News | 68th Annual Venice Film Festival (1)

4 09 2011

Dateline: Venice, Day 5 of the festival, but Day 2 for me

Alison L. McKee, Ph.D.

So here I am at the fabled Venice Film Festival, faithfully reporting in. I didn’t arrive in Venice until evening on September 2 and so made it to the festival only the next day, by which point I’d missed the opening film, George Clooney’s The Ides of March.

As much as I like Clooney and find him sort of a latter-day Cary Grant, I’m not here to see films that I know will be in mainstream U.S theatres shortly. Rather, I’ve come to Venice first to see if I can make any connections on behalf of RTVF, Spartan Film Studios, and SJSU generally.  My second goal is to aim for those films that I might not see otherwise were I not at the festival in the first place.

Accreditation badge, festival program, and ticket to POULET AUX PRUNES

Yesterday’s coup?  Seeing Poulet aux prunes (by Satrapis and Paronnaud, who also collaborated on 2007’s animated film Persepolis, which I sometimes show in RTVF 111: Alternative Cinema). I hadn’t read anything about it in advance and, because Persepolis is animated, I was surprised when the film moved quickly from an animated title sequence into (highly stylized) live-action. Without giving any spoilers, it’s a romantic tale of a man — a musician — disappointed in love, and of the two women in his life who are disappointed as well. Quirky, sardonic, told out of temporal order, and then pulled together and put into context retrospectively by a lush final sequence worthy of Douglas Sirk, the film received a five-minute standing ovation at its conclusion.  Happily, I found myself seated in the balcony of the Sala Grande in the Palazzo del Cinema, near the director, composer, and lead actors — and it was a genuine thrill to feel the audience respond so positively to the film and see how pleased the filmmakers were.  Beautiful cinematography, a score to die for … it made the hype and the glitz mercifully recede into the background, and the film itself was allowed to take precedence.

Because here’s the deal with the Venice Film Festival:  it’s Quite the Scene, and despite the fact that it’s the oldest, most pedigreed film festival in the world (even Cannes is second to it), I wasn’t quite prepared for that.  Paparazzi are all over the place, even at the unglamorous hour of 10 a.m.;  bands of police with bomb-sniffing dogs can be seen (it’s a global media  event, ripe for some kind of terrorist attack, I guess); and the crowds ,.. my god, the crowds!  There’s a dedicated vaporetto (water bus) to shuttle folks to and from the Venice mainland and the festival departing every half hour.  Free to accredited vistors (yours truly, thank you!), it’s a crush nevertheless. One waits in line for everything (of course, that tends to be true of film festivals everywhere). The people-watching is great — I could and have lingered over cappuccino for some time at the festival, just watching the crowds go by … but it’s also exhausting!

For a fluffy journalistic riff on women. glitz, and glamour at the festival, check out this piece from  the Khaleej Times.

More to come!

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