The main competition jury managed to shirkoff local pressure and pre-release publicity for Marco Bellocchio'slocal favourite Buongiorno, Notte and indoing so proved wrong detractors who have warned that
It would not have been a scandal had Bellocchio won, ashe delivered a solid drama with mounting tension between a group of terroristswho kidnapped the Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in1978. But the picture means more to Italian audiences than to anyone else andthere were better films to be had elsewhere in the festival.
Pre-festival indications that this was going to be one of the best
Film of the festival in terms of sheer pleasure quotient had to be Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation,a hilarious, but ultimately also moving, romantic comedy with standoutperformances by Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanssen -who was awarded the Best Actress prize.
If Billy Wilder were to rise from thegrave to direct a remake of BriefEncounter set in
Lost In Translation was, somewhat bafflingly, not in the main Venezia 60 competition but in the parallel Controcorrente or Upstream selection, which in the words offestival director Moritz de Hadeln was dedicated to"a different kind of cinema".
However, it is difficult to imagine in what way Lost In Translation qualifies as more"different" than, say, Bruno Dumont's main competition Twentynine Palms, a self-indulgent arthouse drool which was almost universally derided.
On thepost-your-comment board outside the Casino, one punter wrote "If Twentynine
Another weak link in the competition line-upwas Christopher Hampton's flaccid and embarrassing Imagining Argentina, though even this earned warm applause, awayfrom the critics, at its gala screening.
Over the course of the twelve-day celluloid feast,four main contenders for the Golden Lion emerged.
The local hope was veteranauteur Bellocchio's
(Local paper Ciak,which polled Italian critics on a daily basis, also had Tsai Ming Liang's GoodbyeDragon Inn in the lead until the screening of the Bellocchiosteamroller.)
But the realrevelation of the competition, and of the festival as a whole, was
Zvyagintsev, a39-year-old former actor, strips cinema down to its most basic element in thisstory of an absentee father who returns home to take his two sons on a fishingexpedition. Simply told, the film draws authority from the utterly convincingperformances of the three leads and from the way it descends into a world ofprimordial forces without ever sacrificing its dramatic edge.
The jury,presided by veteran Italian director Mario Monicelli,did the right thing.
Otherhighlights included Last Life In The Universe by talented Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang. Shot in painterlystyle by Wong Kar Wai's regular cinematographerChris Doyle, this is a film about the friendship between two lonely, misunderstoodpeople. Last Life In The Universe manages to say very little, but does so in a very compelling way.Japanese star Asano Tadanobu's performance as a librarian with obsessive-compulsivedisorder earned him the Upstream section's Best Actorprize.
Another treat in Upstream was TheFive Obstructions, a two-hander by Lars von Trierand Jorgen Leth, in which the wily Danish Prince of Dogme comes out into the open for the first time as aMachiavellian manipulator holding a series of cinematic hoops for one of hiscreative mentors - experimental filmmaker Leth - tojump through.
First-time director Michael Schorr's Schultze Gets The Blues - which picked up theUpstream Jury Grand Prix - was a charmingly quirky tale of a retired Germanminer's passion for the zydeco music of
The out ofcompetition roster was much stronger than last year. Standout was the Coen brothers' glittering alimony satire, Intolerable Cruelty, which featuredGeorge Clooney in one of his most enjoyable roles to date, sparring against astatuesque Catherine Zeta-Jones. It had had been announced as anout-of-competition part work but actually showed complete with the threemissing scenes.
Though it teetered on the brink of sentimentality, Francois Dupeyron'sMonsieur IbrahimEt Les Fleurs Du Coran was reined in by ahard-edged script and a fine, underplayed performance from Omar Sharif as a Parisian Arab shopkeeper who befriends a youngJewish boy.
Bernardo Bertolucci's TheDreamers divided critics. The film's main flaw was its failure to meld theoutside story - Paris' 1968 Spring of revolt - with the inside story of a menage
Woody Allen's Anything Else fulfilled its opening filmfunction; but although it had some good one-liners, this Cristina Ricci - JasonBiggs vehicle showed definite signs of tiredness.
And the critics were mostly underwhelmed by The HumanStain, an adaptation of Philip Roth's novel about racial crossing and PChypocrisy in modern
That the festival had come up with adiverse, rounded and high quality field must have been a comfort to theprogrammers, who did much more than pick up
However, whether the festival haddone its best by all the films was also a source of running debate. Manyscreenings were dogged by problems with sound - Michael Winterbottom'sCode 46 was interrupted for half anhour by technical hiccoughs - and dot-matrix sub-titles often disappeared orran out of synch.
Others complained that the scheduling left something to be desired, giving critics few opportunities tosee every film before its associated press conference. ImSang Soo's AGood Lawyer's Wife, for instance, had its press screening at
The Venice Screenings market and thesales booths (this year moved away from the cinema gardens to the ground floorof the Excelsior hotel) were both quiet. One seller remarked "I had twovisitors today, and one of them was looking for the Poles."
A possible co-venturewith Mifed and Cinecitta ison the cards and may add some oomph to the festival's industry ambitions, butwhether this is what buyers and sellers need or want is more moot. Many buyersdeserted
Had the Bellocchio film won, it would have howled missed opportunity. Asthe top local film it came close to winning an "A-list" festival without asales company in place. The film is to be released in
The Return's seller RaissaFomina of
On the evidence of this year,