A few weeks ago in Locarno, an acquaintance (I believe it was Filipino director Raya Martin) fittingly described this year’s Venice Film Festival line-up as “a monumental name-dropping.” And boy, was he right. Here are a few names that dropped during the first four days of the festival (pardon, the “international exhibition of film art,” according to the literal translation from the Italian title): Polanski, Cronenberg, Garrel, Soderbergh, Solondz, Pacino, Haynes, McQueen . . . and Madonna. Faced with such abundance, one has to make difficult choices. I resolved to commit to Orizzonti (Horizons), an experimental section that’s historically had surprises in store. This decision was made simpler by the organization’s strict, hierarchical entry system: after a few failed attempts to get into the major screenings, I figured it was time to venture into the unknown.
To start things off, I picked Amir Naderi’s Cut. Almost a manifesto for the section’s avant-garde spirit, the film is quite a strange creature. Though its story was originally written in Persian by the Iranian director, who has lived in the U.S. for the last 20 years, Cut was produced and set in Japan. Such a cultural melange will almost certainly heighten the enthusiasm of those who follow the new transnational doctrine in film culture and its study. Yet, it seems to me that Cut moves in a different—perhaps even opposite—direction from that arena. In fact, Naderi manages to deliver a distinctly Japanese feeling while conveying at the same time a message of faith in cinema as a universal form of art. The plot revolves around a young cinephile of the radical sort named Shinji, whose entire existence is built upon his love for films. No family, seemingly no job, no relationships: his daily routine includes writing a film, visiting the graves of Japanese masters such as Ozu and Kurosawa, running an independent film society, and walking down the streets while blaring through a megaphone about the decline of cinema as art. In one line: consciousness-raising at twenty-four frames per second. Read Pasquale Cicchetti’s dispatch from the Venice Film Festival.