VENICE 2000: Love and Death on the Lido; Schnabel, Tykwer, and Potter Screen
by A.G. Basoli
(indieWIRE/ 9.6.00) -- After the devastating news that Johnny Depp would not be making an appearance on the Lido after all, female Italian fans quickly turned their eyes for consolation on Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi, who landed on the Lido yesterday with Jonathan Mostow's World War II flick "U-571." Male fans meanwhile, feasted their eyes on a stunning Michelle Pfeiffer in town with co-star Harrison Ford for the European Premiere of Robert Zemeckis' "What Lies Beneath," while eagerly awaiting the arrival of Claudia Schiffer, star of Nicolas Roeg's short "Sound."
Elsewhere on the Lido Christina Ricci and Cate Blanchett garnered unanimous praise for their luminous performances in Sally Potter's competition entry "The Man Who Cried," an otherwise prosaic story of survival set in World War II Europe.
Living up to its award-bound buzz, Julian Schnabel's second film "Before Night Falls" swept the Lido off its feet with a poignant, edgy tale of persecution and disillusionment based on the memoirs of exiled Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas. From the writer's poverty-stricken childhood in a rural Cuba on the brink of revolution, through the persecutions against homosexuals endured under Castro until Arenas' flight to America, the film beautifully captures the breadth of Arenas' irrepressible spirit and his vibrant struggle against a repressive political environment. Featuring a riveting performance by Spanish actor Javier Bardem in the title role, the film received at its world premiere a standing ovation that lasted through the closing credits -- and a lot of people worked on that film!
On the heels of another less gruesome revolution, namely the Digital one, was the droll, brilliantly inventive first feature by Belgian Pierre Paul Renders, titled "Thomas in Love." Shooting entirely in digital video and based on Philippe ("Une Liaison Pornographique") Blasband's original screenplay, Renders imagines a technologically evolved society not unlike ours, crammed with gadgets and communication devices and yearning for intimacy and contact. Thomas (Benoit Verhaert), the film's protagonist suffers from agoraphobia and has lived for the past eight years locked up in his hyper-technicized apartment experiencing others exclusively through his video-phone and entrusting the management of his life to an insurance company. When his shrink turns him over to a dating club, his screen is flooded with pixel images of women demanding entry into his life and challenging his status quo by requesting physical contact.
"I wasn't interested in the clinical aspect of the condition. Agoraphobia is a metaphor," says Renders. "In a way, we are all agoraphobic when we lock ourselves in certainties. Seems to me that technology is now being used to pay more attention to what is going on inside
ourselves rather than towards what is different than we are. In the Internet, for example, you see networks and clubs which group together people who think alike and keep agreeing with each other rather than actually opening up a dialogue with people that are different."
If Renders' "Thomas in Love" explores the nuances of connection in what is commonly called love, Tom Tykwer's "The Princess and the Warrior" explores the nuances of chance and fate encounters in what is commonly called romance. Starring "Run Lola Run" sensation Franka Potente, the film is a surreal love story between the shy nurse of an insane Asylum and the man who saves her life. "An important element of the film," says Tykwer, "is the encounter between someone who doesn't know how love works and someone who wants nothing to do with love anymore." And what better metaphor for love than someone getting run-over by a truck!
The German cast showed up at the pre-screening party at the Hotel Des Bains with British pop-star Skin, who did the soundtrack, along with soulmates Potente and Tykwer. After the screening, a smaller contingent of the German cast moved the party to the Excelsior where there was champagne flowing until three thirty in the morning and kept going until closing time.