Venice Film Festival
The Venice Film Festival is over. It started August 28 and ended September 7. 21 films competed for the Golden Lion, the two Silver lions and 5 other prizes in the main festival. 24 films were shown out of competition. 98 films participated in other festivals connected to the Venice International Film Festival, such as Horizons, Venice Classics (restored classical movies), Sconfini (Trespassing), International Critics’ Week, and Venice Days.
The Mandatory scandal
When it became known that the direction of the 2019 festival had invited Roman Polanski to participate with his film A Gentleman and a spy – J’Accuse, a lot of criticism from inside the festival organization as well as from outside began.
In 1977 Polanski was arrested for the sexual assault of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. As a result of the plea bargain, Polanski should be guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, other 5 charges should be dropped. After Polanski had been told that the judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, planned to disregard the plea bargain and send him to jail instead of letting him serve his sentence as probation, he fled the US and have since then lived in Europe. And since he never turned up at the court sentencing, the charges are still pending.
Anyway, the director of the Venice film festival, Alberto Barbera, defended his choice of artists and films, saying: I’m convinced that we must distinguish the artist from the man. “The history of art is full of artists who have committed crimes of different nature, but we have continued to admire their works. The same goes for Polanski, which I think is one of the last masters of European cinema still in business “
Then the president of the jury, Lucrecia Martel, right at the beginning of the festival stated that: “When we talk about a film we talk about the work of a human being. The worst thing we could do is to separate the man from his work. Anyone who thinks this is good, is wrong“
And when the result was out about the winners, and everybody knew that the first price, The Golden Lion, didn’t go to Polanski but he had to settle for the second price, The Silver Lion, The grand jury prize. Then Martel stated: “I can not separate man from art. I think an important aspect of a man emerges in his work. The presence of Roman Polanski in the competition, after what he has done in the past, makes me so uncomfortable that I will not participate in the gala in honor of his film. It would not be fair to all the women I represent, the Argentine women, victims of rape “.
I, for one, would have given anything to be a little fly on the wall, and hear the discussion at the jury’s meetings.
All the winners of the 76th Venice Film Festival
These are the winners of the 76th Venice International Film Festival, the main competition.
Chairman of the jury: Lucrecia Martel, members: Stacy Martin, Mary Harron, Piers Handling, Rodrigo Prieto, Shinya Tsukamoto, Paolo Virzì :
GOLDEN LION for Best Film to:
by Todd Phillips (USA)
SILVER LION – GRAND JURY PRIZE to:
J’ACCUSE (AN OFFICER AND A SPY)
by Roman Polanski (France, Italy)
SILVER LION – AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR to:
for the film OM DET OÄNDLIGA (ABOUT ENDLESSNESS) (Sweden, Germany, Norway)
for Best Actress:
in the film GLORIA MUNDI by Robert Guédiguian (France, Italy)
for Best Actor:
in the film MARTIN EDEN by Pietro Marcello (Italy, France)
AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY to:
for the film JI YUAN TAI QI HAO (No.7 CHERRY LANE) by Yonfan (Hong Kong SAR, China)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE to:
LA MAFIA NON È PIÙ QUELLA DI UNA VOLTA
by Franco Maresco (Italy)
MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD
for Best Young Actor or Actress to:
in the film BABYTEETH by Shannon Murphy (Australia)
The three top films
The winner, Joker, is a very good movie, no doubt on that one.
But if I’m not completely wrong… And I’m not, it’s not the usual winner-type of a movie. Let’s look at the last five years of winners:
2014 A pigeon sitting on a branch reflects on existence by Roy Andersson
2015 I Look at you by Lorenzo Vigas
2016 The Woman Who Left by Lav Diaz
2017 The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro. (This one is a Hollywood reasonably mainstream movie, but still kind of out on the water so to speak…)
2018 Rome by Alfonso Cuarón
Joker does not at all fit into this list. And it probably has something to do with the conflict between Polanski as a representative of the old, male film-industry and Lucretia Martel.
It’s a very good film though. Todd Philips enlists Joaquin Phoenix and the result is a very dark and very convincing film. The fictional character debuted in 1940 in the first issue of the comic book series “Batman”, and it’s maybe the psychopath most told on the big screen. The Joker of 1966, Cesar Romero, in the film by Leslie H. Martinson, the late Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (2008) by Christopher Nolan and Jared Leto in “Suicide Squad” (2016) by David Ayer are just a few of them.
Superheroes often have a double identity, but not in the case of Arthur Fleck’s Joker, a failed actor who is the son of a sick woman. He is Joker even if he doesn’t know he is. In life, he wears a mask with a false smile, but it is a metaphorical mask that is not part of the man destined to become a hero in spite of himself, having accidentally killed two imprudent white-collar workers in the subway.
I’m a great fan of Joaquin Phoenix, but I must say, in this film he’s better than he ever was. He has a depth and an essence to the character, to himself, that is seldom seen. His marked face is almost too true, even though the story is told straight forward in a theatrical way. A particularly successful soundtrack closes the circle, it is “Smile” in the Jimmy Durante version, which paradoxically underlines the most tragic moments of the opera. A perfect film from all points of view
It’s a documentary about Batman and Gotham City, through the eyes of his worst enemy.
Robert de Niro takes on the role of Murray Franklin the talk show host, and he does it with the authority of the great movie star that he is.
J’accuse (An officer and a spy)
At the press conference at the beginning of the festival, the whole production team was present, but without Polanski. The co-producer Luca Barbareschi tried to clear the air a little saying that, since the director wasn’t present, the rest of the crew would gladly answer any questions about the film but would leave out any comment about the direction of the film. He also said that this isn’t a court to judge in favor of this or that, but a wonderful festival of cinema. As such it should deal with the art, and no more.
Then he started thanking everybody for their contribution, as usual. Very interestingly, he then went on thanking God for his collaboration with Polanski in giving us this marvelous film. When the collaborators entered the room at the beginning, all the journalists took up spontaneous applause.
The film is a masterpiece. It tells the story of Alfred Dreyfus (Louis Garrel) who was a Jewish captain in the French general staff, accused of selling military secrets to the Germans. He was convicted and exiled to the Devil’s Island off the South American coast, just like the film Papillon from 1973 with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. Here too the main character is innocent and we actually get to follow the figure of Colonel Picquart, played by Jean Dujardin.
This is a smart move and we get to follow Picquart’s work to find the truth about the supposed Spy-affair, more than Dreyfus life on the island. Picquart has just been promoted to lead the office of military intelligence and discovers how disorganized and corrupt the whole office really is. To this, there’s a strong antisemite blanket covering the whole french military as well as the society. Picquart doesn’t oppose this but carries out his duties more of a conviction that it’s the right thing to do.
There’s an obvious similarity between Polanksi’s situation and that of Dreyfus in the film. And I don’t think it’s just a coincident that he choose this story for his newest film.
Om det oändliga (About endlessness)
Not everybody likes the films of Roy Andersson, but he’s still a phenomenon without equals in the modern film industry. He won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival in 2014 with A pigeon sitting on a branch reflects on existence. And now he’s won again, not the Golden Lion but the prize for best director’s prize. And I think this is extremely important for a man who’s brought something completely new into the business.
Roy Andersson started out as a conventional filmmaker, but after having flopped and exceded the budget on his second film, he got “blacklisted” by the Swedish film society. Nobody wanted to work with him anymore and he had to live on commercials for 25 years. Doing these extremely short publicity films he developed a special technique, and his failure in film turned into a success in the commercial business … And he made some money.
When he started making film again in 2000 the style was something no one had ever seen before. Andersson says he saw a painting of the Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel, and he was amazed how the image grew into the distance rather than from left to right or from top to bottom.
In his films, all scenes are static, filmed with one fixed camera. The action then takes place in a prolonged depth-axel. Things happen upfront but also behind, in the background and even at the horizon.
My family all hates his films. Andersson is not for everybody. But I think in a world of conformity, it’s very refreshing with someone who dares to stand out. And it brings hope to the film industry when you see that the medium still can evolve.
The new entry follows the same tradition. It’s a series of paintings of man in the present and the past. Ironical and sharp in the telling, pale and beige in the style. The criticism of society and Andersson’s own reflections become obvious as if it was written out on the screen. It’s a very slow, very foggy and dusty, but extremely complex entry.
Way to go Roy.