Venice under the spotlight. Every year, the lagoon city creaks under the weight of so many stars, their crowds of fans, paparazzi and journalists. But without its oldest film festival, the world would indeed be a poorer place. The contest for the coveted Golden Lion is a welcome counterbalance to this summer’s poor cinematic offering, full of remakes, sequels and unsuccessful comic adaptations, bringing as it does a wealth of exciting, visually stunning and stimulatingly creative films.
Even the film that opened the festival, La La Land by Damien Chazelle, unleashed a wave of enthusiasm. Not an action movie, not a drama, not a war film, but a kaleidoscope-like musical that carries its audience off into utopian dreams of life as a successful artist. Larger than life, it quotes that power of escapism that we love about great Hollywood films, while also taking that theme even further. Playing an artistic couple who are down on their luck, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dance their way out of sobering reality, through the legacy of the big screen and escape into romance. And the audience is more than happy to be carried off with them.
Austria in Venice
The three selections in which Austrians are involved are no less auspicious. Germany’s old master Wim Wenders once again has his eye on an award. His 3D film version of Peter Handke’s two-person play Die schönen Tage von Aranjuez (English title: The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – premièred by Luc Bondy at the 2012 Wiener Festwochen – is in competition. Out of competition, Ulrich Seidl goes on safari with German and Austrian hunting tourists in Auf Safari. And in the Orizzonti section, the South Tyrolean director Ronny Trocker’s movie Die Einsiedler embarks on a journey into the depths of psychological entanglement between a mother and her son in the solitude of the mountains. Starring Andreas Lust (The Robber) and Ingrid Burkhard (Ein echter Wiener geht nicht unter).
Tom Ford’s second film
Fashion designer Tom Ford, whose A Single Man was a sublime aesthetic film debut, is also in competition with Nocturnal Animals, as is the media-shy and enigmatic director Terrence Malick, who attempts to condense the world’s origins into just 90 documentary minutes with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in Voyage of Time. Pablo Larraín’s Jackie – portrayed by Natalie Portman – is dedicated to the First Lady’s life and mourning in the four days surrounding the murder of John F. Kennedy.
Miu Miu’s short film series
In the cultural abundance of the Venice Biennale, Miu Miu is creative partner of the Giornate degli Autori (literally: authors’ days), which revolve around the work and coming-together of creative young women. Crystal Moselle, who won the Grand Jury Prize for her documentary The Wolfpack at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, shot film #12 in the short film series Women’s Tales sponsored by Miu Miu in cooperation with the film festival. In it, female artists from a range of backgrounds tell viewers about their approach to love. Moselle’s That One Day tells about the friendship, strength and belonging of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood.
By the way, did you know you can be where the action is from the comfort of your own home? You can watch the films in the Orizzonti section and from the Biennale College-Cinema at the same time as they are screened in Venice via livestream on Venice Sala Web.