Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Thoughts from (ahem) Venice

There goes a gondola. Oh no, my mascara is running down my face because I am weeping in my deckchair. Argh! I’ve just been stabbed by a dwarf in a red anorak. Gosh, I love being at the Venice Film …

Thu, Sep 8, 2011, 02:18


There goes a gondola. Oh no, my mascara is running down my face because I am weeping in my deckchair. Argh! I’ve just been stabbed by a dwarf in a red anorak. Gosh, I love being at the Venice Film Festival. It’s nothing but glamour and cheap references to great canal-related films.

Screenwriter, yesterday.

Not really. I’ve never made it to that festival . (Don’t bother with the “boo hoo, poor you” comments. I won’t put them up anyway.)  But it is interesting to ponder the events from afar. In times past, the European film festival circuit was a cavalcade of glamour that really defined coming trends in the art. It’s withered a bit in recent years. Cannes has blown everything else out of the water. Berlin still make some noise. San Sebastian just about registers. Only Venice still manages to wield influence. This is, as much as anything, an accident of the calendar. Arriving in early autumn, the Italian bash fires the starting pistol on the insanely over-extended awards season. Forming a triple whammy with Telluride and Toronto, the Venice Film Festival showcases those awards-friendly films that weren’t ready for Cannes.

What a line-up they’ve got this year. Steve McQueen’s Shame. Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights. Roman Polanski’s Carnage. Yorgos Lanthimos’s Alps. Wait for it, wait for it. Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Whatever else you might say about the jamboree, you couldn’t claim it’s dealing in Cannes’s unwanted cast-offs.

I’ve only seen one of those films and it might be a small masterpiece. Oh, Gracie, I’ve said too much. You’ll have to wait until next week for the full skinny on Tinker, Tailor, but, suffice to say, the long wait — detailed in tedious detail in this place — has been worthwhile.

Anyway, the main purpose of this post is to persuade you to care about who wins the Golden Lion. Venice is a venerable institution and it should still matter. As is often the case, the head of the jury is a significant factor. Last year Quentin Tarantino (a man I like, incidentally) went stark raving barmy and awarded the top prize to Sofia Coppola’s very ordinary Somewhere. This year the more sober Darren Aronofsky is in charge. Predicting the winner when you haven’t seen the films is — even for Screenwriter — a fantastically idiotic business. But I’ll give it a go. The raves so far have gone the way of Tinker, Tailor, Shame, Alps and — surprisingly, given how theatrical it looks — Carnage. Disappointingly, David Cronenberg’s  A Dangerous Method, a film I’m still looking forward to, has been greeted with shrugs. Wuthering Heights hasn’t generated much enthusiasm either.

I am betting that Mr Aronofsky and his gang will go for Shame. I talked to Michael Fassbender about the picture today (read all about it in the soaraway Irish Times this Saturday) and he made it sound really interesting and really creepy. The Kerryman plays a sex addict in New York City. The director of Requiem for a Dream should get along with that material quite nicely.

Sorry, I have to run. Harry Lime has just turned up. Oh no. Hang on. That was Vienna. Wasn’t it?

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