Monday, September 03, 2007

Notes from Venice - Day 5/6

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

Weather: hot but cloudy
Films seen: Cassandra's Dream, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Nines, La graine et le mulet, Un baiser - s'il vous plaît, The Darjeeling Limited, Hotel Chevalier
Gripe of the day: Brad Pitt's sunglasses
People currently on the same square mile of earth as I am:
Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Todd Haynes, Richard Gere, Jason Schwartzman, Tim Burton, Joan Chen, Toni Servillo, Terence Howard, Sam Shepard

Last night the Venice Film Festival hosted the gala premieres of two films that had the boys and girls lining the red carpet screaming their lungs out: Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream with Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt, who graced the red carpet with Angelina Jolie. (During the latter film's premiere I was in another building half a mile away and I could still hear the deafening screams floating into the room on the gentle sea breeze. "Oh! It must be half past nine," I thought.)

Earlier yesterday, Brad Pitt's sunglasses caused an uproar with attending photographers when during a photo opportunity for accredited picture-takers he refused to take his sunglasses off and then maliciously passed them on to Casey Affleck before he could have his mug shot taken. A voluntary photography boycott seemed to be in the air for the evening premiere
, but things had apparently calmed down by then, as photographers clicked away like mad when the Royal Couple also known as Brangelina finally walked down the red carpet.

So what
about the movies? The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (full review) is a magnificent motion picture that will appeal more to the fans of Terence Malick than those of Clint Eastwood. In my review I compared it to both Zodiac and a suspension bridge in that it stars of with a violent episode before going into calmer (read: character psychology) waters and then arriving at the titular act of violence that must certainly rank with the most exciting scenes of the year. How director Andrew Dominik succeeds in making the killing of a man cleaning a picture on a wall so exciting you will have to see for yourself, though a clear mixture of cunning mise-en-scene and a slow build-up that only a 155-minute picture can afford must at least be partially held responsible.

Pitt is in fine form, though at 40+ he looks a bit wrinkly for 34-year-old James (even Pitt gets older, yikes!) and Affleck is truly great, looking at the serious possibility he might get an acting nomination at the Oscars before his older brother Ben. People voting in the technical categories will also love this film, which looks absolutely stunning (gorgeous cinematography? check. great production design? check. period costumes. check! lovely make-up and hair? check) and also features a great, sombre score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The film seems to be too artistically inclined and too long to go for a Best Picture win, but it could turn out to go home with most Oscars a la Memoirs of a Geisha a few years back, simply because it is a stunning production all the way and could win a heap of statuettes in those categories.

Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream (cast pictured above, courtesy of Fabrizio Maltese) is a funny case. Just a couple of weeks ago I reviewed the new Chabrol film La fille coupée en deux (The Girl Cut in Two), explaining that the two filmmakers both had a glory period that belongs to the past in common, as well as the fact that they seem unable to live without making movies and still churn out one a year of varying quality. As such, Allen made something of come-back with his extremely well-received Match Point, and, I wrote, Chabrol's latest could be considered his Match Point, a "
deliciously dark and well-observed tale that marks a fine return to form."

Imagine my surprise when I saw Cassandra's Dream, which feels like a Chabrol film transplanted to London as directed by an American (which it is). Is there some mutual cross-pollination going on between the two directors? Coincidence or not, the latest films from both masters premiered yesterday one after the other in Venice. A full review of Cassandra's Dream is forthcoming, but let's just say for the moment that it's pretty dark and pretty funny, and again reminds everyone why this character actor will never go out of business.

(A not unimportant note on the Chabrol: Ludivine Sagnier becomes not only prettier by the day but is also clearly growing as an actress. Plus, Benoît Magimel is irresistible as a slimy, fey and delusional heir with too much money and not enough good manners.)


Anonymous said...

Great review of Jesse James, Boyd. The novel is intricately detailed and fascinating, completely immersed in the period. But it ends on an extended downer - a whole Part devoted to Ford's (miserable) life as the infamous assassin. From the sounds of it, this section was thankfully omitted from the movie.

I had assumed from all the rumours that the movie would somehow be botched in the editing room, or a compromise end product that would please no one (producers-star or director). So am pleased to hear it is still a) long and b) Malick-like.

Finally, can't wait to read your review of Cassandra's Dream. Mmm, Ewan. Mmm, Colin. Was this film made for me? Damn shame we have to wait till March (!) for it to open in Aus.

Anonymous said...

Someone please tell me why this Colin boy never go out of business?

Anonymous said...

Or why he always looks like he needs a bath with scalding hot water and a scrubbing brush?!

Éric Shannon said...

I saw La fille coupée en deux last week and I greatly appreciated it until the end... I thought that the last tableau was a little too old cinema/old Chabrol. But I do agree that Sagnier is definitely growing into a wonderful actress and I was glad to see her in something else than one of François Ozon's bland flick.

Has anyone seen the Romanian movie 3 mois, 4 semaines, 2 jours?

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I've seen that Romanian film - and I feel completely relaxed about calling it a masterpiece. I doubt a better film will come out this year.

Boyd said...

Hi Stephen G!

There is some screentime devoted to his life as an assassin (perhaps about twenty minutes), but, though a tad long, it works fine in the context of the film.

As for Colin: He's great in the Woody Allen; I've rarely seen a drunk lout played so convincingly *ahem* but his descent into a teetering wreck is also believable and one of the few funny highlights of the film.

Anonymous said...

I'm anxiously awaiting the Cassandra's Dream review!

Chinese Odyssey said...

I know Brad Pitt is the star and Casey also has “Gone, Baby, Gone”, but does that mean he will definitely compete in supporting category?

Boyd said...

Forget the billing: this is the story of Ford (Affleck), not of Jesse James, also because his story continues after the titular event. He should logically be lead, but I guess that, like in Brokeback Mountain, it will be the alpha male character (Ledger, Pitt) who will be campaigned for lead, with the other character (Gyllenhaal, Affleck) up for supporting...