By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire September 8, 2009 at 4:38AM
As the Venice Film Festival continues, reviving itself with a high-profile lineup, people are, indeed, talking about the festival. Shane Danielsen files his latest report to indieWIRE by starting, "Perhaps the most important thing to note about this year’s Venice, is that the mood is noticeably more upbeat than in 2008." Almost certainly the most talked film at this year's festival is Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story," and so we start there.
Variety's Leslie Felperin predicts the reaction to the film from all sides, "By returning to his roots, professional gadfly Michael Moore turns in one of his best films with 'Capitalism: A Love Story.' Pic's target is less capitalism qua capitalism than the banking industry, which Moore skewers ruthlessly, explaining last year's economic meltdown in terms a sixth-grader could understand. That said, there's still plenty here to annoy right-wingers, as well as those who, however much they agree with Moore's politics, just can't stomach his oversimplification, on-the-nose sentimentality and goofball japery." Deborah Young, in the Hollywood Reporter, recognizes the filmmaker's rhetorical gift: "Simplifications are Moore's stock-in-trade, and his documentaries are not known for their impeccable research and objectivity. But here his talent is evident in creating two hours of engrossing cinema by contrasting a fast-moving montage of '50s archive images extolling free enterprise with the economic disaster of the present." Richard Corliss, on CNN Money, while entertained, criticizes the Michael Moore brand of documentary, "In 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' Moore has cogently and passionately diagnosed the disease. But for a cure, instead of emergency surgery, he prescribes Happy Meals."
In Farah Nayeri's Bloomberg review, she says, "'Capitalism: A Love Story' once again shows Moore as a talented pamphleteer and a voice in American democracy. Only, the film runs on too long, and tries to be too many things at once. " While we wait for Michael Moore's big interview with Oprah, we do have this explanation of his relationship with his funders (the downright capitalists that they are).
Hong Kong's "Accident," directed by Soi Cheange and produced by Johnnie To, is proving to be a favorite amongst the Venice attendees. Shane Danielsen describes the film in his report on the fest by saying, "Its concept is ingenious: a team of four assassins whose hits, of staggering complexity and invention, are made to look like freak accidents rather than hits. We watch, admiringly, as they dispatch two victims - and then see them fall apart, seemingly targeted by another organisation like their own." The Hollywood Reporter's Natasha Senjanovic says of the film, "It features little action but is a brilliantly conceived paranoid spiral of a professional hitman. Both Cheange and To have a loyal following worldwide, and this film in particular should broaden international theatrical horizons." Derek Elley, of Variety, predicts big things for the film and its director, "After a decade as one of Hong Kong’s least-known maverick helmers, Soi Cheang takes a confident step onto the international stage with hitman puzzle-caper 'Accident.'" In Screen, Fionnuala Halligan describes the film's opening sequence as "[k]icking off with an impressively well-edited sequence which will ensure audiences never view an accident in quite the same way again." The trades are all saying one thing: this film is just asking to be remade. Blerg.
Danielsen's standout film for the festival has been Austrian director Jessica Hausner's "Lourdes," which has obtained quite a few European distribution deals. The film stars Sylvie Testud as a woman with multiple sclerosis who makes a pilgrimmage to the Catholic holy site of Lourdes, famed for the saintly apparitions that have occured there. Guy Lodge at In Contention talked up the film - encouraging Austria to enter it for Oscar consideration, though another has been picked by the country. "A fine film on any terms, it’s also that rarest of beasts: a religious-themed story that should draw empathy from viewers on either side of the spiritual divide. With the Germans having claimed 'The White Ribbon' for themselves, Austria would do well to submit this gem to the Academy." Screen's Fionnuala Halligan insists that the film is a pleasant surprise, describing the film as a truly unique piece of cinema, "Nothing in Lourdes, from the souvenir shop to the stations of the cross and the candlelit Masses, is presented as you might expect. There is no real soundtrack, apart from the odd devotional hymn, a small jolt of Bach and the final, unforgettable, pilgrims farewell dance."
Oliver Stone is also in town with his new film "South of the Border." The documentary is a glowing profile of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, taking the film as an opportunity to dispel conservative (American) myths about the leader. The controversial leader surprised Venice by showing up to the film's world premiere, creating an intense security awareness at the festival. The Huffington Post has the Chávez details. The Auteurs has an analysis of the film's reviews.
And if you didn't already wish you were there, let's try this. A man snuck into a press conference for the new George Clooney film "The Men who Stare at Goats," stripped down and asked for George Clooney to take him. Ah, Europe...