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Venice 2018 kicks off on Shaky Footing

By Alex Deleon, <>


The 76th Venice Film Festival (the oldest in the world) has gotten off to a slightly controversial start The main bones of contention:

1) Not enough films by femmes, 2) Participation of Netflix.

Festival director Alberto Barbera has been criticized for not scheduling more films from distaff side directors. Only one female entry in competition this year.  Mr. Barbera's explanation is quite simple. "we choose films on their quality, not by the sex of the director".  Plausible to say the least, but plausibility is not what is selling in the age of post Weinsteinian political correctness. 

2) Netflix. The Tv producer usually sends the films back directly to boob tube viewing,  the thinking is that people will not buy tickets to see a new film in the theater if they can see it for free on TV.  Therefore other festivals are not accepting Netfkix flicks. To this Barbera stated that he can see no reason not to schedule major established directors such as the Coen Brothers or Alfonso Cuarón (Academy Award 2014, for Gravity) just because Netflix is behind them. "The objective of a film festival is to show the best of what is available, not to boycott certain producers". Plausible but again not quite what is selling this season.  So much for that. Among films to be shown in an interesting competition lineup:


The festival opening film is "First Man", the new biopic about Astronaut Neil Armstrong who was the first man to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. Directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling as the famous space traveler the big question is will this serious subject make people forget Gosling's lighter than air performance in LaLaLand and start taking him seriously as an actor. Lala Land was the venice opener exactly two years ago.

Coen Bros, their Netflixx Western "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is an anthology western following six different storylines centering on a man named Buster Scruggs. The Coens have entered western territory with great  success in the past, notably with  , "No Country for Old Men", 2007.  With stalwarts like Liam Neeson in the cast this should be another sagebrush romp. This was Netflixx produced but the Brothers claim it will have a theatrical opening.


"A Star is Born" is the third remake of a 1937 original  directed by A-list dramatic actor Bradley Cooper and starring pop singing star Gaga as the star in question.  Gaga seems to be in ecstasy at being offered a leading screen role and Mr. Cooper obviously wants to display a different side of his creative toolkit.  Initial reactions seem to be positive. Earlier versions starred Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland, hard acts to follow, but Bradley and Gaga seem to be shooting for Oscar contention.


A truly unusual entry this year is the resurrected final unfinished work of Orson Welles, regarded by many as the most talented filmmaker of all time, (Citizen Kane, what else needs to be said?).  

The Other Side of the Wind,  has languished in limbo for 48 years as the final dramatic feature film by Orson Welles which he was never able to finish for a multitude of entangled reasons.  The film which started shooting in Los Angeles in the summer of 1970, was Welles caustic view of the New Hollywood of the time but got mired in all kinds of polemics and was never finished. Finished now by a team of dedicated editors presumably in a form that Welles would have approved of, it will be unveiled this week in Venice. The story focuses on a controversial director played by the famous director John Huston. 


"At Eternity's Gate" is a look at the late career of Vincent Van Gogh, the ear cutting years, as interpreted by Mr. Versatility, Willem Defoe. Defoe has taken on many challenging biographic portraits, among them Italian director Pasolini,  previewed here in Venice in 2014.  His friendly rival, Paul Gauguin, is played by the Guatemalan actor Oscar Isaac, last seen her as a sleazy insurance investigator in Suburbicon, 2017.   An extremely talented actor I am more interested in seeing what Isaac will do with Gauguin than what Defoe will do with van Gogh. Director is Julian Schnabel.


22 July is a drama based on the aftermath of the white supremacist massacre on the Norwegian island of Utoya in July 2011 helmed  by British director  Paul Greengrass. The subject was powerfully addressed by Norwegian director Erik Poppe earlier this year but his version focused on the victims, nor the perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik. This version offers a view of the trial of a mad and unrepentant killer with racist Nazi leanings.


Mass killer Anders Breivik gives Nazi salute at opening of his trial


Peterlooo. English director Mike Leigh, departs from his usual intimate portraits of average contemporary people to look on a larger scale into another massacre, an English one that took place in 1819. Nothing like a change of pace

Finally, from the land of sweet paprika, Napszállta (Sunset) is new Hungarian film from  Laszlo Nemes, who won the best foreign  language Oscar in 2016,  for his Holocaust horror film Son of Saul.  This time we follow an ambitious young lady around Budapest in 1913 on the eve of World War I.  Principal role  is undertaken by Grace Kelly look alike Juli Jakab introduced by Frerenc Török in " No Mans Island". in 2014.


Two important Lifetime Career Lions will be bestowed this year.

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 75th International Film Festival of the Biennale di Venezia (Aug 29-Sept 8).

Director David Cronenberg will be honored by the Festival  with a  Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.

The Canadian horror auteur, known for a wide range of edgy films was last seen on the Lido in 2011 with the psychological thriller “A Dangerous Mind.”

Venice artistic director, Alberto Barbera, praised Cronenberg for venturing beyond the constraints of the horror genre  and having “shown that he wants to take his audiences well beyond the cinema of exploitation.”  Cronenberg, who is 75, said: “I’ve always loved the Golden Lion of Venice. A lion that flies on golden wings – that’s the essence of art, isn’t it? The essence of cinema. It will be almost unbearably thrilling to receive a Golden Lion of my own.”

Another Lifetime Lion will go to senior British actress, Vanessa Redgrave, 81.

She has been nominated for an Oscar six times, and won in 1977 for her performance in Fred Zinnemann’s “Julia.” She won Venice’s Volpi Cup in 1994 for her role in James Gray’s “Little Odessa,” and also won a Tony,  an Emmy, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe, among her many other prizes.

Know as well for her outspoken Political views among them frequent condemnations of Israel's anti-Palestinian policies.


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About Mostra Internazionale d Arte Cinematografica Venice

Oldest festival in the world, MOSTRA is Non-specialised competitive event for features and shorts. Two competing sections and three Prizes: the Golden Lion, the Lion of the Year and the Lion of the Future to best director`s debut film.



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