Saturday, September 01, 2007

Notes fom Venice - Day 4

Boyd from European Films here, reporting on the ongoing Venice Film Festival

Weather: sunny & hot
Films seen: Michael Clayton, In the Valley of Elah, It's a Free World..., Searchers 2.0, Cassandra's Dream
Gripe of the day: sunglasses on the table in my room
People currently on the same square mile of earth as I am:
Ewan McGregor, Diane Kruger, Michele Placido, Andy Gillet (pictured above by Fabrizio Maltese), Spike Lee, Charlize Theron, Ken Loach, Ridley Scott, Valeria Golino

There is nothing like a good portion of beauty to help you through the day, especially if this beauty looks like French actor Andy Gillet (above). He stars in Eric Rohmer's latest film, the bucolic medieval tale Les amours d'Astrée et de Céladon (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon), in which he plays Céladon. The film is part of the Competition here in Venice, but I haven't actually the film, though I had been noticing a particularly good-looking guy walking up and down the Lido for the last couple of days, which turned out to be him. No wonder I didn't recognize him, because he has had a drastic haircut recently (what a difference a hair cut makes!). Could he be the next Gaspard Ulliel? Let's hope he makes his international film debut with a film a bit better than Ulliel's. General consensus on the Rohmer picture was mixed at best.

Let's talk about the Competition titles I did catch. First up is Michael Clayton, the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the three Bourne films. The film stars George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack. The Brits steal the show, though Clooney is also convincing as the titular "fixer" working for a New York-based law firm that was co-founded by Pollack's character. Because there are not enough thrills for the film to be considered a real thriller, it will have to be classified under the legal drama banner, which means it's serious business and has no major show-stopping car chases or other incredible stunts (Bourne this is not).

As noted in my review of Michael Clayton, the film is "one of the few cases where the title character could have written the film he headlines," which means that it uses a lot of smoke and mirrors to hide the simple truth. Also interesting is the question of whether Clooney's corporate cleaner is a good guy or a bad guy. The Italian press is in love with the idea Clooney's lawyer is a baddie, but I don't think he would be considered that way back home; the man is just doing his (admittedly dirty) job. We'll see what the US reviews say when the film comes out.

Paul Haggis's In the Valley of Elah (who decided that was a good title?) is also in Competition and is the Oscar winner's second film as a director after the much-discussed Crash. For me, as part of the camp who did not care for Crash, Elah suffers from many of the same problems of that film, so perhaps if you liked Crash you should check this out. It stars Tommy Lee Jones as a father of a young soldier who has gone missing after he has returned home from Iraq. Together with a tough-cookie police officer (Charlize Theron, looking glamorous as always, though with dark hair) he tries to unravel what the military and police can't -- or don't want to -- find out. The film is one of a whole glut of Iraqi-war themed films coming your way, so be prepared to be depressed.

Read my review of In the Valley of Elah for more on that film, which is almost saved by a great performance from the ever-reliable Tommy Lee. The film's roster of supporting players is also impressive and includes Susan Sarandon, James Franco, Josh Brolin and Jason Patric, though too many of them have too few things to do.

A film I haven't seen, Brain De Palma's Iraqi war drama (here is another one!) Redacted currently leads the score board of the Italian critics, while the audience still thinks Sleuth is the best Competition film so far. More on films from Venice, including the latest from Woody Allen and Claube Chabrol, coming soon!


Chinese Odyssey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chinese Odyssey said...

Boyd, are you planning to see Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises?

My brother saw a early version without Joe Hisaishi's music, he thought it was fantastic.

Somehow i feel it will end up winning something, cant wait to know your reaction.

Anonymous said...

Boyd, been loving reading your reviews from Venice. You've officially got me excited about Persepolis - a film that wouldn't normally be my style.

Also looking forward to Sleuth, Lust Caution, Michael Clayton (I read somewhere else that this is Clooney's best performance - is this true, would you say?), and In the Valley of Elah.

Anonymous said...

I hope that people can judge "In the Valley of Elah" on its own merits without bringing their "Crash" baggage into it, b/c it'll be a long Oscar season if that's not the case.

adam k. said...

This french actor looks like the baby of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Tricia Helfer. Pretty pretty face.

Anonymous said...

What's going on in Venice, it seems so lukewarm. Before Venice, In The Valley of Elah was touted as this extraordinary piece of work by the likes of Jeff Welles but now, Variety and HR barely gave it passable reviews except for Tommy Lee Jones.

Anonymous said...

Yeah well, Jeff Wells is a proven tool, just like Dave Poland, so his word don't exactly mean much.

I wonder which movies those two dorks start vendettas against this year?

Anonymous said...

Who knows what movie they will choose? lol, I read Poland's review of Noah Baumbach's new work and it reads more like a grievance than a review even for a negative review, it reads pretty ridiculous.


Well... Poland already has a clear vendetta against TAoJJbtCRF (jesse james) which also reads in a very strange way.

the real question is which movie will I have a vendetta against ;)

The Keeper said...

nathaniel, vendetta or no vendetta, you still make sense unlike those two ;).


i'm still intrigued by michael clayton and i'm not sure why. I'm not big on courtroom drama or legal thrillers. maybe it's the combo of those three actors and the writer from the Bourne series?

it just seems like a good shot of adult tense

Boyd said...

Chinese Odyssey:

I won't see the Jiang Wen film, unfortunately (even though Red Sorghum is one of my favourites), mainly because of inconvenient screening times with respect to the other films I need to cover.


Persepolis is top ten list material for me this year, and anyone should see it (though its politics are very clearly biased), so I'm glad I've converted at least one person!
As for Clooney's performance, it's fine but it's a Clooney-as-a-lawyer performance and not a lawyer-who-happens-to-look-like-Clooney, if you see what I mean.

And anon:
It's of course possible to discuss Elah without mentioning Crash, but it's just that Crash seems to have become journalistic shorthand pretty much understood by everyone for that type of film and whether you are into it or not (see it as a litmus test)...

Anonymous said...

The point was that people won't mention "Elah" without "Crash" following right behind it, and everyone that hated "Crash" will have their claws out with this film by rote just because, whether it's a masterpiece or a failure.