Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 September 2011
Issue No. 1064
Culture
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

A motley crew

Writing from the Lido, Samir Farid covers some of the Venice Festival's highlights

The 68th Venice Film Festival competition began for real with the screening of the French film Carnage, the latest by the world-renowned Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski (winner of the Berlin Golden Bear in 1965 and the Cannes Palm d'Or in 2003): a gem. The film is based on the play by the French writer Yasmina Reza, staged for the first time in 2006 under the title God of Carnage. Polanski wrote the script in collaboration with Reza, changing the title and the setting to New York and making it English-speaking. More importantly, however, through this film he made the play part of his creative world, which is both connected to and separate from his personal life in a sort of ongoing dialectical exchange.

Polanski left communist Poland and wandered around Europe, settling periodically in cinematic capitals there and in Hollywood. When he achieved success, marrying the beautiful actress Sharon Tate, who was killed (by the Charlie Manson gang in 1969) while pregnant with his child. It was making a version of Macbeth, the metaphysical tragedy, that got him through the crisis. A film full of blood, it featured young versions of Shakespeare's heroes.

Polanski himself is still facing charges of having sex with a minor in Los Angeles, 30 years ago, and chased by the American authorities everywhere ‚ê" a carnage directed at himself ‚ê" he is unable to leave France. The present film, about two sets of parents meeting on the occasion of their respective children having a school brawl, is obliquely appropriate it: it is about the trials and tribulations of people in a small flat that we the viewer never leaves for 79 minutes, as if it is in its way a prison. The story is so satirical it is almost absurdist, recalling Becket.

Since The Pianist (2002), Polanski turned into a gem maker ‚ê" something that was particularly evident in The Ghost Writer (2010). In contrast to the respective classic dramatic structure and pure cinematic verve, he now presents a real-time, one-place masterpiece which, though heavily dependent on dialogue ‚ê" which is entirely justifiable, is also ultimately pure cinema.

According to festival mores, the Taiwanese filmmaker Te-Shing Wei's Saideke Balai (Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale), a high-budget historical film along the lines of Mustafa Al-Aqqad's Omar Mukhtar, should have been outside the official competition. The Venice festival director Marco Muller, however, will include in the competition any kind of film providing it is of sufficiently high quality.

The largest Taiwanese production to date, the film is set in 1930 Taipei and depicts the valiant and brutally suppressed struggle of some 300 warriors of the Seediq Bale tribe against the Japanese army, which occupied Taiwan in the period 1895-1945. It is the third full-length feature by Te-Shing Wei, a Taiwanese-Chinese coproduction.

The Canadian auteur David Cronenberg is, with Atom Egoyan and Denys Arcand, one of the sides of the golden that has placed Canada on the world cinema map for three decades now. Cronenberg is notable for his contribution to the postmodern, particularly with the 1996 film Crash. In his present film, A Dangerous Method ‚ê" which is presented as a German production, he pursues his fascination with the human mind in a harsh depiction of the relationship and clash between Freud and Jung. This is the second major film on the founding father of psychoanalysis after John Huston's Freud (1962), in which Montgomery Clift played Freud. Huston's script was written by Jean-Paul Sartre, a major playwright as well as philosopher and novelist of the time, and Cronenberg's too is an adaptation by the British playwright Christopher Hampton of his own 2002 play The Talking Cure.

With the scenes dated clearly, based on the relevant correspondence, the action unfolds in 1904-1913, just before WWI, between Zurich and Vienna, where Jung and Freud lived and worked, respectively, revealing the role the young, beautiful and sexually masochistic patient Sabina Spielrein played in both their lives, becoming a psychoanalyst in her own right. The film includes engaging dialogue, with Freud for example comparing himself to Columbus, who did not know when he started out what he would end up finding. Jung is convinced nothing in the world happens by chance. At the Vienna University council, they discuss Moses and Akhenaton, whom Jung insists was the first monotheist.

The Out of Competition programme opened with Victor Kossakovsky's feature-length documentary Vivan Las Antipodas (like Cronenberg's film, this is presented as a German production even though its director is among the most important post-Soviet Russian documentary filmmakers). The film is a kind of portrait of that third of the earth on which human beings live, with various degrees and kinds of relationship to nature; it opens in Argentina, moving to China, then Chile, then Russia, by way of Hawaii and Botswana, New Zealand and Spain. It captures life in many villages, towns and cities all across this huge geographical expanse, pointing up differences and contradictions especially in wealth and luxury.

An example of the Earth Cinema invented by the American director Godfrey Reggio, the film shot and edited by Kossakovsky is not as powerful as Reggio's trilogy. In contrast to the holistic and purely cinematic power of Reggio's work, we are presented with a string of short documentaries largely unconnected to each other in four parts, each about two locations with their own real-life characters; beautiful photography does not make up for the flimsy and ineffectively edited connections between settings.

Venezia 68

The Venezia 68 Jury, chaired by Darren Aronofsky and comprised of Eija-Liisa Ahtila, David Byrne, Todd Haynes, Mario Martone, Alba Rohrwacher, André Téchiné having viewed all twenty-three films in competition, has decided as follows:

GOLDEN LION for Best Film:

FAUST by Aleksander SOKUROV (Russia)

SILVER LION for Best Director to:

Shangjun CAI for the film REN SHAN REN HAI (PEOPLE MOUNTAIN PEOPLE SEA) (China - Hong Kong)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE to:

TERRAFERMA by Emanuele CRIALESE (Italy)

COPPA VOLPI

for Best Actor:

Michael FASSBENDER

in the film SHAME by Steve MCQUEEN (Great Britain)

COPPA VOLPI

for Best Actress:

Deanie YIP

in the film TAO JIE (A SIMPLE LIFE) by Ann HUI (China - Hong Kong)

MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD

for Best Young Actor or Actress to:

Sh√ïta SOMETANI and Fumi NIKAID√"

in the film HIMIZU by Sion SONO (Japan)

OSELLA

for Best Cinematography to:

Robbie RYAN

for the film WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Andrea ARNOLD (Great Britain)

OSELLA

for Best Screenplay to:

Yorgos LANTHIMOS and Efthimis FILIPPOU

for the film ALPIS (ALPS) by Yorgos LANTHIMOS (Greece)

LION OF THE FUTURE ‚ê" "LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS" VENICE AWARD FOR A DEBUT FILM

Lion of the Future ‚ê" "Luigi De Laurentiis" Venice Award for a Debut Film Jury at the 68th Venice Film Festival, comprised of Carlo Mazzacurati (President), Aleksei Fedorchenko, Fred Roos, Charles Tesson, Serra Yilmaz has unanimously decided to award:

LÐ-BAS by Guido LOMBARDI (Italy)

VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM CRITICS' WEEK

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 68th Venice Film Festival, chaired by Jia Zhangke and composed of Stuart Comer, Odile Decq, Marianne Khoury, and Jacopo Quadri after screening the 52 films in competition has decided to award:

The ORIZZONTI AWARD (full-length films)

to KOTOKO by Shinya TSUKAMOTO (Japan)

The SPECIAL ORIZZONTI JURY PRIZE (full-length films)

to WHORES' GLORY by Michael GLAWOGGER (Austria, Germany)

The ORIZZONTI AWARD (short films)

to IN ATTESA DELL'AVVENTO byFelice D'AGOSTINO, Arturo LAVORATO (Italy)

The ORIZZONTI AWARD (medium-length films)

to ACCIDENTES GLORIOSOS by Mauro ANDRIZZI, Marcus LINDEEN

(Sweden, Denmark, Argentina)

A SPECIAL MENTION

to O LE TULAFALE (THE ORATOR) by Tusi TAMASESE (New Zealand, Samoa)

A SPECIAL MENTION

to ALL THE LINES FLOW OUT by Charles LIM Yi Yong (Singapore)

The Jury, after screening the 16 European short films in the Orizzonti competition, has decided to give

The VENICE SHORT FILM NOMINEE FOR THE EUROPEAN FILM AWARDS

to HYPERCRISIS by Josef DABERNIG (Austria)

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