The 68th Venice Film Festival-scene 1
By George Fleeton
This year’s Venice Film Festival proved beyond reasonable doubt that something fundamental has changed irrevocably in the 116 year history and subsequent development of the art of cinema.
Gone were values, intelligence, culture, engagement and catharsis, which are just some of the essential constituents of great storytelling in film – ever since Louis Lumière’s L’arroseur arrosé (1895), the vintage piece chosen by the Festival as its on-screen graphic.
At Venice in early September there was obscurantism, gratuitous violence and brutality, self-aggrandizing adaptations of important works of literature, the worst excesses of cheapjack show business, pointless and juvenile press conferences, preceding hollow and trivial red carpet parades, which were about as revealing and appealing as a perp (perpetrator) walk outside a courtroom in New York.
Proud to be the oldest film festival in the world – having been established in 1932, ten years after Mussolini seized power – and set not in the city of Venice itself but across the lagoon on the south-eastern beaches of the Lido, it was more smoke, mirrors and shadows than tangible substance.
Top and front loaded by around 3,000 accredited journalists, reviewers, critics, and media and industry professionals, the 68th manifestation of this Festival will be the subject of a short series of colour pieces written here exclusively for DownNews.
The Film Festival itself is part of the much more prestigious Venice Biennale which also features the visual arts and architecture, dance and music of most genres, theatre but not, it seems, opera.
There will be many positives to report on from this Festival, many things to say about hidden Venice itself, including a strike and an afternoon at the opera, close encounters of some kind with George Clooney, Madonna Ciccone and Al Pacino, each trying to be taken seriously as film directors. And yet the Festival’s blind spots were curious – for instance not one mention of Nino Rota, born 100 years ago, and as equally prolific a composer of film scores (for Visconti, Fellini, Zeffirelli, and The Godfather I & II) as Ennio Morricone, seventeen years his junior.
There will also be much to say too about Roberto Rossellini and Nicholas Ray, retrospectively of course, and two films which made the trip worthwhile Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and 80-year old Ermanno Olmi’s timely parable about illegal immigrants Il villaggio di cartone.
There were dozens of films on which it is not possible to comment – from not having seen them, and too many which were left only partially seen because they were simply so awful.
Finally, after a busy week in Venice, a few days spent in Chiari, less than an hour east of Milan, and twinned with Downpatrick since 2007, meant a more relaxed but equally pleasant and genuine encounter with Italy and its assault on all the senses.
George Fleeton teaches cinema and opera in Belfast.
His courses on The Silent Cinema and Opera for the Terr!f!ed begin in Stranmillis University College on September 20th.
Then Callas: la diva divina and Film: Best Adapted Screenplays start in Queen’s University on September 26th.