Venice Film Festival 2014 Picks by Richard Lormand
Venice Film Festival 2014 Picks by Richard Lormand
Once again the publicist/ producer Richard Lormand
has made his picks for the Venice Film Festival. His choices invariably are top-notch and his
notes on the films show a deep love for his work. I always gravitate toward his films, as I often gravitate toward others’, both publicists and
critics, whom I know to be the best. Why? Because we tend to like the same films.
By Richard Lormand
Greetings Venice-bound (or not) Film Lovers!
Here’s what’s going on with us at this year’s Mostra del Cinema on the Venice Lido…
“Dearest“(Qui’ Ai De) is a powerhouse of emotion. The ensemble cast represents some of China’s finest acting talents – leading actresses Zhao
Wei and Hao Lei and actors Huang Bo, Tong Dawei and Zhang Yi all give knockout performances. Director Peter Ho-Sun Chan has made such an
intriguing film from newspaper headlines – children gone missing, searching for them, dealing with the loss and sometimes dealing with finding
them again. These incidents might not be new, but “Dearest” fascinated me because of thevery original and respectful treatment of this material
by its astute writer-director. I really didn’t know where I was being taken. But I liked each new path in this heartbreaking journey of a movie.
I felt every one of this film’s thousands of carefully constructed emotional moments. And Zhao Wei’s performance as the foster mother:wow!
“Ich Seh Ich Seh” (“Goodnight Mommy”) is a real discovery. It’s clever, playful and it’s really good filmmaking. It’s horror, it’s European art
house, it’s Austrian. And produced by bad boy director himself Ulrich Seidl. And it’s a first feature co-directed by sort of an odd pairing – not
really related, not a romantic couple. But Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala definitely got something going (talent,
intelligence and a passion for cinema) with their mix because the results are all over the screen. I won’t pitch you the horror scenes, but
they are real fun and mean like they should be. But what really struck me about this film is that it is so amazingly gorgeous. Such a
consistent impeccable taste in all that is beautiful, even the ugly. Oh, the cornfields, the forest. Mom’s bruised and bandaged face and head.
Those mischievous twin boys. (By the way, “Ich Seh” is the child’s game “I Spy.” “Ich Seh Ich Seh” because of the twin boys. “Goodnight Mommy“
because… Well, you’ll see.)
“The Cut” is Fatih Akin’s much anticipated new feature. It was destined to be controversial in some way or another because of the material, Fatih
himself, so many possible reasons. And here it is finally. It’s without a doubt an epic – a big topic, big crowd scenes, wide open spaces,
world travels. But “The Cut” is a very intimate epic about a man alone. A man who cheats the Armenian genocide, but sometimes survival is simply
not enough. He will only live again through the search for his twin daughters. I admire how Fatih Akin courageously focused on the human side –
the blood, sweat and tears – of this potent political subject matter. Fatih’s hero is Nazaret, a sort of Armenian “Everyman”, incarnated by
Tahar Rahim whose face tells so many stories without words. Equally remarkable are “The Cut’s” production values. I was especially moved by the
haunting beauty of the Armenian shanty town, backdrop for one of Fatih’s boldest scenes, one of many. Still flashing in my mind’s eye: Nazaret
watching Chaplin on screen is such a fine Fatih Akin moment of cinema. And the title reference scene in the desert is Fatih Akin intensity like
no one else’s.
“Altman” is such an enjoyable and informative documentary about the career of late great Robert Altman. I was very surprised. I see a lot of
short, medium and feature-length films about directors, and sadly, I am usually disappointed by something. But Ron Mann’s “Altman” satisfied my
bio-doc needs: strong linear structure, interesting archival footage, good interviews and narration and no abuse of movie excerpts. “Altman”
actually relies on its own solid research and editorial savvy to remain captivating for 95 minutes. Altman’s wife, Kathryn Reed Altman, served
as a consultant on the production and her intermittent narration add both credibility and heart to the film. Not only did I learn some things
about Robert Altman, the film made me feel like I even got to know him a bit personally. And it’s a great feeling to think about his films:
“MASH,” “Short Cuts“, “Nashville” “The Player“… “Altman” actually made me want to go back and see all of his movies again. Now that’s what I call an
homage to a filmmaker.
“Tsili” is Amos Gitai’s latest exploration of cinematographic language, another manifestation of his passion for cinema. Inspired by an Aharon
Appelfield novel in Yiddish, “Tsili” is one of the rare instances when Yiddish is heard in a movie. Young Jewish woman Tsili, hiding out in a
Central European forest with the sounds of WWII not so far away, is actually played by three different women in Gitai’s film. Once again,
actress Sarah Adler (“Jellyfish” proves that she’s got one of the most beguiling screen presences around today. I loved the visual and emotional
treatment of Tsili’s nest. For such sad and lonely subject matter, “Tsili” actually feels quite celebratory. A celebration of life and cinema. “Tsili” is another fine example that Amos Gitai is both an innovator who breaks the rules and a fierce defender of the traditions of pure cinema.
He has played not only an essential role in Israeli cinema history, but also in European and international cinema.
“Bypass” is UK writer-director Duane Hopkins’ second film. He previously made the acclaimed “Better Things” (Cannes 2008 – Critics Week). Similarly
in “Bypass,” this young filmmaker continues to show a real talent for balancing bleakness and hope. I was particularly struck by the aesthetics
of “Bypass,” as I’m quite sure you will be too. “Bypass” is simply gorgeous to look at. It’s a true example of artistry applied to film. But Duane
doesn’t sacrifice his love of the characters for the sake of the film’s beauty. Everything is centered around the outstanding leading
performance by George MacKay as troubled Tim who works part-time as a criminal to keep his family afloat. MacKay’s Tim is calmly tense and
fascinating to watch. As Tim’s situation becomes more dangerous, Duane shows a knack for crime genre. But just as important – perhaps even more
– is Tim’s love for Lilly. It’s as if lovely actress Charlotte Spencer actually incarnated love and hope on the screen.
Quick note: I return to the Toronto Film Festival this year with four films: Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix“, Ole Christian Madsen’s “Itsi Bitsi,” Bent Hamer’s
“1001 Grams” and Danis Tanovic’s “Tigers.” More on these Toronto world premieres soon.