Strong start to the competitive session with two titles that could perfectly be the best film of the festival at its close.
Just yesterday, the artistic director of the Cannes Festival, Thierry Frémaux, was strolling through this film theme park. The Soriano who has gotten into my blood could not avoid making a one-liner (inner voice): “This one has come to see Netflix movies” (Cannes and Netflix have been fighting for years over the festival’s ban on including their films to competition). It is more or less justifiable (although it is from a denialist who scares) the position of Cannes, what is certain is that because of this, Venice has been two of the most anticipated films (for cinephilia) of the year: The power of the dog by New Zealand director Jane Campion and It was the hand of God by Neapolitan director Paolo Sorrentino.
Both titles have coincided in this certainly hectic start of the Venetian contest that, with the calendar in hand, it is true that it seems to have accumulated almost all its last weights at the beginning of the festival (Dune, Schrader, Larraín, Wright, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, etc), leaving quite little for its second week. We will see what happens. (By the way: I’ve run out of tickets for Spencer by Pablo Larraín, so except for a miracle we won’t be able to chronicle it).
The world premiere of the first part of Dune it has fascinated me. Spectacular film above all things, overwhelming by its staging, its landscapes and large shots, its parades, its presentation of characters or even its parades of ships and scenographies of a fascinating beauty, although perhaps it spends too much time on the dreams of the protagonist.
It’s a movie to see on the big screen certainly, and a beautiful adaptation whose images and music remain in the mind of the viewer hours later. What Villneuve has done with Dune It is an act of courage, a calm bet on a science fiction film for quiet recreation, which has enchanted me but it remains to be seen if it will connect with the general public.
Twelve years have passed since Jane Campion will shoot his latest feature film: Bright Star (2009), entangled as it has been with the series Top of the Lake (2013-2017), an important gap if we consider that it is one of the most successful filmmakers in modern cinema -He has to his credit an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and a Palme d’Or, both for his masterpiece El Piano (1993) – and that has absolute films on his resume, such as, of course, the one already mentioned The piano, but also An angel at my table (1990) or Holy Smoke (1999) (how I like this film of love and tortured sex with Harvey Keitel and Kate Winslet).
His return to management, as I say, comes from the hand of Netflix And it is an adaptation of eponymous book by Thomas Savage -not to be confused with that total work that is’The power of the dog‘by Don Winslow, of which I still dream an adaptation of Michael Mann-, a story of friendship (and love) on a western ranch between a rude and dirty cowboy (excellent Bennedict Cumberbatch, in a character who embraces extremes without differentiation) and a young man pie Tender who enjoys both making paper flowers and dissecting a rabbit in a carcass (Kodi Smit-McPhee, the grown-up kid from The Road (2009)).
Campion strives and prints maximum physicality to both bodies and stages, turning the rocks that surround the farm into a psychological conditioner that, like the shadow of an aggressive dog that they project, varies from the threatening (danger) to the idyllic (romance) without flinching. But The power of the dog It takes time to reach that point where the bully and the victim end up becoming a teacher and a disciple, in inseparable companions; an hour earlier Campion starts his film by telling the story of two brothers: Phil (Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons, who does everything he does eerily well), the cowboy who only wants to ride the mountains and the posh son of the rancher who seeks to settle down and form a family.
The latter will meet and become infatuated with Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widowed mother who takes care of a restaurant and whose son (Smit-McPhee) is the fruit of continuous ridicule from any cowboy who passes through the premises. A poker of strange characters, even more like protagonists of a western, however contemporary it may be. Because The power of the dog tells us about four people struggling to find their place in the world without being able to be more delocalized. And in his own way, clumsy, alcoholic, dirty and violent, they will try to search for it by way of the heart. Surprising, unexpected, pampered down to the last detail, without a doubt Campion has returned to make a border film -I already was The piano, let’s not forget-, beyond all knowable law and territory, perhaps the only space where love stories can germinate although for it to grow there is only desert sand.
Paolo Sorrentino has said at a press conference in Venice that It was the hand of God it is, practically, an autobiography, with the central axis of the summer in which his parents died in a somewhat absurd way and he, to survive, clung to the fascination for Diego Armando Maradona, who had just signed for Naples, the football team from his proud hometown (if you haven’t been to Naples, believe me, the city is surrendered to the director’s feet).
Personally with Paolo Sorrentino I have a particularly strange relationship, well, not with him, with his cinema, of course. Filmmaker who makes excess one of his most powerful stylistic tools, that mix drama and comedy, often in a fantastic / surreal context, managing to braid impossible hyperbole that go from laughter to heartbreak in the same plane without cutsIn his career, he has films that have kicked me out of viewing – examples: A place to stay (2011), Silvio (and the others) (2018) – and also others that I find really fascinating: The consequences of love (2004 ), Il Divo (2008) and, of course, that totem that is The Great Beauty (2013).
In his new movie, It was the hand of God, The surprise, input, is the content that the filmmaker is. It is as if to talk about his own life, his family, his hometown (which is constantly explored in a wonderful declaration of love), the cinema itself (directors and films are continually being quoted) … he wanted to go down a bit the volume, calm their forms a little, doing a more tender exercise but equally fun and bitter, as is all his work in itself.
In fact, his first hour, tremendous, very good, has turned out very berlanguiana -Even to mention the Austro-Hungarian empire! – in the domestic sphere, and his second hour, tremendously felliniana -You can even hear Fellini! (Although it is fake, of course) -. We could say that this film would be Sorrentino’s Amarcord (1973), that there are also voluptuous women teaching meat (although the sexual blowjob goes a very different way), replacing the nostalgic gaze of Fellini with a total passion for the figure of Maradona. I, who am not a football fan, have come to be moved by the absolute communion of the people celebrating the goals of the disappeared footballer in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. It’s amazing how many good times he has It was the hand of God, each sequence is a blunder, of phrases, of gestures, of cuts, of shouts, laughter, tears. What kind of movie has gone to Sorrentino.
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Venice Film Festival Day 2: Netflix shows its cards: ‘The Power of the Dog’ by Jane Campion and ‘It Was the Hand of God’ by Paolo Sorrentino – Movie News