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Venice, Day 5: Shame, Alps, Wilde Salome & Sal

[Editor's Note: Manolis, TFE's Greek correspondent at the Venice Film Festival chimes in briefly on a very busy screening day. Notes on four films, the last of them a probable prize winner. -Nathaniel]

The Greek entry of the festival divided the critics assembled here, just as Dogtooth did two years ago. The Italian critics that are featured at the Daily Variety issue of the festival here have given it from 1 to 5 stars. So it’s difficult to say what it’s chances are with the jury. In Dogtooth the protagonist was trying to escape from a fake world, but in Alps the protagonist is trying to enter one; she feels she must belong to another reality, not her actual one. Aggeliki Papoulia gives an excellent performance and Yorgos Lanthimos’ fans will not be disappointed. But that said, he won’t win any new fans with Alps.

Wilde Salome
This isn't quite a film or a documentary but something inbetween as Al Pacino chronicles his attempts to make a film out of Oscar Wilde’s Salome shortly after the play was staged in Los Angeles. In Wilde Salome we watch the plays’ rehearsals and see Pacino’s attempts to solve the various production problems that are created by his insistence to film the play simultanously with the live performances. We also watch him researching Oscar Wilde and we get information on the famous playwright through interviews featuring Tony Kushner, Gore Vidal, Tom Stoppard and… Bono. Jessica Chastain is magnetic as Salome and the film will surely be interesting to theater fans. Unfortunately, though Pacino may have had a vision, but he doesn't quite know how to share it through storytelling.

Franco and his star Val Lauren in VeniceSal
James Franco presents and emotional biography of Sal Mineo, or rather a small detail. Sal takes place on the last day of the star's life. Franco relies heavily on close-ups in this very low budget attempt to capture Mineo's spirit, to sketch an emotional impression of he was.  
I did this film for artistic reasons. Making a film is not just for entertainment or to make money."
-James Franco at the press conference
Though the film is slow and overly long, it captures the atmosphere of the time well and it's easy to forgive it its flaws; it's obviously a labor of love. 
Today I also saw the winner of the festival. I don’t know whether it will win the Golden Lion, Director or Actor prizes, but there is no way Steve McQueen’s Shame will leave Mostra empty-handed.
Shame is the story of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a man who has lost his moral compass and wanders New York looking for one night stands, while what he needs is intimacy. Fassbender gives an astonishing performance and manages to combine Brandon's fragile nature with his sexual confidence. The actor presents his journey of despair brilliantly. Carey Mulligan is also remarkable as his sister, a nightclub singer. Her vulnerable blues rendition of “New York, New York” is more than enough to put her in the Oscar race of Best Supporting Actress. The explicit nature of the film and the many nude scenes (including full frontal nudity from both stars) may hurt the film's reception with some audiences and possibly Oscar voters, but McQueen and especially Fassbender won't end the year without popping up at various critics awards. 
The response at today’s premiere was enthusiastic. That five minute standing ovation was an obvious vote of approval for McQueen and Fassbender's post-Hunger reunion.

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Reader Comments (5)

Thank you again for the report!
Of the remaining films in the competition (or in general) I anticipate Faust and Wuthering Heights. Those clips from WH seemed far from what we would expect from a Bronte adaptation which is interesting.

Though I've read reservations on Shame's ending, I have to say that it might have made its way to the top of my "most anticipated films of the remaining year"! Even above Carnage - maybe.

And I sesnse that the people who likes Dogtooth liked Alps even more so that's a good sign.

( Nathaniel - WATCH DOGTOOTH! :) )

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

Goodness, I hope Manolis is right about Shame's Oscar chances. That'd be a much appreciated shake-up from my vantage point.

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

DYING to see Shame! Hopefully it is able to find a distributor that is willing to back it with dedication, which can be hard for films that don't conform to American standards of "decency" regarding sexuality and nudity. F@#^ the MPAA police!

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Sweet! Glad I got a ticket for Shame at TIFF!

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat

So overjoyed to see that Shame is basically starting its serious Oscar journey at Venice. It has moved up in anticipation for me, reading those raves.

Over-the-moon so hear that ALPS didn't disappoint the Dogtooth fans (as I count myself among them) so that surely means it's a step in the right direction for Lanthimos' consistency. Great to also hear that Aggeliki Papoulia is apparently as good here as she was in the last one. Nate, have you discovered her yet? She knocked me on my ass in Dogtooth, so heartbreaking and visceral!

Wilde Salome = Looking For Richard, part ii?

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark
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