ENJOY THE MOVIES
We're in the thick of the fall movie season now, with the Toronto Film Festival finishing up this weekend. I attended my first Venice Film Festival this year (read about my experience at the fest) and saw a total of 26 films across 10 days. There are still many scenes floating through my mind, many great moments from these films. To wrap up my coverage of Venice, let's recap my favorite films of the festival as well as my two of favorite performances. I only had a chance to see three documentaries (Human Flow, Jim & Andy, The Rape of Recy Taylor) this year, so I won't be singling out one of them. Instead, I'll be talking about my two favorite films and a few others that stood out. As always, there's plenty to discuss. Let's begin, shall we?
"I tell stories. All I can ever do is express how I'm feeling at a moment." In theaters this week is the new film from acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, a very provocative and intense feature titled mother!. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple living in a secluded home, trying to fix it up and make it nice until one day uninvited guests show up. Mother! premiered at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, and the reviews have been all over the map. I loved the film (here's my review), because I understood exactly what he was doing. This is Aronofsky's outburst of anger about the state of the world, and the way we abuse and mistreat this beautiful planet we live on. While at the Venice Film Festival, I met with Darren briefly for a chat about mother!, and the state of the world - he's always fascinating to talk with.
The 74th Venice Film Festival wrapped up this weekend on the Lido, and the awards were handed out. The top prize at Venice is a Golden Lion (in honor of the iconic lion that is the symbol of the city) and it's one of the greatest achievements in cinema, along with the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. This year's big winner is Guillermo del Toro's fantasy love story The Shape of Water, starring Sally Hawkins as a lonely woman who falls in love with a fish creature at a secret lab (read my review). The runner-up prize went to Foxtrot, another brilliant film, this one criticizing modern life in Israel (read my review). I'm very happy about these two, and all of the Venice prizes (more below). An exciting first year at the festival for me.
"Venice was and is full of lost places where people put up for sale the last worn bits of their souls, hoping no one will buy." (-Ray Bradbury) The canals, the tiny streets, the little bridges, the amazing food. There's so much to love about Venice, the beautiful Italian city on the water. I wasn't sure what to expect attending the Venice Film Festival for my first time, but at the end of it all, I have to admit it is a wonderful festival in an extremely lovely city. At the beginning of the fest, I wrote about how much I love the Telluride Film Festival and how sad I was to skip that fest and attend this one instead. But, Venice stole my heart, and has shown me there's just as much to love about this festival as there is about Telluride. Not only do they show some of the best films every year, but there is a charm to the city that can't be found nearly anywhere else.
Oh my goodness, this film is brilliant. You won't be ready for this when it hits you, no matter how prepared you think you may be. Foxtrot is the new film from Israeli director Samuel Maoz (of Lebanon previously) and clearly confirms that he's a master filmmaker who has so much to show us. Foxtrot is both the story of a family, and the story of a soldier. It's distinctly an Israeli film, criticizing not only the society and culture of the country, but especially their military and the idea that they're supposedly doing good. I had heard great things before, but I was still completely floored by this film when I saw at the Venice Film Festival. It's the kind of perfect film that leaves you speechless at the end, you don't even know what to say other than "wow."
After breaking out big in the early 1990s, actor Jim Carrey took on his most challenging role yet - playing Andy Kaufman in the film Man on the Moon. He ended up winning a Golden Globe for his performance and the film remains the most seminal feature made about Kaufman and his comedy. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is a documentary created nearly 20 years later after behind-the-scenes footage was discovered in Carrey's offices. The film starts out by examining the task of playing Kaufman, and how Jim Carrey got so immersed in the role he "disappeared from Earth" for two years and became Andy, allowing himself to only be referred to as Andy (or Tony Clifton) on set and nothing else. But there's more to this film when it gets into analyzing the idea of comedy, and honesty, and it becomes a remarkably philosophical film by the end.
I haven't seen a movie this instantly straight-to-VHS since VHS died. No, seriously. I don't even know what this movie is. John Woo's latest movie, titled Manhunt, just premiered at the Venice Film Festival. It is technically a remake of a Japanese film titled Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare (1976), which is based on a book by Jukô Nishimura. The first odd thing about it is that the movie is really a Japanese movie made by a Chinese director, starring one Chinese man on the run in Japan. It's set mostly around the city of Osaka. The other odd thing about Manhunt is that it seems like John Woo is parodying John Woo, making an old school John Woo movie that seems to be making fun of John Woo, but it's still a John Woo movie. So, yeah.
This is what happens when you make someone angry. Darren Aronofsky's latest film, Mother! (or officially titled mother! with the lowercase M), is an incredibly intense, heart-pounding cinematic experience. Based on the reactions this morning at the first screenings at the Venice Film Festival, it's going to be the kind of film you either love or hate. And it's going to be discussed and debated endlessly in great depth, which is actually the sign of an excellent film. It's a very bold, straight-in-your-face attempt to address many of the world's problems by using various characters and one house as a metaphor for, well, the world we live on. Darren doesn't hold back, letting it build and build into something so breathtaking and shocking, it's hard not to love it, unless you've missed the entire point of it. This is the slap in the face society needs right now.
"I am cantankerous, greedy, fat. I am perhaps, disagreeably, attached to power. But I am anything but insane." Even if she is cantankerous and grumpy and stubborn and disagreeable, there's a sweet side to her, if only you can get close enough to experience it. Victoria & Abdul is the latest from veteran filmmaker Stephen Frears (who last made Florence Foster Jenkins). It tells the true story of an unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria of England and a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim around the end of the 19th century. They become very close friends and this brings her much joy, but upsets the predominantly racist royal household around her. It starts out a bit campy, but becomes very charming once it gets into it.
Well, it looks like George Clooney has brought us the best Coen Brothers movie in years. Suburbicon is perhaps Clooney's best work as a director and it's one of the most humorous, deceptive, devilishly enjoyable dark comedies this entire year. I walked out of the cinema in Venice totally high, my heart racing, because I was so overwhelmed by how perfect it is, and by how much I loved every last twist and turn and reveal. It's so very dark, witty, engrossing, sharp, and lovable, in all the right ways. Suburbicon is co-written by Joel & Ethan Coen, with Clooney & Grant Heslov, so it's fair to call this a Coen Brothers film. But I don't want to get too wrapped up in that, because Clooney's direction here is seriously impressive and deserves the praise.
This is not an action movie. Even though it has some very gritty, brutal action scenes, it is more of a thriller (or drama) than anything. That said, action fans should take an interest in this one anyway. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is the latest film from director S. Craig Zahler, of Bone Tomahawk previously, and he once again proves his prowess at delivering totally gnarly moments of violence. Zahler's Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a slow burn drama about a man and his wife, and the lengths he goes to protect her and raise a family safely in a nice house. It's kind of, sort of criticizing the American dream in a subtle way, but also glorifying a hero made of muscles who only says exactly what is necessary and never anything else. He is so fucking badass.
My goodness, this is a beautiful place. I am currently in Venice attending the Venice Film Festival, aka Venezia 74, for my very first time. After nine years in a row attending the Telluride Film Festival, I decided to switch things up and head down to Venice. Honestly, the main reason is that I could not afford the cost of going to Telluride. Now that I live in Berlin, the total cost of flying back, staying in the city, and buying a badge was just too much. As crazy as it sounds, flying down to Venice and attending this festival is actually cheaper. Telluride and Venice both take place at the same time, and they both play many of the same films. But they take place on opposite sides of the world so I had to choose one or the other. But it doesn't matter, you can watch great movies anywhere around the world and I'm lucky to be able to enjoy this lovely festival.