Rounding up the latest from the fall festival circuit on a daily basis…
Both Shane Danielsen and Anne Thompson are planted in Venice to report on the festival for indieWIRE. Each offered their take on Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," which opened the Venice Film Festival on September 1. Danielsen for one loved the film, hailing it as superior to Aronofsky's debut "Pi." Of Natalie Portman's much talked about lead performance, Danielsen writes, "Portman herself was mesmerizing: her voice half-an-octave higher than usual, her manner raw and petrified throughout." And to the film's naysayers he has this to say: "Complaints as to the film’s improbability seemed to me to miss the point, given that any pretence at strict realism had been swiftly dispensed with - certainly from the first moment the audience saw her mother (Barbara Hershey), a figure of Grimm-like malevolence. This was as much a fairy tale as “Swan Lake” itself: a story of fragile, spiteful, broken-bodied little girls, who puke up their meals and mortify their flesh until it bleeds."
Thompson meanwhile concurs with Danielsen's assessment of Portman's performance, writing "Aronofsky pulls the best performance ever out of Natalie Portman as a tightly wound ballet dancer with no life." Of the film itself, Thompson has admiration, but expresses reservation for the severity of the dark tale. She writes: "The intensity is on a level with Roman Polanski’s "Repulsion," Nic Roeg’s "Don’t Look Now" or Ken Russell’s "The Music Lovers." Yes it’s brilliant, unpredictable and visceral—as Thomas tells Nina what he wants from her—but it’s hard to take."
Arguably the second highest profile film to premiere at Venice up to this point, Julian Schnabel's "Miral," also had its world premiere at the Italian event. Unfortunately Schnabel's eagerly anticipated follow up to "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" left Thompson disappointed. Her main problem was Schnabel's leading lady, "Slumdog Millionaire"'s Freida Pinto. "While gorgeous, [Pinto] is not an expressive actress," Thompson writes. "(She likely helped to raise funding for the film produced by Jon Kilik with financing from Israel, Italy, India and France, which The Weinstein Co. will release stateside.) Her story remains expositional and flat, filled with long debates with her boyfriend Hani (Omar Metwally) about alternative routes to a Middle East solution." As for the director's efforts, Thompson says that Schnabel isn't a proficient enough dramatist to pull this material off. "He’s an elegant, visual director," she writes. "He and cinematographer Eric Gautier adopt an unusual blurry technique for the more intense scenes—but this movie, while filmed on authentic Jerusalem locations, too often devolves into dull talking heads."
- One thing critics the world over are agreeing on is the strength of Natalie Portman's performance in "Black Swan." The Washington Post reported on the early award buzz surrounding Portman's powerful turn. "Evidently Natalie Portman already has this year's Academy Award for best actress all sewn up," Jen Chaney writes. "At least the media buzz coming out of the Venice Film Festival -- where her "Black Swan" just premiered -- is making it sound that way."
- True to form, the Telluride Film Festival unveiled their lineup one day before the official kickoff tomorrow. Included in the lineup is the North American premiere of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's "Biutiful," Danny Boyle's "127 Hours," and Peter Weir's "The Way Back." The Los Angeles Times dissected what separates Telluride from the pack in their lineup report. "As they [the patrons] queue up in Telluride's unavoidable lines (there are hardly any of the line-skipping uber passes seen at Sundance and Cannes)," writes John Horn, "it's clear this crowd is cut from a different cloth: rather than texting on their Blackberries, these people are solving intricate crossword puzzles or reading Jonathan Franzen's latest novel."
- In indieWIRE's Telluride lineup announcement, Editor-in-Chief Eugene Hernandez spotlighted the buzz worthy documentaries that made the cut. "Errol Morris will unveil his latest, “Tabloid,” ahead of its Toronto debut next week," writes Hernandez, "while Ken Burns will present “The Tenth Inning” and Werner Herzog will be at the event with “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga."
- And back in Venice The Associated Press profiled Vietnamese-French Oscar-nominated director Tran Anh Hung, who premiered his latest "Norwegian Wood" at the festival today. "Tran told reporters Thursday, the day his film is premiering at the Venice Film Festival in competition for the Golden Lion, that he didn't try to make a Japanese film," writes The Associated Press, "...and in fact sought a set design that would not be completely familiar to Japanese audiences."