Home International Cinema Venice: Elizabeth II in The Queen + Humankind’s Dismal Future in Children of Men

Venice: Elizabeth II in The Queen + Humankind’s Dismal Future in Children of Men

La stella che non c'è / The Missing Star (2006) directed by Gianni Amelio, starring Sergio Castellitto, Tai LingFor the first time in the history of the Venice Film Festival, all films competing for the 2006 Golden Lion will have their world premiere at the festival, which opens on August 30, with a screening of Brian DePalma’s crime drama The Black Dahlia, starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, and Hilary Swank.

A few of the other competing entries are:

Stephen FrearsThe Queen, from a screenplay by Peter Morgan depicting a tug-of-war between Queen Elizabeth II and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair following the death of Princess Diana. The film stars Helen Mirren as the queen, Michael Sheen as Blair, James Cromwell as Prince Philip, and veteran Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother.

Gianni Amelio’s La stella che non c’è / The Missing Star, adapted by Amelio and Umberto Contarello from a novel by Ermanno Rea, follows an Italian engineer (Sergio Castellitto) who, out of work after his factory is bought by Chinese businessmen, sets out to China in order to fix a defective piece of machinery. Tai Ling is the Chinese interpreter who accompanies him in his journey along the Yangtze River. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Amelio wins the Golden Lion this year, considering that his loss a couple of years ago - for Le Chiavi di casa / The Keys to the House - outraged the Italian press. And considering that Amelio is one of the greatest Italian filmmakers ever, the award would most likely be justified.)

Set in the year 2027, a time when human beings - due to some sort of genetic glitch - can no longer procreate (and when non-humans everywhere are heaving a collective sigh of relief), Children of Men is the story of how one miraculously pregnant woman is taken to an isolated island so scientists can try to save the human race. Why bother? Well, that’s apparently the film’s big mystery. Alfonso Cuarón directs from a script he co-wrote with several other hands, and that is based on a novel by P.D. James. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Charlie Hunnam star.

Taken from Alan Ayckbourn’s play, Petites peurs partagées / Private Fears in Public Places revolves around the emotional travails of a group of disparate people played by Sabine Azéma, Lambert Wilson, André Dussollier, Pierre Arditi, and Laura Morante. Petites peurs partagées was directed by Alain Resnais, winner of the 1961 Golden Lion for Last Year at Marienbad. Resnais turned 84 this past June.

Joachim Lafosse’s third film, Nue propriété, tells the story of a woman who inherits a country home in Belgium. Once there, she and her two sons don’t quite know how to handle the house, or how to deal with one another. Isabelle Huppert plays the mother, while real-life brothers Yannick Renier and Jérémie Renier play her sons. The French title, Nue propriété, means the owners’ rights to do what they please with their property.

Paul Verhoeven’s Zwartboek / Black Book is the tale of a German Jewish girl who, after surviving World War II, sets out to discover who betrayed her family while they were trying to flee the Nazis. Written by Verhoeven and Gerard Soeteman, Zwartboek stars Carice van Houten, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, and Sebastian Koch.

The Venice festival will also present an homage to forgotten Russian classics, “The Secret History of Russian Cinema,” which consists of 18 titles, among them Grigorij Aleksandrov’s Volga-Volga (1938) and Vesna / Spring (1947).

Also, a retrospective of Brazilian director Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s films will screen six features and eight shorts, including the utterly mystifying sociopolitical satire Macunaíma / Jungle Freaks (1969). Now, why the soccer documentary Garrincha, Alegria do Povo (literally, “Garrincha, the People’s Happiness,” 1963) has been translated as Garrincha: Hero of the Jungle is as mystifying as any of de Andrade’s films.

The 63rd Venice Film Festival runs from Aug. 30 to Sep. 9.

For the first time in the history of the Venice Film Festival, all films competing for the Golden Lion will have their world premiere at the festival.

Venezia 63 - In Competition

Barbara ALBERT Fallen Austria - 88
Nina Proll, Birgit Minichmayr, Ursula Strauss

Gianni AMELIO La stella che non cè Italy, France, Switzerland, Singapore - 103
Sergio Castellitto, Tai Ling

Darren ARONOFSKY The Fountain USA - 96
Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz

Allen COULTER Hollywoodland USA - 126
Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins

Emanuele CRIALESE Nuovomondo / The Golden Door Italy, France - 120
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincenzo Amato, Francesco Casisa

Alfonso CUARÓN Children of Men UK, USA - 114
Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine

Brian DE PALMA The Black Dahlia USA - 120
Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, Mike Starr, Fiona Shaw

Emilio ESTEVEZ Bobby USA - 120
Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan, Laurence Fishburne

Stephen FREARS The Queen UK, France, Italy - 97
Helen Mirren, James Cromwell, Michael Sheen

Mahamat-Saleh HAROUN Daratt Ciad, France, Belgium, Austria - 96
Ali Barkai, Youssouf Djoro, Hisseine Aziza

Benoît JACQUOT Lintouchable France - 82
Isild Le Besco, Bérangère Bonvoisin, Marc Barbé

KON Satoshi Paprika Japan - 90
animation

Joachim LAFOSSE Nue propriété Belgium, Luxembourg, France - 92
Isabelle Huppert, Jérémie Renier, Yannick Renier

ÔTOMO Katsuhiro Mushi-shi Japan - 131
Joe Odagiri, Makiko Esumi, Nao Omori

Alain RESNAIS Private Fears in Public Places France, Italy - 120
Lambert Wilson, Sabine Azema, André Dussollier, Laura Morante, Pierre Arditi, Isabelle Carré

Jean-Marie STRAUB, Danièle HUILLET Quei loro incontri Italy, France - 68
Angela Nugara, Vittorio Vigneti, Grazia Orsi

Johnnie TO Fangzhu Hong Kong, China - 98
Francis Ng, Nick Cheung, Simon Yam, Anthony Wong

TSAI Ming-Liang Hei yanquan Taiwan, France, Austria - 115
Kang-Sheng Lee, Shiang-Chyi Chen, Atun Norman

Paul VERHOEVEN Zwartboek Netherlands, Germany, UK - 135
Carice van Houten, Thom Hoffman, Sebastian Koch, Halina Reijn

Ivan VYRYPAEV Ejforija Russia - 74
Polina Agureeva, Maxim Ushakov, Mikhail Okunev

Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL Sang sattawat Thailand, France - 105
Nantarat Sawaddikul, Jaruchai Iamaram, Sophon Pukanok, Jenjira Pongpas

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Boyd -

I’m looking forward to see La stella che non c’è, even though I did not like Amelio’s overpraised Le chiavi di casa (which contains a wonderful performance from Rampling but the worst recent work of Kim Rossi Stuart - an actor I normally admire). I doubt he will take home the gold, because he has already won in the past (For Così ridevano in 1998) and his win is probably too recent to warrant another win, unless the film is a real stunner and everything else is pretty drab.

I’m not at all excited about the Children of Men; the trailer that excited so many seems like a made-for-TV project at least in terms of the story, though trailers for multi-layered stories are notoriously difficult to make.

The Verhoeven should be interesting but is not likely to win (maybe Best Actress, though Van Houten is probably not famous enough) and Resnais has strayed since his Last Year days… The American titles all seem fairly standard fare (maybe De Palma will hit the jackpot again with The Black Dahlia?), with the more interesting stuff coming from Asia; the Weerasethakul, the Tsai Ming-Liang, the To.

The more exciting European films seem to be out of competition this year: the Amigorena and the De Oliveira especially have me intrigued, as have some titles in the Settimana Internazionale della Critica and the Giornate degli Autori. We’ll see…

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Marcus Tucker -

DePalma is very von Stroheim or more accurately Von Sternberg. Everything is beautiful and stunning but no real story. Easy to get away with when Sissy Spacek, Nancy Allen, and Angie Dickinson are the lead but not Rebecca Romijn. I think Femme Fatale is his most visually brilliant thriller. But he used a great deal of silence in that film, the may be 30 minutes or more without dialogue altogether. Ellroy was definately not joking. He has one of the grandest egos in the literary world. He might be a good actor though, if you have seen him on camera it’s actually sort of captivating until one realizes that he speaks out of his other end.

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Andre -

Marcus,

Indeed. Brian DePalma is a great stylist. Too bad he can’t find someone who can write to work on his films. My favorite DePalma - perhaps the *only* DePalma film I’ve really liked - is “The Phantom of the Paradise.” A musical - quite different from his other films.

I haven’t seen “Aeon Flux.” However, I have seen both “L.A. Confidential” and “Chinatown.” Perhaps Ellroy’s comment comparing “L.A.” to “Chinatown” was a joke?

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Marcus Tucker -

The Children of Men has a similar theme to last year’s sci-fi flick Aeon Flux which I enjoyed very even though it had little to do with the brilliant animated series it was based upon. I am eager to see the Black Dahlia but not eager to see the boastful and overrated James Ellroy give interviews about it, oy. I one of the few who will admit to not liking L. A. Confidential which I didn’t really like other than the Lana Turner scene. Ellroy had the audacity to say that L.A. Confidential was better that Chinatown. I would have been mad had his statement not been so laughable. I am also eager to see if DePalma has finally managed to come up with good dialogue, with images he is unmatchable, words is another story. That last line of Femme Fatale “Only in my dreams” delivered by the very green but likable Romijn was almost as laughable as the last line in Sliver (though not from DePalma) from Sharon Stone “Get a life.” It makes Gladys George’s famous “He used to be a big shot,”seem all the more ingenious.

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