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September 1, 2000 2:00 AM
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VENICE 2000: Rain, "Sade," and the Calm Before the Storm

VENICE 2000: Rain, "Sade," and the Calm Before the Storm

by Andrea Meyer



(indieWIRE/9.1.00) --It's raining on the Lido today, so everyone has been forced off the terrace of the Excelsior Hotel and into the lobby. "Rain on the Adriatic means that everyone's inside. It's like what Sundance used to be at Z Place," says Jeff Hill, of Falco Publicity, reminiscing about the early days in Park City when hype was solidified and deals made at the central Main Street venue.


There don't seem to be many deals in the works in Venice at the moment, and the buzz has not surpassed a faint hum. As a storm brews outside, the only real noise is publicists booking interviews and directors quietly complying. After opening night's rush brought on by a brief glance of Clint Eastwood -- he left his own dinner so early, you could have missed him if you blinked -- there isn't really anything to compare, until the weekend brings a new bout of stimulation.


"Tomorrow morning, everything will start," says Hill. After the post-"Space Cowboys" lull, the excitement will kick back in over the weekend, beginning with the appearance of Richard Gere and Robert Altman for the premiere of "Dr. T and his Women" and the rumored arrival of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer for screenings of "What Lies Beneath." Other anticipated arrivals include American indie director Kenneth Lonergan, to support his award-winning debut film "You Can Count on Me" (Grand Jury Prize and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, Sundance 2000), which is going to be screened as part of the International Critics' Week program. Eager fans also have to wait for the weekend for Tom Tykwer's "The Princess and the Warrior," Claude Chabrol's "Merci pour le chocolat," "My Generation" by Barbara Koppel, Sally Potter's "The Man Who Cried," and Takeshi Kitano's "Brother."


The weekend should also be when things start heating up for acquisitions, if there is going to be any movement on that front. The movie everyone is most curious about is Julian Schnabel's "Before Night Falls," which has reportedly been involved in a bidding war between several major U.S. distribution companies. Among ten or twelve films that do not yet have U.S. distributors, which might be of interest to attending distributors, likely targets include Clara Law's "The Goddess of 1967," Pierre Paul Renders' "Thomas est amoureux," "Sade" by Benoît Jacquot ('The Single Girl"), and Ed Harris' "Pollock."


Despite a stunning performance by French leading man Daniel Auteuil, "Sade," a serious and philosophical historical look at the notorious Marquis' years incarcerated at a rest home outside Paris, might have a hard time getting American attention, with Philip Kaufman's more outrageous Sade story "Quills" set to start wow-ing audiences in November. Why is the Marquis de Sade the focus of so much cinematic attention these days? According to Jacquot, "More than half of Sade's life was in jail, and he's a sort of a creator of freedom, so he's a paradox and very interesting. You cannot be more free than when you are restrained; you are obliged to find freedom."


The lack of any major press events is giving festival guests a chance to focus on some of the equally impressive, less publicized programs. Audiences have been speaking highly of "Adanggaman" by African director Roger Gnoan M'Bala, about an African tribe that collaborates with slave traders, and "The Isle" by Korean director Ki-Duk Kim, which is supposedly so disturbing that someone got sick during a screening Thursday afternoon.


People also have an opportunity to attend some of the short films on a rainy day with no splashy premieres scheduled. "I've never seen a festival offer so many high quality directors doing shorts," Hill says. As part of the New Territories program, esteemed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris' short films "The Parrot," "Eyeball to Eyeball," "Smiling in a Jar," and "In the Kingdom of the Unabomber," as well as six others, will be shown, among an eclectic international series of more experimental works that also includes films by Nicolas Roeg and Stan Brakhage.


Also compelling is the series Beckett on Film, which offers filmed plays by the Irish master by such talents as Conor McPherson, Atom Egoyan, Sir Richard Eyre, and Anthony Minghella. Drenched moviegoers may also be escaping the weather with "The Beguiled," "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," or "Play Misty for Me," all of which are screening as part of a tribute to Italy's favorite auteur, Clint Eastwood.

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