For those unfamiliar with me and my site european-films.net: nice to virtually meet you all. I'm Boyd, a kid with a movie tic trapped in a 27-year-old's body. I've been writing about film since Salma Hayek was robbed of an Oscar. Over at european-films.net I cover European films (duh!) and also cover all the major films (European and otherwise) that play at the major European film festivals, which means I travel in circles from Berlin to Cannes to Venice to Berlin each year. It's a tough job but someone's got to do it!
Venice is actually my favorite festival because of its special place on the calender (the first true Oscar launchpad), the nice climate, great food and (not unimportant) their great taste in movies. I mean, they gave Brokeback Mountain the Golden Lion just two years ago. And check out their track record: Monsoon Wedding, Trois Couleurs: Bleu, Belle de Jour, Last Year at Marienbad, Aparajito, Rashomon... these are all considered classics.
The Venice Film Festival will in fact celebrate its 75th anniversary this year -- take that Cannes, which celebrated its 60th b-day in May -- but its 2007 edition is only the 64th time the festival takes place. The festival is part of a much larger cultural organization called the Biennale, which, as the name indicates, organizes (or at least used to organize) cultural events every other year.
So, the 64th/75th anniversary edition will kick off on Wednesday with the world premiere of Atonement, Joe Wright's follow-up to his much lauded debut Pride & Prejudice. I've already had a sneak peek a couple of weeks ago and I can tell you that the movie, an adaptation of the eponymous bestseller by Ian McEwan, will likely be a big awards contender. It is not a flawless masterpiece, but as romances go, it is pretty heartbreaking and unforgettable.
The couple played by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy will have entire multiplexes fumbling for the Kleenexes in the dark and will leave Oscar-voters little choice but nominate them again (Knightley) or for the first time (McAvoy, who was shamelessly overlooked for his work on The Last King of Scotland). Read my full Atonement review here.
Something possibly even more fun than guessing Oscar nominees and winners is guessing the gay characters and/or elements in the recently announced line-up of the Queer Lion Award, a new prize at the Venice Film Festival that will award a film that "accurately portrays homosexual characters or themes". Who is playing gay? Most of the films listed are not particularly explicit about the gay angle in the material released so far. Could it be Brad Pitt? Casey Affleck? Owen Wilson? Adrien Brody? Michael Caine? Jude Law? Or perhaps a lovely foreign-accented man such as Bruno Todeschini, Benoît Magimel, Sami Bouajila or Daniel Wu?
US films on the Queer Lion contenders list are four: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with Pitt and Affleck; Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited with Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman and the indie flicks Speed of Life (Superheroes) from Ed Radtke, a juvenile delinquent drama, and the road trip movie Searchers 2.0 from Alex Cox. Law and Caine co-star in the Kenneth Branagh's UK remake of 1972's Sleuth, which also starred Caine.
Start your guesses/wish lists for possible gay characters in the comments, and I'll be checking in from Wednesday on to tell you all about it.