News | 68th Annual Venice Film Festival (2)

5 09 2011

Dateline: Venice

Alison L. McKee, Ph.D.

Yesterday I was nearly trampled by paparazzi and fans on my way to a screening of Nicholas Ray‘s odd, odd film We Can’t Go Home Again.

Paparazzi await the arrival of ... whom?

And no, I was not the object of their pursuit.

In fact, I didn’t know who was, although as I made my way from the stop where the water shuttle drops off people who’ve made the 20-minute trip from Venice to the Lido, the site of the film festival, I did pause to snap a photo of a phalanx of photographers. They were lined up at the place where the famous folks emerge from their water taxis and walk up a red carpet and into the festival.

Obviously people were gathering in anticipation of the arrival of someone well-known, but I was worried about being late and was simply taking the most direct path to the site of my screening. It lay directly across the red carpet, and normally, as long as no one famous is arriving, that’s not a problem.

But all of a sudden there was a flurry of activity, people started to yell and swarm, and that relatively orderly looking group of photographers expanded like bread dough.  “Al!  Al!  Al”

Pacino, I thought instanly.  I knew he was scheduled to appear at the festival.  Sure enough, it was he.

And I’d like to say that I saw him (well, I did once, in Los Angeles), but  that would be a lie because really, I was about 20 people back from the front of the crowd I wasn’t even trying to be part of in the first place.  In fact, I was shoved, jostled, slammed, pushed, and otherwise thrown about in the frenzy of folks who wanted a glimpse of Al Pacino — all because I was simply trying to get to a screening of We Can’t Go Home Again (no, not Pacino’s film).  All that, and I didn’t even get a glimpse.

And you wonder why the whole celebrity thing aspect of this experience leaves me a little cold.

Perhaps I should have gone to Pacino’s film, though, because the Ray film was … Not Good.  Now, I urge you to click on the links I provided at the beginning of this post:  Ray is the director of such fabulous films as In a Lonely Place, On Dangerous Ground, and Rebel Without a Cause, to name only three (if you haven’t seen them, you’re in for a treat — run, do not walk, to your Netflix queue and pop them in there). I’d seen a lot of his films in college film classes, and when I was a grad student in film at UCLA,  I’d read about the filmmaking project that Ray undertook with some undergraduate film students when he was a visiting lecturer toward the end of his career at SUNY Binghamton in the 1970s.  Edited and re-edited but rarely seen, this was my chance to view it.

As I watched We Can’t Go Home Again, I tried to keep in mind that it was intended to be an experimental feature, and it was the product of a different time (1970s).  And given those things, and the fact that I like a lot of Ray’s work, it was worth seeing. Once.  Its use of color, particularly red, reminded me of moments in Rebel Without a Cause, and its theme, to the extent that it had one, was reminiscent of some of his more mainstream film productions. And that was interesting.

But overall?  It just wasn’t very good, not even on its own terms as an experiment.  It was pretty self-indulgent on Ray’s part, and the students …?  Despite the end credits, it was difficult to tell who was responsible for what aspects of the production.  The whole thing just did not hang together.  A number of folks walked out of the screening.

Now, I know it’s 40+ years later, we live in vastly different times, and we use vastly different equipment. I applaud the risks that Ray and his students took with film form (multiple images playing at once, over/under-exposure, dynamic use of color) — but I thought, wow, what would SJSU RTVF students be able to produce under similar circumstances?

Something truly amazing, that’s what. Something that would leave We Can’t Go Home Again in the dust.

I have to say, though, that while I didn’t find the movie good as a stand-alone, it was interesting to see in light of Ray’s other work, and it was pretty cool to see the members of Ray’s family and well-known archivists and preservationists present at the screening as well.  Where else am I going to have an experience like that?

More to come!

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