Theeb premier
Considering  what you in the States will actually have the opportunity to see, my Top 10 recommendations are as follows:

1. GOOD KILL starring Ethan Hawke, directed by Andrew Niccol

2. THE SOUND OF SILENCE, documentary by Josh Oppenheimer

3. 99 HOMES starring Michael Shannon & Andrew Garfield, directed by Ramin Bahrani

4. THE HUMBLING starring Al Pacino, directed by Barry Levinson

5. BIRDMAN starring Michael Keaton, directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu

6. SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY starring Owen Wilson, directed by Peter Bogdanovich

7. CYMBELINE starring Ethan Hawke, directed by Michael Almereyda

8. NYMPHOMANIAC: VOLUME I - DIRECTOR'S CUT starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, directed by Lars von Trier

9. OLIVE KITTERIDGE starring Frances McDormand, directed by Lisa Cholodenko

10. BURYING THE EX, directed by Joe Dante

Jackie & Ryan directed by Ami Canaan Mann
Unfortunately, I completely missed "Jackie & Ryan" directed by Ami Canaan Mann, which is a shame because I really like her work. Things are so hectic during the festival that it never blipped on my radar until just now when I was sorting through my Twitter messages and saw that Guy Lodge at Variety gave it a lovely review:

Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes make genuinely sweet music together in this mellow, likably corny heartland romance.

Just when I was beginning to think that I was completely out of sync with the rest of the planet, I was relieved to finally find a critic with whom I agreed, who also thought "Good Kill" was a worthy flick, that Al Pacino was terrific in "The Humbling," and that "Cymbeline" was "brazen and provocative" -- Stephanie Zacharek, principal film critic for The Village Voice. I had heard her speak on the panel for Biennale College, and she knows her stuff.  Click HERE to read her "Good Kill" review, with links to a handful of others.

Here are the official awards: 

The Awards at the 71st Venice International Film Festival
The Venezia 71 Jury, chaired by Alexandre Desplat and comprised of Joan Chen, Philip Gröning, Jessica Hausner, Jhumpa Lahiri, Sandy Powell, Tim Roth, Elia Suleiman and Carlo Verdone having viewed all 20 films in competition, has decided as follows:
GOLDEN LION for Best Film to:
by Roy Andersson (Sweden, Germany, Norway, France)
SILVER LION for Best Director to:
Andrej Končalovskij
THE LOOK OF SILENCE by Joshua Oppenheimer
(Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Norway, United Kingdom)
for Best Actor:
Adam Driver
in the film HUNGRY HEARTS by Saverio Costanzo (Italy)
for Best Actress:
Alba Rohrwacher
in the film HUNGRY HEARTS by Saverio Costanzo (Italy)
for Best Young Actor or Actress to:
Romain Paul
in the film LE DERNIER COUP DE MARTEAU by Alix Delaporte (France)
Rakhshan Banietemad and Farid Mostafavi
for the film GHESSEHA (TALES) by Rakhshan Banietemad (Iran)
SIVAS by Kaan Müjdeci (Turkey, Germany)
Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film Jury at the 71st Venice Film Festival, chaired by Alice Rohrwacher and comprised of Lisandro Alonso, Ron Mann, Vivian Qu and Razvan Radulescu,  has decided to award:
COURT by Chaitanya Tamhane (India)
as well as a prize of 100,000 USD, donated by Filmauro di Aurelio e Luigi  De Laurentiis to be divided equally between director and producer
The Orizzonti Jury of the 71st Venice Film Festival, chaired by Ann Hui and composed of Moran Atias, Pernilla August, David Chase, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Roberto Minervini and Alin Taşçiyan after screening the 29 films in competition has decided to award:
COURT by Chaitanya Tamhane (India)
Naji Abu Nowar
for THEEB (Jordan, U.A.E., Qatar, United Kingdom)
by Franco Maresco (Italy)
Emir Hadžihafizbegović
by Ognjen Sviličić (Croatia, France, Serbia, Macedonia)
MARYAM by Sidi Saleh (Indonesia)
PAT – LEHEM (DAILY BREAD) by Idan Hubel (Israel)
The Venezia Classici Jury, chaired by Giuliano Montaldo composed of 28 students of Cinema History, chosen in particular from the teachers of 13 Italian Dams university programmes and from the Venetian Ca’ Foscari, has decided to award:
ANIMATA RESISTENZA by Francesco Montagner and Alberto Girotto (Italy)
UNA GIORNATA PARTICOLARE by Ettore Scola (1977, Italy, Canada)
Thelma Schoonmaker
Frederick Wiseman
James Franco
Frances McDormand
Valentina Corti

Ciao from Venezia,

Friday, September 5, 2014

GOOD KILL Gets my Vote - Best Film at 2014 Venice Film Festival

Ethan Hawke in GOOD KILL
(Venice, Italy) "Good Kill" by Andrew Niccol would win the Golden Lion, if it were up to me. I don't know what the odds are of that happening, since it is the last film in competition to screen, and the critics and the audience already seem to have made up their minds, the critics rooting for "The Look of Silence," the documentary by Josh Oppenheimer (which was also my favorite before I saw "Good Kill"), and the audience for "Birdman" by Alejandro G. Inarritu.

But the Jury, headed by the famed French composer Alexandre Desplat, is still out, and with actors as diverse as Tim Roth and Joan Chen on the panel, as well as Pulitzer Prize winning-author, Jhumpa Lahiri, we cannot predict how they will decide. The esteemed members of the 2014 Jury of the Venice Film Festival have won and/or been nominated for so many Academy Awards and other prestigious honors that I can't even begin to tally them all.

Alberto Barbera, Director (left) Alexandre Desplat, President of Jury - Variety party at Hotel Danieli - Photo: Mirco Toffolo
Members of the International Jury of Venezia 71:

Alexandre Desplat (President) - French film composer
    Joan Chen - Chinese and American actress, screenwriter and director
    Philip Gröning - German director and screenwriter
    Jessica Hausner -- Australian film director and screenwriter
    Jhumpa Lahiri - India American author born in London
    Sandy Powell - British costume designer
    Tim Roth - British actor, screenwriter and director
    Elia Suleiman - Palestinian film director and actor
    Carlo Verdone - Italian actor, screenwriter and director

Ethan Hawke and January Jones
"Good Kill" moved me deeply; I wept throughout much of the movie. It is a powerful depiction of a F-16 fighter pilot played by Ethan Hawke, who no longer risks his life in Afghanistan and Iraq to protect the United States, but has been reassigned to piloting drones in an air-conditioned cubicle in the desert near Las Vegas, 7,000 miles away from the action. He now fights the war on terror by remote control for 12 hours, and goes home to his wife (a terrific performance by January Jones) and kids the other half of the day.

Ethan Hawke gives one of the best performances of his career as Major Tommy Egan, who is having extreme difficulty adjusting from the dangerous life of a fighter pilot to a man whose co-workers now include gamers chosen for their ability to play video games in a shopping mall. The movie is set in 2010, and starts with the drones being controlled by the Department of Defense, with definite rules of engagement. Then Egan's unit is chosen to take orders directly from the CIA, and the rationale for the orders to kill start getting freaky. A disembodied voice (a chilling Peter Coyote) comes on the speaker phone: "Just call me Langley," and explains why it's now okay to kill innocent civilians. After the kill, the unit is then required to count the number of dead bodies.

After a stressful day on the job, Egan cranks up the music and zooms home in his souped-up Mustang, the artificial worlds of Las Vegas looming in the background. Even though Egan is always low-key, and never talks about his work at home, the effect the job is having on him starts spilling onto his family. At a barbeque in the yard of his track home in the suburbs that looks like all the rest (except the Egans have a swatch of grass in the back), a friend asks Molly, Egan's wife, if he ever gets angry. "Yes," she replies. "He gets even quieter."

From Variety:

Andrew Niccol takes on the topical issue of drone strikes in a tense war drama notable for its tact and intelligence.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Ethan Hawke stars as a drone pilot fighting the Taliban from the Nevada desert in writer-director Andrew Niccol's timely psychological drama 

Andrew Niccol, Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz (who gives a great performance as Egan's co-worker with real credentials) and producer Zev Foreman (who also produced the Academy Awarding-winning film, "The Hurt Locker") were all here in Venice for the press conference. No one has made a movie about drones before; we have no idea what this new form of warfare is all about, or the effect it has on the people who must perform it, and their families. Andrew Niccol said that he is not anti-drone or pro-drone, he wanted to make a movie about what it is. We keep hearing about "signature strikes." What are they, actually? Ethan Hawke said that his grandfather fought in World War II and never had to count the damage he did. What are we asking these people on the front line of the new modern warfare to do?

The panel was asked if the military had helped with the project, and the answer was no. "It's difficult to make a military movie with no support from the military." Zev Foreman said that he had given the script to the Department of Defense, who had cooperated when he made "The Hurt Locker," but that the "PR machine inside the DoD does not know how to handle the issue." There is a rivalry between the DoD and the OGA -- no one inside the drone program uses the initials "CIA," but, instead, "OGA" for "other governmental agencies" when they speak about who runs the drone program.

Andrew Niccol and Ethan Hawke both stressed that "Good Kill" was a cautionary tale, and that the emphasis in the film was about the people who have been placed in this incredible situation. Drones are bringing about the death of a job: pilots who actually know how to fly a fighter jet. It made me think: what will the world be like when there are no more top guns? People who know how to execute the super skills needed to fly a fighter jet? They took away Egan's work, which defined him as a human being. How many more human experiences will mankind lose? They are taking all the fun out of being a human being! Riding a stationary bicycle in a gym while watching a digital landscape go by is not the same as feeling the wind in your hair and smelling the grass on a winding country road.

I thought the film was practically perfect, from the performances, to the directing, to the cinematography and the music that set the tone. I was riveted. The ending was criticized at the press conference for being "too Hollywood," and Andrew Niccol replied, "We don't know what the ending is.""Good Kill" is a deeply human story, and the ending is the right ending. It is a MUST SEE.

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

P.S. This snippet review from the English-language version of ANSA, the Italian news wire, is not accurate from my point of view. At the press screening I attended in the Sala Grande at 11:30 AM, there was no booing whatsoever. If someone booed at the earlier screening, well, I would not be the least bit surprised if it was a stunt. "Good Kill" is excellent, and the CIA has every reason to want you not to see it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nymphs at the Venice Film Festival - Uma Thurman & Charlotte Gainsbourg Rock the Sala Darsena Theater

Uma Thurman - Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) The divine Uma Thurman was in the audience last night for the world premiere of the 3-hour Lars von Trier Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume II, although she is not in the movie. However, she is in the 2-hour 35 minute Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume I, where she blows everyone else off the screen with her impressive appearance in one amazing scene. Thurman is a wife who shows up with her three kids to confront her husband who has decided to abandon them and move in with nymphomaniac, Joe, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who was also in the audience for both films.

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Venice Film Festival
Celebrities are always in the theater to watch their films after making their red carpet appearances, so that was not unusual. What made it different is that usually they are in the Sala Grande theater up in the non-balcony (the Sala Grande doesn't have a closed balcony that separates the stars from the audience, only stairs and a rail). Industry professionals can't attend the prime-time evening screening in the Sala Grande, only the public. By the time the red carpet screening arrives, the press has already seen the film and listened to the celebrities at a press conference.

Sala Grande
What was unique about Thurman and Gainsbourg watching Nymphomaniac with the audience is that it screened in a different theater, the fabulous Sala Darsena, freshly-restored, which, in the past, was limited to the press and industry professionals. The Sala Darsena has no balcony at all, just three different levels of seating. Years ago, it was an open-air arena. Now it is a totally cool theater with 1400 seats, sort of retro-contemporary hip with a fantastic sound system.

President Paolo Baratta in Sala Darsena
I had never seen either Nymphomaniac flick before, and went to both films, which is a total of five-and-a-half hours of Lars von Trier's revolutionary work. The first one started at 2:00pm, and I arrived at Sala Darsena just couple of minutes before. Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild was cranking and a bunch of security guys were there. I asked the guy who checked my badge what was going on, and he said he had no idea. I was going to wait outside to see, but the film was about to start, so I went in.

Nymphomaniac: Volume II
I was surprised to see that the theater was packed. I thought I saw Alberto Barbera, the Director of the Venice Film Festival, in the audience, and I knew something was up. Then, the music exploded, and the delegation of Nymphomaniac paraded through the door -- including Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard, who also stars. The delegation entered the center of the theater, a dynamic entrance; such an entrance would not work for all films, but was perfect for Nymphomaniac. The audience got to its feet and roared. 

I ended up sitting in the same row as the delegation, although in a different section, and it was riveting to watch the film with the people who had made it. I kept glancing at Charlotte Gainsbourg out of the corner of my eye as I watched her extreme actions on screen, and thought how fortunate she was to experience such a thing -- to watch yourself perform in a ground-breaking film in the company of 1400 simpatici strangers. To use a dusty expression: Far out! It used to be that everybody was doing far out things; now most things have become pedantic. Forty-two years ago it was socially acceptable to go to the movies and see Deep Throat; it seems we should be further ahead.

Stellan Skarsgard at Venice Film Festival
I thought the Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume I was one of the most amazing films I've ever seen, a movie that finally addressed female sexuality in a mythic way. Lars von Trier had said that his ambition was to create a film that had the characteristics of a literary novel. The first part succeeded in doing that, especially if we consider that a nymph is a divine spirit that animates nature. 

Skarsgard co-stars as a seemingly compassionate bachelor named Seligman who finds a beaten Joe lying in an alley and takes her home. He tends to her wounds, and listens as she tells her life story. We watch Joe grow up, compete in a seduction game on a train with her friend, and experience the touching relationship she had with her father, who is played by Christian Slater. 

Nymphomaniac: Volume I
At 7:00pm, the Director's Cut of Nymphomaniac: Volume II was much darker; to me, it lost its direction because it became too masochistic. Earlier, during a bizarre press conference at which von Trier was present only cyber-ly by iPad through lifelines relayed by Stellan Skarsgard, he said: “Everything that is masochistic in the film is me,” said von Trier (via Skarsgard). “The women, to a certain extent, is some of [von Trier], but every time something masochistic is shown, it’s [von Trier].” 

That was the problem. The masochism felt imposed upon Joe's character, not something that had developed organically. The nymph stepped out of Nymphomaniac, replaced by a satyr.

Nymphomaniac: Volume II
 From The Daily Beast:

The reclusive—and controversial—filmmaker vowed to never speak publicly after his ‘Nazi’ scandal at Cannes. But he broke it to discuss the uncut version of Nymphomaniac at the Venice Film Festival (kind of).

There was a glimmer of hope near the end of the film, but it was not to be. For me, it would have been more satisfying if von Trier had had the courage to follow the sun -- since he was brave enough to make the film in the first place -- but instead he wimped out and opted for the darkness.

Here is an informative review from Roger

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Saturday, August 30, 2014

AL PACINO Dazzles at Venice Film Festival

Al Pacino in Venice (Photo: David Azia)
(Venice, Italy) Al Pacino looks and acts like the legendary movie star he is. Pacino is 74-years-old, but has the energy of someone 30 years younger. One of the things that makes Al Pacino so unique is that he is a movie star from New York, not Hollywood, and is also a famed stage actor, a quality that makes him golden. During one of his two press conferences today, when he was asked to comment on Hollywood, he said, "I don't know and I never did know what Hollywood is." He said he had a relationship with Hollywood that was not unfriendly, but not really clear. He said the people who were running the studios these days were different -- not better or worse, just different, and that times had changed. He said he had even gone to see an action figure flick (I forget which one) with one of his kids, and really enjoyed it.

Al Pacino & Chris Messina (Photo: David Azia)
Al Pacino likes to talk. He gives even the simplest questions long, complex answers, winding paths through a forest of riches, which is fascinating to experience firsthand. It is like going to the theater and hearing a monologue perfectly delivered. 

Greta Gerwig & Al Pacino in The Humbling
Pacino is here in Venice with two films this year, David Gordon Green's MANGLEHORN and THE HUMBLING, directed by another legend, Barry Levinson, based on the Philip Roth novel. The storyline is:

"Simon Axler is a famed stage actor who becomes depressed then suicidal when he suddenly and inexplicably loses his gift. In an attempt to get his mojo back, he has an affair with a lesbian woman half his age. Before long, the relationship causes chaos as people from the romantic duo's pasts resurface in their lives."

Al Pacino as Simon Axler as King Lear
The character, Simon Axler, has isolated himself in the country, and someone asked if Pacino had based the character on his own life. Pacino said, "Of course it's based on my life. Once you're famous anonymity goes up in value."

Barry Levinson said it was it was literally like making a home movie because they shot the movie in 20 days in and around his Connecticut home. I thought the film was terrific, and that Pacino hasn't been in such fine form in years. I pretty much agree with the review in Variety, which said: "Pacino, who seemed to have awakened from a long acting coma when he played Dr. Jack Kevorkian in Levinson’s 2010 HBO movie, “You Don’t Know Jack,” seems similarly rejuvenated here, in what’s easily his best bigscreen performance since Christopher Nolan’s “Insomnia” in 2002."

Simon Axler may have lost his mojo, but Al Pacino most definitely has not.

[UPDATE: Click HERE to read John Lahr's September 15, 2014 profile "Caught in the Act - What drives Al Pacino?" in The New Yorker.]

Ciao from The Venice Film Festival,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, August 29, 2014

Foreclosure Scam Exposed in 99 HOMES - Venice Film Festival

Andrew Garfield in 99 HOMES
(Venice, Italy) An average American family is thrown ruthlessly out of their home in Orlando, Florida at the start of Ramin Bahrani's powerful foreclosure drama, 99 HOMES. It was no accident that so many Americans suddenly lost their homes -- it was outright corruption, another scheme by the greedy to make money off human misery, which comes as no surprise. But it is extremely satisfying to watch how the vultures did it up there on the big screen.

At the press conference, Bahrani was asked if he set the film in Orlando, Florida on purpose, and he said, "of course I did." He went down there to do research, and after two or three weeks, he was dizzy from the corruption. He said, "I never saw so many guns in my life."

Andrew Garfield, Ramin Bahrani & Michael Shannon

The 99% is a global phenomenon. The common man around the world can no longer do hard, honest work and expect to thrive against systematic greed and corruption. When faced by the firing squad, does a man join hands with his executioner? Is there any choice to make other than a deal with the devil?

Andrew Garfield & Michael Shannon
Michael Shannon is one of my favorite actors; he always manages to bring a layer of humanity to the most unsavory characters. He plays Rick Carver, a heartless estate agent who represents the banks, tossing people and their possessions out on the street the moment the moment a judge -- who is also part of the corrupt pyramid -- signs the order. In Florida, the judgment speeds by so fast that they call them "Rocket Dockets."

Andrew Garfield is Dennis Nash, a hard-working single dad who can do most any job in construction. He lives with his widowed mother (Laura Dern) and son (Noah Lomax) in the simple Orlando home where he grew up. When the building market collapses and he loses his work, he is told by the bank not to make a payment; he misses three, and the next thing he knows, he, his mother and his son are crammed into a cheap motel, surrounded by other evicted families.

99 HOMES has gotten positive reviews all around.

The Guardian:

Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon flog the foundations of America - Ramin Bahrani delivers a muscular, complex drama about real-estate – and false promises – in a land of dreams and bankruptcy


Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield deliver dynamic performances in Ramin Bahrani's furious study of corrupt One Percent privilege.

The Hollywood Reporter:

A hard-hitting look at America's economic divide

 The Telegraph:

Andrew Garfield leaves Spider-Man far behind in this timely, gut-twisting tale of the U.S. real estate crisis

Ramin Bahrani said that honest hard work does not get you anywhere these days, but that can change. "More powerful than money, is art."

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog