Four days in and bothbuyers and critics appear satisfied with the quality of films on offer acrossthe Venice Film Festival's different sections. But while industry memberscontinue to enjoy the festival's traditionally relaxed atmosphere, some arefinding the lack of a market and expensive prices an increasing hindrance.
After the mixed reception for Tsui Hark'sopening night out-of-competition film Seven Swords, the best-receivedfilms in competition include George Clooney's elegant black-and-white newsroomdrama, Goodnight And Good Luck.
Ang Lee's moving gay cowboy picture, BrokebackMountain, has also emerged as one of the hottest films in competition -although one European distributor pointed out the difficulty in marketing sucha film. "Do you market it as a gay film or just as a love story'" he said.
For his part, Lee insists the gender of hisprotagonists is immaterial. "When it comes to love, there is no differencefor me between the love I have for my wife and the love a man has for anotherman," he told reporters in Venice.
Meanwhile, Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtownhas drawn mixed reviews at press screenings, as has Terry Gilliam's TheBrothers Grimm. But Gilliam, whose credits include Twelve Monkeys,and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, wasn't bothered by any negativereviews for his first film in seven years.
"I like the fact thatmy films have always encouraged bad and good reviews. The most depressing thingwould be a review that was just mediocre. That would kill me," Gilliamsaid at a packed press conference in Venice.
"I have no problem with the fact thatpeople don't see the film or don't like it, because there are as many peopleout there who love it.
"Everybody has their opinion - and somepeople are wrong," he quipped. The film had its gala premiere on Sundaynight.
Meanwhile, Jean-Marc Vallee's film C.R.A.Z.Y, Isabel Coixet's The Secret Life of Words, Philip Groning's documentary Into Great Silence, about one of thestrictest monk brotherhoods in the Catholic Church, have been appreciated in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar Venice Days and in theOrizzonti competition for experimental films.
Orizzonti has alsoproduced the most controversial film in the festival so far, Matthew Barney's DrawingRestraint 9. Filmed on a whaling vessel in Nagasaki Bay, the picturefeatures Icelandic actress-singer Bjork and Barney dressed in mammal furs,cutting away at each other's feet and thighs with flensing knives, while theirbodies are seen to have the beginnings of whale tales.
Overall, industry executives appear to be happywith the general quality of films on offer, and no films so far have garneredoutright bad reviews. "The movies in Venice look good this year," a smiling andrelaxed Harvey Weinstein told Screen International.
Artistic director Marco Mueller's decision todrastically cut back the number of films in the festival seems to be payingdividends.
While there have been some glitches - the galapremiere of Goodnight And Good Luck was briefly interrupted by a numberof angry members of the public who were still scrambling for seats after thescreening had started - overall, thefestival has been running smoothly without any of the organisational chaosexperienced last year.
So far, there has been no buying frenzy,although distributors are circling a number of titles and expect to close dealshere.
Jeffrey Chan, head of distribution at HongKong-based Media Asia Group, says he is impressed with his first trip to theVenice Film Festival, where he is premiering Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's InitialD. "This festival has some pretty unique locations," he said.
"But I wish there weremore buyers," said Chan, who unlike a number of industry executives won't beheading from Venice to the Toronto Film Festival later this week.
Chan was also set aback by the prices on theLido. "Venice is also the most expensive festival. So it would be good to havea market to really make use of it," he said.