Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Anna Magnani's legacy honored at Castro and BAMPFA

By Moira Sullivan

The late Italian actress ANNA MAGNANI will be honored at the Castro Theatre on Sept 24 and at the BAMPFA from September 25 to December 4 in Berkeley. The program is sponsored by Luce Cinecittà, the Italian Cultural Institute and Cinema Italia San Francisco.

Magnani was born in Rome in1908 and worked with the great Italian art house directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. She also worked with Jean Cocteau and even won the admiration of Tennessee Williams who created for her on screen a role in The Rose Tattoo opposite Burt Lancaster, where she won the best actress award in 1955 at the Academy Awards. Her breakthrough role that brought her to international attention was in Roberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City that made her a star in Italy and abroad.

Magnani died in 1973 at the age of 65 in Rome after a long battle with cancer and her public funeral brought all of Italy out to mourn in the streets of her beloved city

Four films will be screened at the Castro for Anna Magnani – A Film Series Program. Each reveal the bravado of Anna Magnani and celebrate her diversity.

1:00 PM: Rome Open City (100 mins. – 1945) directed by Roberto Rossellini
In this film Anna plays the fiancé of a member of the Italian resistance against Hitler opposite a priest, Aldo Fabrizi, who is working to help his people during this difficult time. It was a film that is one of the first associated with Italian neorealism that was known for showing the realistic conditions of the time with non-actors, inexpensive sets, costumes and makeup, and stories set in the here and now, in this case the last year of the war. Anna Magnani was praised for her role and was sought after by Italian and international directors ever since. Her performance won her Best Foreign Actress of the year by the National Board of Review and Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival.

3:00 PM: Bellissima (115 mins. – 1952) where Anna plays Maddalena a working class mother who drags her daughter off to an audition at the Cinecittà studios like countless other mothers. It reveals the chaos in Italy after the war and the desperation that people had to get ahead or just to get by. With each person Maddelena meets, she follows his or her advice to improve her daughter’s appearance and performance for her role in an upcoming film. The script by Suso Cecchi d’Amico, and Francesco Rossi makes it an unforgettable film. Directed by Luchino Visconti

6:00 PM: The Rose Tattoo (117 mins. – 1955) by Tennessee Williams, Anna Magnani plays Serafina an Italian living in America, the widowed mother of a teenage daughter. Her husband had been transporting bootlegged alcohol in his fruit truck and is chased by the police. This results in a fatal accident. Anna took great pride in her husband particularly his build and virility. Everything is done for him by her but his shady business and love affair on the side catch up with both. Burt Lancaster, plays an Italian-American whose sister sets him up to meet the widow Serafina. He is not credible as an Italian-American. He is certainly not the marvel that Serafina's husband was and is a clown that is extremely irritating in his role. But Magnani eclipses him so that it doesn’t matter.

8:00 PM: A party will be held Castro Theatre’s mezzanine to celebrate Magnani prior to the final screening of the day.

10:00 PM: The Passionate Thief (106 mins. – 1960) directed by Mario Monicelli is co- written and adapted by Suso Cecchi D’Amico from novels by Alberto Moravia. The film unites two famous Italian actors Magnani and Italian comic Totó, playing two actors who get bit parts at Cinecittà after their career has wound down. They wind up spending NewYear's together  trying to find a great party to attend. Totó runs into a colleague, a petty criminal played by the young Ben Gazarra, and agrees to cater at a huge dance hall and help pick pockets. Later by chance, they crash a party after inadvertently being hit by cork that hails from a party hosted by a wealthy German. The antics of the film make it one of the best comedies, especially with Magnani and Totó working together as a great duo.
© 2016 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 09/21/16
Movie Magazine International

The 73rd Venice Film Festival, La Biennale di Venezia - Awards

By Moira Sullivan
"Home" by Fien Troche
This year there were some exceptional films in the Orizzonti or Horizons section of the Venice Film festival that ended Sept 10, and several were made by women. The Belgian independent film director Fien Troch won the best director award for “Home”, a disturbing tale about young people involving incest and subterranean family violence. The story is told in an innovative film style with inventive use of mobile framing (Frank van den Eeden) and solid character development. The enfolding narrative is shown full screen but when there are flashbacks or special focuses on characters, the screen space is cut in half (editor of film is Nico Leunen -Troch’s husband). “Home” is well made revealing an artisan of high caliber. The premise of “Homes” is the paradox of three young men, two of which share the same girlfriend Lina (Lena Suijkerbuijk), and they all have with severe problems at home. John’s (Mistral Guidotti) mother molests her son, Sammy’s (Loïc Bellemans) mother pampers him and teaches him to lie and Kevin (Sebastian Van Dun) can’t live at home because he fights with his father and his mother doesn’t stand up for him. None of the youths are interested in what their parents have to say, especially John. His solution is to take Xanax which Kevin steals for him but then he is “forced” to take more drastic measures.

Two other films dealth with the subject of youth boredom and angst as Troch’s “Home” --Tim Sutton’s “Dark Night” (USA), and Gastón Solnicki’s, “Kékszakállú” (Argentina).

In “Dark Night” six youths are chronicled who skateboard, swim, go to the movies, dye their hair orange, use Google maps (as does cinematographer Hélène Louvart who worked on Alice Rohrwacher’s Venice Jury Prize winner“The Wonders” 2014), Skype, ride around in cars, and fill their universe with “nothing” in the constant numbing of youth, avoiding the realities they don’t want to know about, to hear about or see . Freeways, tract homes, parking lots, green grass, and recurrent mall lights resurface as the momentum builds for a brutal gun attack. We know that it is coming like the slithering slide of a snake as it approaches its prey and is ready to pounce. The vacant dead eyes of the perpetrator should give pause to the victims or anyone he sees.

The contorted faces of men and women who scream reveal the angst that so many keep inside. In that respect the scenes of passing time that build up to these contortions, express the real violence. Dark Night's carnage, is a real life occurrence at a movie theater, that claimed the lives of young people, many with bottled up rage, just like their shooter. The year is 2012, Aurora Colorado.

Gastón Solnicki’s won the FIPRESCI award this year for “Kékszakállú”, a magnificent shot epic about the dying Argentine economy that no longer supports the upper class and the young women of a new generation who dispense with its privileges. Some of them work in a factory that produces chemically hazardous plastic, and spend their free time cooking huge octopi for evening get-togethers or congregating in municipal diving pools. These venues in the film are accompanied intermittently by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok’s Kékszakállú about the story of (Bluebeard) who has eloped with his new wife Judit.

© 2016 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/21/16
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fourth report from the 73:e Venice Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan
Ronny Trocker's The Eremites (Ingrid Burkhard)
The massacres in Paris, Nice and Brussels by young alienated outsiders is perhaps the most urgent problem today that finds expression in cinema. “Our War”, an Italian US and Kurdish co-production by Bruno Chiaravalloti, Claudio Jampaglia, Benedetta Argentieri , had its world premiere in Venice, a unique out of competition documentary about three young volunteers from Sweden, the US and Italy who travel to northern Syria to fight against ISIS with the predominantly Kurdish YPG - Popular Protection Command in Rojava.

Over 30,000 voluntary recruits to ISIS in Syria have occurred before the making of the film, some of them westerners, and it was important to learn of westerners who choose to participate with the Kurds to fight ISIS. One of these recruits, a former US Marine, points out that the most effective way in this struggle is to arm the Kurds who have led the most successful campaigns to push back ISIS.

The Eremites” is a Orizzonti film and Ronny Trocker’s first feature, a German/Austrian co – production, and a sober portrait of Marianne, who lives on a farm in the Alps with her husband under rustic conditions. Their son Albert (Andreas Lust) who work in a stone quarry visits them often from the village. A cable that pulls a metal carriage connects the primitive farmhouse to the village below. Marianne played by Austrian actress Ingrid Burkhard (featured in “Toni Erdman” from Cannes in May) Ronny Trocker has done a beautiful job on this film with long takes of the Alps, the farmland, animals and the quarry. These are “characters” to reckon with that have almost a spiritual presence.

Last week I reported on Ears from the Biennale College and the film won three awards with work by young and emerging directors, Aessandro Aronadio’s “Ears” won three awards at Venice, including the “FEDIC” award for proposing the most significant scene in relation with food and alimentation. A youth jury liked it too and awarded it the “Arci Cinema Giovani Award” (Young Cinema award).

Shubhashish Bhutiani first feature was also financed by Biennale College. The Indian director is already esteemed for “Kush “(2013) which won the Orizzonti short film award in on anti-Sikh riots after the assassination Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. This year Bhutiani made “Hotel Salvation”, 77-year-old Dayanand Kumar (Lalit Behl) decides his time is near and wishes to travel to Varanasi on the Ganges and complete his cycle of rebirth in one of the special hotels..

A mockumentary entitled “King of the Belgians” by Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth from Belgium, the Netherlands and Bulgaria is an Orizzonti film which takes the spectator on a voyage within politically volatile parts of Europe. King Nicolas III is on a mission to improve his image and to integrate Turkey into the EU. His majesty and his staff including a filmmaker engaged to document the event find themselves in exile in the Balkans with no airfare and only country roads with rustic travel modes. The saga takes the royalist and his personal staff into the heart of Eastern Europe where he experiences warmth and friendship for the first time.

Francesco Carrozzini’s provocative documentary “Franca: Chaos and Creation” is about his mother Franca Sozzanni who is going on 28 years as fashion editor of “Vogue Italia”. She was the first Vogue editor to photograph women of color when no one would, and who did a fashion shoot after an oil spill with models covered with oil in evening gowns or young women in school uniforms depicting sexualized violence sprawled over steps with their outstretched hair seeping with blood. Despite criticism, she is insistent that fashion be intertwined with the events of today, though not in a literary but visual sense. In the beginning of the film Indie actress Rosario Dawson turn around while exiting a convenience store to pick up the latest copy of “Vogue Italia” because of its daring bravado.

© 2016 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/14/16
Movie Magazine International

73:e Venice Film Festival: Report 2

By Moira Sullivan

Tim Sutton’s Dark Knight  was featured as a special screening at the Venice Film Festival 31 Aug - 10 September. The film is  is part Frederick Wiseman and part Gus Van Sant.  These are two filmmakers whose talent has been a problem for some spectators and who are praised by others. Both have crews which set up shots perfectly and both have acquired funding for professionally made films.  The content is revealed often in long takes with little dialogue, quickly edited scenes (editor Jean Applegate) and redundant imagery. Introspection with lingering momentum is their watchdog. Their films are part reality TV, part commercial voyeurism and almost always a male gaze. Focus is on male characters and when, for example, it is on female characters such as Wiseman’s long surveillance of a battered women and children he did not seem to know much about women. (Interview with Wiseman for at Venice 2001), so much that he went on to make Domestic Violence 2 the following year, where a woman is arrested for attacking her husband.

In Dark Knight  written and directed by Sutton, the surveillance cameras are pointed at young people in a low income area where mall shopping and painting fingernails help pass the time. (Six youth are chronicled played by Anna Rose Hopkins, Robert Jumper, Karina Macias, Conor A. Murphy, Aaron Purvis and Rosie Rodriguez). The young people either skateboard, swim, go to the movies, dye their hair orange, use Google maps (as does cinematographer Hélène Louvart, The Wonders, 2014), Skype, ride around in cars, and fill their universe with “nothing”. To make this film, Sutton uses guns, darts, butt shots and masks. Male characters (and one woman) act out their rage and women shop, pose for selfies in their underwear or lie in bed listening to men.

Two women play the guitar and sing “You are my sunshine…But if you leave me and love another, you'll regret it all some day” with a gun pointed at their heads unbeknownst to them. That this triste existence is pervasive is evidenced by repetitive aerial shots of the neighborhoods where restless youth live. They don’t read books, converse with one another, attend school or change the world in any way. Conversation between counselors, young men, young women and support groups are on the fringe of the empty pictures that pose as landscape, but not in any Antonioni sense. These are the real discussions beneath the constant numbing of youth, the realities they don’t want to know about, to hear about or see. Freeways, tract homes, parking lots, green grass, and recurrent mall lights resurface as the momentum builds for a brutal gun attack. We know that it is coming like the slithering slide of a snake as it approaches its prey and is ready to pounce. The vacant dead eyes of the perpetrator should give pause to the victims or anyone he sees. But they walk innocently in scenes that put the spectator in a voyeuristic trance, we who are the voyeurs, waiting for the pounce and the carnage. Listening to a young man claim that humans are not real but animals, and for his mother to claim he is smarter than his peers is one of the many internal contradictions in the film, as if brutal acts are committed by geniuses. We know that he is going to kill his turtle when he holds it up on several occasions. In that regard he demonstrates that animals aren’t real either. We know that the sunshine singers are going to be blown away and all the scantily clad young women who check their phones and take selfies. Video games don’t lead to violence, says the young man who later takes a hammer to the turtle. Humanity raised on artificial tech culture, without support, in low income neighborhoods and nuclear families, confined to gender roles, produce numb brains that have no connection to people. The contorted faces of men and women who scream reveal the angst that so many keep inside. In that respect the scenes that build up to these contortions, are the real violence.

Dark Knight's
carnage, is a real life occurrence at a movie theater, that claimed the lives of young people, many with bottled up rage, just like their shooter. “You make me happy… the skies are grey… please don’t take my sunshine away are the slow languid lyrics (arrangement by Maica Armata) heard before the shooter enters the theater by a back door designed for mall security. We don’t see turtles killed or humans. We are suspended as victims while the snake slithers.
The year is 2012, Aurora Colorado.

© 2016 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/14/16
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Allesandro Aronadio's "Ears" at 73rd Venice Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan

The Venice Film Festival which runs from Aug 31 to Sept 10 features films in several sections in addition to the main competition. Biennale College was created in 2012 – a laboratory for advanced training dedicated to the production of low cost films. This year one of the three films chosen for college is "Ears "by Alessandro Aronadio with its world premiere Sept 1.
Allesandro Aronadio
The characters don’t have names. A man, played Daniele Parisi, a doctor of philosophy who is a substitute teacher, wakes up one day with ringing in the ear and his entire day is filled with occurrences surrounding this event. Despite the number of characters, Aronadio keeps them in place and in focus. 

From beginning to end there are images of the heavy influence of Catholicism on Italian daily life. Two nuns (Silvano Sosi and Masaria Collucci) ring the doorbell of his girlfriend where the man has spent the night (Silvia D’Amico) and inadvertently alert the neighbor (Sonia Gessner). The nuns tell the man that a photograph he has taken with his girlfriend reveals that she is not happy, which they claim is visible through the corners of her mouth.

The man visits the county medical clinic and takes a white card, meaning hours of waiting handed to him by the receptionist (Francesca Antonelli) who is texting during the entire operation. But he decides to see a specialist played by (Andrea Purgatori –you have to love his last name) who smokes during the entire consultation and who refers him to a gastroenterologist (Massimo Wertmuller ). He tells the man he is a hermaphrodite and actually pregnant, a joke he has been wanting to play on hypochondriacs for years. After losing money in the ATM he looks up one of his students that owes him money, a rap artist (Re Salvador) who he admonishes to go back to school.

The young musician’s message that life needs simplicity falls on ringing ears. A meeting with his mother played by the brilliant Pamela Villoresi and her Russian boyfriend who reassembles IKEA furniture into artworks and does an engaging street show is counterproductive to his immediate needs. 

Two appointments are on his calendar this day – a meeting with an editor in chief of a magazine who wishes to employ him but is frightened by his accounts of the day’s medical findings (Piera Degli Esposti) and the funeral service at 7pm for his friend Luigi, a service in which the church is covered in plastic, including the coffin due to repairs.

The multiplicity of characters in Ears creates a momentum in the film that leaves you in anticipation for the next event, so successful is the timing of the interactions. Add to this the fact that you can count on some reference to Roman Catholicism in Italian humor. There are references to gender that are not always particularly funny, in this care the specialist that makes a joke about his two gender physiology. The film is shot in black and white and the acting is excellent with a talented pool of actors that are veterans in Italian cinema.

© 2016 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/07/16
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Alberto Barbera tries to innovate Venice Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan

The Venice Film Festival is one of the oldest in the world yet every festival needs to update to remain vital. This year festival president Alberto Barbera was aware that young people don’t seem to come to the festival enough because there aren’t enough activities for them, parties, mingling opportunities, hangouts. One Italian festival that has successfully enlarged on this concept is the nearby Udine Far East Film Festival in the Veneto region, this year taking out a full-page ad in the pricey daily trades. The average filmgoer in Udine is under 30 and there are quite a few opportunities to attend parties and gatherings. What does this have to do with a film festival? The party angle of a festival makes it festive. Venice now competes with the Rome Film Festival and the former director of the Venice Fest, Marco Müller , was the first president. He brought an artistic spirit to the Venice festival before he left and had a doctorate in Asian studies. Under his direction Venice featured world premieres and the Orizzonti section of innovative film work was created. And with him, the Veneto region festivals in Udine and Venice became known for presenting quality Asian cinema. President Barbera, like Mueller has an academic background and is also a film critic. But are artistic directors responsible for the rise and fall of a film festival. This year Muller served out his three-year contract and resigned from Rome while the festival lost thousands of attendees. Each year he tried a new concept under the instruction of this bank financed corporate festival. One larger reason for failing audiences is that festivals now compete with VOD such as Netflix that presented a film in the official selection this year- Beast of Nations. Abraham Attah who played a child soldier in the film won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor. After the world premiere, the film goes to VOD. In the Venice Days parallel section a trailer was shown before each film about the decline of cinema houses with the advancements of VOD. So if young people are the major consumers of cinema today they are indulging in the current ways of screening films. It was still refreshing to have this message in an innovative trailer encouraging people to go to the cinema just as what happened with the advent of television in the 1950s. International film critics draw attention to the films and have the same interests in the screenings as the festival directors who create the lineups. The rest is commerce with expected visits by the actors and directors of the studios that finance the films.

The festival this year had some nice moments but there were not as many exceptional films as I have experienced in past festivals in Venice. My favorite film of the festival won won best debut film and best director in the Orizzonti section : “Childhood of a Leader” by Brady Corbet. The film had all the distinguishing featues of excellent cinema, acting performances by Robert Pattinson, Stacy Martin, Liam Cunningham, Bérénice Bejo and Tom Sweet, soundtrack by Scott Walker and cinematography by Lol Crawley. This young 26-year-old director chose to film in 35mm and with all the digitalization of film today this was an intriguing decision.

In keeping step with Cannes that introduced the Kering Talks for women in film sponsored by a luxury firm, Venice presented Miu Miu tales for women sponsored by the fashion corporation. Agnès Varda and Alice Rohrwach were special guests who presented short films that were noteworthy for their innovation, and a step above a lot of the films at this festival.

© 2016 -Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 09/09/16
Movie Magazine International