Sunday, September 4, 2011

68th Venice Film Festival (2011) Report

The 68th Venice International Film Festival is now in full swing. With the last of this year's most highly anticipated films scheduled to premiere on screen at the Sala Grande in Venice's famed Palazzo del Cinema.

Let's take a closer look at some of the images from the festival and what the critics had to say about La Mostra's exciting lineup of films.  Check back daily for the latest images and updates from the 2011 Venice Film Festival or visit my festival preview for movie info and trailers.

Winged golden lions line the outside of the Palazzo del Cinema
  • Day 1 - Wednesday, August 31
    Opening Ceremony

    Venice jury members: Mario Martone, Todd Haynes, Andre Techine, David Byrne, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Darren Aronofsky, Alba Rohrwacher.
    Opening Film - In Competition
    THE IDES OF MARCH by George Clooney

    Grant Heslov, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney
    "The kind of film that everyone likes and respects but nobody is really passionate about." - Manolis Dounias (The Film Experience) 

    "A political thriller exploring themes of loyalty, ambition and the gap between public ideals and private fallibility, it engages the brain within the context of a solid entertainment." - David Gritten (The Telegraph)

    "Taught, intelligently written, and grippingly acted, The Ides of March may not have been the most cheerful film to open the festival with, but it provided a satisfying curtain raiser to an event that clearly means business." - Stephen Applebaum (The Scotsman)
  • Day 2 - Thursday, September 1
    Competition Film

    Lo Mei-ling, Landy Wen, Umin Boya, Da Ching, Jimmy Huang, John Woo, Le-Sheng Wei, Vivian Hsu, Ando Masanobu
    "Stunning to look at, authentic to a fault and a little tedious to follow for over two and a half hours." - Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter) 

    "The most expensive production in Taiwanese history (budgeted at around $25 million), this wildly ambitious rumble-in-the-jungle battle epic arrives bearing so heavy a burden of industry expectations, one wishes the results were less kitschy and more coherent" - Justin Chang (Variety)
    Competition Film
    CARNAGE by Roman Polanski

    Alexandre Desplat, Yasmina Reza, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz
    "As it spirals towards its amusingly messy conclusion the film loses its tightness and lapses towards drunken clichés, but Carnage is never if not watchable and enjoyable." - Mark Adams (Screen) 

    "Polanski has rustled up a pitch-black farce of the charmless bourgeoisie that is indulgent, actorly and so unbearably tense I found myself gulping for air and praying for release" - Xan Brooks (The Guardian) 

    "Snappy, nasty, deftly acted and perhaps the fastest paced film ever directed by a 78-year-old, this adaptation fully delivers the laughs and savagery of the stage piece while entirely convincing as having been shot in New York" - Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
  • Day 3 - Friday, September 2
    Competition Film
    A DANGEROUS METHOD by David Cronenberg

    David Cronenberg, Kiera Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Gadon, Vincent Cassel
    “Screaming and alarmingly jutting out her jaw in extremis, Knightley starts at a pitch so high as to provoke fear of where she'll go from there. Fortunately, the direction is down.” - Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter) 

    "Still, if the take off and landing are a bit bumpy, most of “A Dangerous Method” is fearsomely smart, a grown-up film that doesn’t forget to move you even as it fires up the synapses." - Oliver Lytteton (The Playlist) 

    "The main performances are fine, with Fassbender conveying seething emotion beneath a calm veneer, but it's Knightley that one remembers, for a full-on portrayal that is gutsy and potentially divisive in equal parts."? - David Gritten (The Telegraph) 

    "By the time the film leaps forward for a final epilogue in 1934, you feel that Cronenberg and Hampton have succeeded in a full and telling professional and personal portrait of Jung, even if the film that houses it is sometimes lacking."? - Dave Calhoun (Time Out London)
    Competition Film
    UN ÉTÉ BRULANT by Philippe Garrel

    Louis Garrel, Monica Bellucci, Celine Sallette, Jerome Robart
    "Like an old rock song that used to be a favorite and now sounds past its prime, or an apartment that used to be swinging and now badly needs a paint job and new furniture, watching Philippe Garrel’s That Summer has a sweet retro taste of the Nouvelle Vague that soon turns insipid." - Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter) 

    "What little drama there is, is often revealed in advance by a forehead-slappingly redundant voiceover, new characters are introduced seemingly at random and the pacing is such that the film feels twice as long as it really is, with no sense of how much time has passed on screen." - Oliver Lyttelton (The Playlist)
  • Day 4 - Saturday, September 3
    Competition Film
    POULET AUX PRUNES by Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud

    Mathieu Amalric, Vincent Paronnaud, Maria de Medeiros, Rona Hartner, Marjane Satrapi, Golshifteh Farahani
    "The same winning balance of seriousness and humor that made "Persepolis" such a hit works equally well in "Chicken With Plums," whose visual flair proves that helmers Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud have a career in live-action as well as in animation." - Jay Weissberg (Variety)

    "Delight and boredom vie for supremacy while watching Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s pretty but ultimately empty follow-up to their breakout animated feature Persepolis." - Lee Marshall (Screen Daily) 
    Out of Competition
    CONTAGION by Steven Soderbergh

    Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Steven Soderbergh
    "The film pulses along (driven by precise editing by Stephen Mirrione and thumping electronic interludes by composer Cliff Martinez), rarely taking time to burrow into a character before pushing on to the next" - Kristopher Tapley (In Contention)

    "Among this director's strengths is a flair for juggling and sustaining multiple storylines in one film. He proved it with his Oscar-winning Traffic, and confirms it with Contagion: it feels like news stories breaking simultaneously from across the world." - David Gritten (Thompson on Hollywood)

    "A forthright, effective piece of filmmaking, even if it’s front-loaded so that most of its power (and its horror) is clustered in the first third." - Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline)
    Competition Film
    ALPIS (ALPS) by Yorgos Lanthimos

    Johnny Vekris, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Yorgos Lanthimos, Aggeliki Papoulia, Ariane Labed
    "Alps has proven Lanthimos to be one of the most fascinating filmmakers anywhere right now, and, while there’s no immediate news on when it’ll hit on the U.S., or anywhere outside Greece, we’re confident it’ll be one of the most talked-about films of the next year" - Oliver Lyttelton (The Playlist)

    "Most of the time, this story of a team of melancholy, oddball characters holds us emotionally and intellectually - and ends by saying something profound about a world in which ‘reality’ is just another TV format." - Lee Marshall (Screen Daily)
  • Day 5 - Sunday, September 4
    Competition Film
    TERRAFERMA by Emanuele Crialese

    Mimmo Cuticchio, Guiseppe Fiorello, Donatella Finocchiaro, Emanuele Crialese, Filippo Pucillo
    "Fabio Cianchetti's lensing is always superficially attractive, lit just-so in a way that outlines the actors with touches of silver at night and makes the darkened waters around the island shine with moonbeams. Nice visuals, nice story, nice everything -- but sometimes nice just isn't enough."  - Jay Weissberg (Variety)

    "In his earlier films Respiro and The Golden Door, Crialese has shown his gift for capturing the lives of poor Italians living far from the country’s affluent urban centres. Terraferma is no masterpiece, but it’s a humane, likable work, solidly appreciated by the home audience in Venice." - David Gritten (Thompson on Hollywood)
    Competition Film
    SHAME by Steve McQueen

    Michael Fassbender, Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen
    "There's a welcome and appropriate absence of closure, even though McQueen and Morgan are not bold enough to leave their immediate story hanging in the same open-ended and provocative way" - Dave Calhoun (Time Out London)  

    "Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan give dynamite performances in Shame, a terrific second feature from the British artist Steve McQueen" - Xan Brooks (The Guardian) 

    "In scene after scene, McQueen builds an involving if never easy portrait of Brandon’s uncontrollable urges, the conflicting emotions they engender and the crippling effect they have on his relationship with women" - Boyd van Hoeij (Cineuropa)
  • Day 6 - Monday, September 5
    Competition Film

    Ann Hui, Deanie Ip, Andy Lau, Qin Hailu, Roger Lee
    "The film is a pretty smooth technical package with crisply high-definition cinematography from Yu Lik Wai -- best known for his rather more ambitiously challenging work with Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-Ke -- a consistent plus. His clear, direct images suit a movie which thankfully eshews the easy route of heavy-handed tear-jerking." - Neil Young (The Hollywood Reporter) 

    "At times it is all a bit cloying and too prettily organised, the saving grace being the presence of veteran Hong Kong actress Deanie Ip, who walks naturally through the part, without any effort" - Dan Fainaru (Screen) 

    "Delivering what may be the best performances of their careers, Lau and Ip display perfect chemistry and restraint as two people who have known each other all their lives. Affecting but never sentimental, A Simple Life is undoubtedly one of Hui's best films to date." - Giovanna Fulvi (TIFF)

    Competition Film
    TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY by Tomas Alfredson

    John Hurt, Colin Firth, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gary Oldman, Mark Strong
    "The pace may feel a little deliberate for some tastes, but the slow burn pays off in a richly satisfying piece of storytelling brought to life by a once in a generation cast" - Allan Hunter (Screen) 

    "A marvellously chill and acrid cold war thriller from Swedish director Tomas Alfredson. Right here, right now, it's the film to beat at this year's festival." - Xan Brooks (The Guardian) 

    "Tomas Alfredson blows a fresh air of continental style into Le Carré’s story without harming the 1970s British period feel of his source material." - Dave Calhoun (Time Out London) 

    "It's a mouthwatering cast, and they are all quite brilliant in it. The production design is a marvel, the costumes are perfect, and just how Swedish director Tomas Alfredson got under the skin of British behaviour so intuitively is remarkable." - Jason Solomons (The Observer)

    "Alfredson was an inspired but sensitive choice to direct this potentially outmoded material, and his delicate mood-cultivating sensibility reaps the same rare rewards that it did in his previous hit." - Guy Lodge (In Contention)
    Competition Film
    DARK HORSE by Todd Solondz

    Todd Solondz, Selma Blair, Jordan Gelber
    "I staggered out of Dark Horse wondering whether the drinks had been dosed with ground glass and the balloons inflated with poison gas. I also felt I had attended maybe one too many of these sour little soirees." - Xan Brooks (The Guardian) 

    "There are things to recommend about “Dark Horse,” and it’s good to see Solondz challenging himself, at least. But it’s a film to be admired rather than to be liked, and a long, long way from the director’s best work." - Oliver Lyttelton (The Playlist)

    "Dark Horse, accomplished and witty as it is, seems like treading water, at times even like a step back for a writer-director who is certainly among the most individual and downright intelligent of his generation"  - Jonathan Romney (Screen)
  • Day 7 - Tuesday, September 6
    Competition Film
    WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Andrea Arnold

    Solomon Glave, James Howson, Andrea Arnold, Kaya Scodelario, Shannon Beer
    "This might be the British filmmaker's first literary adaptation, but all her trademarks are there, from the woozy camerawork capturing motes of dust in the sunshine and almost-square, Academy screen ratio to the use of natural light and the up-close-and-then-some relationship with one character." - Dave Calhoun (Time Out London)

    "Nature is the true star of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights, a raw and affecting adaptation that will bring a new audience to the Brontë story." - Anita Singh (Telegraph UK)

    "An admirable attempt to strip the story of Wuthering Heights down to its barest, most primal elements, helmer Andrea Arnold's first period feature and first adaptation of another writer's work is unfortunately more interesting in theory than it is to watch." - Leslie Felperin (Variety)
    Competition Film
    HIMIZU by Sono Sion

    Satomi Odake, Tom Yoda, Fumi Nikaido, Sion Sono, Shota Sometani, Haruo Umekawa, Masashi Yamazaki
    "Fraught with brutal violence and needless repetition that draws out its two-hour running time, Himizu is still not an easy film to like, but the topicality of its message about national pain and rebuilding could attract some offshore sales following its Venice and Toronto debuts." - Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter) 

    "We’re not going to beat around the bush here. We hated the experience of watching the vast majority of Himizu. Hated it. If we weren’t reviewing it, we might have walked out (as plenty did)." - Oliver Lyttelton (The Playlist)

    "There's always something to like in Sono's films, and here perhaps the standout feature is the performance of the two young leads, and the way the script shifts their relationship from cartoonish parody to affecting love story." - Lee Marshall (Screen Daily)
    Surprise Competition Film

    Director: Cai Shangjun
    "Shangjun certainly has skills, with some thrilling compositions, particularly in the early, mountainous section, and he’s admirably happy to linger on a totally empty frame. And despite the revenge movie set-up, it never quite fits into that genre, taking things in some unexpected directions. But the film is deathly slow. So very slow."  - Oliver Lyttelton (The Playlist)

    "Faulty story-telling aside, the film is a showcase for Cai Shangjun’s talent as a director with hair-trigger control over tone and mood. From city to countryside to village, from stone quarry to mine shaft, the detailed, suggestively lit sets convey strong emotions in lieu of words." - Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter)
  • Day 8 - Wednesday, September 7
    Competition Film

    Director: Eran Kolirin
    "The concept is clever, but the execution is so measured as to become soporific. Mixed boos and applause at the Venice press screening signal uncertain prospects, and certainly not the success of Kolirin's previous charmer." - Jay Weissberg (Variety)  

    "It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination (although it received the loudest collection of boos at the festival so far, surprisingly), but neither is it a fully realized one." - Oliver Lyttelton (The Playlist)
    Competition Film
    QUANDO LA NOTTE (WHEN THE NIGHT) by Cristina Comencini

    Filippo Timi, Cristina Comencini, Claudia Pandolfi
    "This is the kind of movie where no one turns on the lights in moments of high drama even when it's sensible and the natural thing to do. "When the Night" what, exactly? Mountain scenes are attractively shot, though more could be expected given the spectacular locale. Music dictates mood rather than suggests it." - Jay Weissberg (Variety)
    Competition Film
    4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH by Abel Ferrara

    Willem Dafoe, Shanyn Leigh, Abel Ferrara
    "A less nihilistic and far less interesting companion piece to Lars von Trier's recent "Melancholia," Abel Ferrara's latest cine-doodle likewise treats a worldwide cataclysm as an occasion for two individuals to exorcise their demons" - Justin Chang (Variety)
  • Day 9 - Thursday, September 8
    Competition Film
    L’ULTIMO TERRESTRE (THE LAST MAN ON EARTH) by Gian Alfonso Pacinotti

    Gabriele Spinelli, Anna Bellato, Luca Marinelli
    "Visually, at least, the director makes a confident debut, with some striking framing and greatly effective use of depth, no doubt aided by his graphic novelist background. The film is pacy and lean, and music, including a number of songs from Italodisco revivalist Digitalism, is used well." - Oliver Lyttleton (The Playlist)
    Competition Film
    KILLER JOE by William Friedkin

    Emile Hirsch, William Friedkin
    "There are scenes in this gutsy, sexy, violent film that out-Tarantino Tarantino, and may even test the censors." - Lee Marshall (This is London) 

    "It won’t change the face of cinema history, and it won’t win any awards (it’s too downright dirty for that), but it’s furiously entertaining, and a very strong piece of drama from a director who hasn’t much luck in the last thirty-odd years." - Oliver Lyttleton (The Playlist) 

    "The William Friedkin of The French Connection and The Exorcist may be but a distant memory, but Killer Joe proves that at 76 the Academy Award-winning director is certainly no back number." - Neil Young (The Hollywood Reporter)
    Competition Film
    FAUST by Aleksander Sokurov

    Andrey Sigle, Aleksander Sokurov, Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adaasinskiy
    "The expressionistic filmmaking lets loose in an idiosyncratic style of chaotic slapstick, in which frenetic theatrical acting contrasts with deformed visuals that can barely contain the actors." - Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter)
  • Day 10 - Friday, September 9
    Competition Film
    TEXAS KILLING FIELDS by Ami Canaan Mann

    Ami Canaan Mann, Michael Mann
    "This routine procedural narrative is made unexpectedly difficult to follow by the frequently inaudible burial of dialogue in the sound mix, though the lines we do hear are often so clumpy that it may be to the film’s benefit." - Guy Lodge (In Contention)

    "Treads territory long since made familiar by CSI and its many variants and offshoots. A just-OK second feature from Ami Canaan Mann" - Neil Young (The Hollywood Reporter)
    Competition Film

    Lau Ching Wan, Stephanie Che, Myolie Wu, Johnnie To, Denise Ho
    "There are some good ideas knocking around in Hong Kong genre auteur Johnnie To’s multi-strand financial crisis dramedy- but they’re swamped by an inept script that keeps getting bogged down in details and forgetting the big dramatic picture." - Lee Marshall (Screen Daily)
  • Day 11 - Saturday, September 10
    Awards Ceremony

    Golden Lion (Best Film)
    Faust by Aleksander Sokurov

    Silver Lion (Best Director)
    Shangjun CAI for the film Ren Shan Ren Hai (People Mountain People Sea)

    Special Jury Prize
    Terraferma by Emanuele Criales

    Coppa Volpi (Best Actor)
    Michael Fassbender in the film Shame by Steve McQueen

    Coppa Volpi (Best Actress)
    Deanie Yip in the film Tao jie (A Simple Life) by Ann Hui

    Marcello Mastroianni Award (Best New Young Actor/Actress)
    Shôta Sometani and Fumi Nikaidô in the film Himizu by Sion Sono

    Osella (Best Cinematography)
    Robbie Ryan for the film Wuthering Heights by Andrea Arnol

    Osella (Best Screenplay)
    Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou for the film Alpis (Alps) by Yorgos Lanthimos
    Closing Film - Out of Competition
    DAMSELS IN DISTRESS by Whit Stillman
A quiet moment on the red carpet.


d_4 said...

These critics are tastefully harsh, it makes me comfortable with their opinions.

Mis2pesos said...

So many good films!

thevoid99 said...

I've been following the reports of what's going on in Venice.  Yeah, I'm not really surprised by some of the mixed reviews some of the films that are playing though I was in absolute glee over the trashing Madonna's film "W.E." got.  That aging bitch needs to realize that she's overstayed her welcome and it's time for her to pack it up. 

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

Ahahaha A Dangerous Method went over as well as I'd hoped!

FrontRoomCinema said...

Wow this is great coverage BT. Thanks for putting it together!!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I generally don't like newspaper critics, there's something I prefer about amateur blogger's opinions to paid ones.  But with premieres like these, they are the only thing available...

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Haha, I only glanced at the headlines for that, but I'm not surprised that it was garbage.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah now I really can't wait for it to come out.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks for checking it out.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks, It's a bit of work finding everything so I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I don't know what the shaved head thing is all about either.

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

Thank you so much for doing this. 

I particularly love that you tried to give both positive and negative responses for each film. Hopefully some day I'll know enough of these critics to know which ones to believe.

And on a side note, that Contagion picture had me running to IMDB to figure out which upcoming film convinced Matt Damon to shave his head. 

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