Dysfunctional families and hostile parent/child relationships against the background of an economic crisis that severely tests the daily life of the young generations. However, they are not alone in this; migration aimed at improving the future as well as the past; suicide or murder with a view to the impossibility of accepting the present and losing reference points. This is the “film” of this year’s Venice International Film Critics’ Week: a single reel with a jagged vision of a world in crisis, a vision conceived by a handful of first time directors of different ages, who thankfully still entrust films with their primary expressiveness and entrust film festivals with giving them voice and space.
Because this world – it cannot be denied – is the same one where cinema finds it difficult to make sense, including economic sense, and where film festivals, as all cultural events (if we still deem them so), in Italy more than elsewhere, often find it no longer of great interest for the society. In recent years the Venice International Film Critics’ Week has been put to the test as well: this 25th week is being celebrated with the revival-event of one of our best Italian debuts – we keep on fighting, convinced. And undeterred we go on making our choices sure of finding signs of vitality in films now in the form of “full-length films” – a term that may no longer mean anything, since the distinction between fiction and documentary is a thing of the past and soon, when the circulation of expressive forms of images in motion reaches its zenith, not only will film festivals appear non-essential and superfluous, but terms like debut film, world or international première, unscreened film, running time… and ancient terms like these will go the same way.
Let’s start from Mazzacurati: in 1987 his film Notte Italiana, presented at the 4th Venice International Film Critics’ Week, marked the beginning of his career as a passionate director, often secluded, but above all one of the few, in the last thirty years, capable of interpreting and narrating Italy and its society, covering traumatic transformations, and the moral, political and economic decay that lead first to the “Clean Hands” corruption tsunami and then to alarming institutional drifts. Watching Notte italiana today, we are awe-struck by its modernity since the film is a fascinating blend of comedy and noir, eighteenth-century tale of adventure and classic cinema, based on on a Marlow-like character from the Polesine embodied by plausibly the best Marco Messeri ever.
The line-up also includes seven world premières in competition: something many people will be talking about is Hai paura del buio, debut feature film by Massimo Coppola, director of documentaries as well as a well-known face on TV, young yet committed. A film apparently unlike Italian cinema because of the rigorous style of slowly following the two young women, a Romanian and an Italian, in a persistent yet sympathetic way. Thus the director interprets a present characterized by uncertain work perspectives intersected with family traumas conveniently forgotten and the search for their own place where they can put down roots. A winning revelation.
Figures of restless women, looking for something to project them towards the future, or stubbornly concentrated on the steady removal of family traumas, also in other films of our selection: in Angèle et Tony, debut film by the young Alix Delaporte – who won an award for a short film – the fascinating Clotilde Hesme plays a mother trying to arrange a marriage so she can have custody of her son, but Tony, the rough yet gentle fisherman who accepts the contract, becomes more and more important in Angèle’s life. This film, a soft and moving drama, belongs to the wave of French cinema that links the observation of reality with an analysis of feelings.
Pernilla August, the famous actress of Den goda viljan (The Best Intentions, 1982) by Bille August and Det enda rationella (A Rational Solution) by Jörgen Bergmark (presented last year at the Venice Critics’ Week), makes her debut as director with a family drama between two historical periods: the ‘70s and today. Adapted from the novel by Susanna Alakoski, Svinalängorna casts Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander of the Millennium saga) as a woman forced to come to terms with her tormented past as her mother dies. A sincere and often disturbing film, availing itself of great performances.
Another portrait of a woman, this time older, in Martha, a small movie from Mexico by Marcelino Islas Hernández, that bears witness to a golden age of Mexican cinema. A 70-year-old office worker is replaced by a computer: nothing remains in her poor life so she decides to commit suicide – but the film offers her an unexpected way out. Combining grotesque and black comedy within a dramatic environment, Hernandez creates a tiny jewel that will surprise everyone.
The Greek and Slovenian films are undeniably surprising too: Hora proelefsis (Homeland) by Syllas Tzoumerkas is a family saga spanning thirty years of Greek contemporary history, from the return of democracy to the recent demonstrations against the economic crisis. Remarkable editing and an unusual narrative talent for a film about the drama of a family, with its generational conflicts and dark sides verging on incest. While, on the contrary, Oča (Dad) by the Slovenian Vlado Škafar focuses on the contemplative slowness and the poetic generational confrontation between an absent father and his son. A tiny film, just over an hour long, made of evocative images, natural exciting dialogues, and moments that capture the fascination of the mise-en-scene and the outstanding work of the actors.
The last film in competition is the Israeli work Hitparzut X (Naomi), debut film by one of the authors of the TV series Be Tipul (adapted by the Americans into In Treatment). A classic noir, with an elderly professor who discovers his young wife’s infidelity and is carried away with violent rage. The murder, and the consequent guilty feelings, will lead the main character to incongruous behaviour, in an elegant and mysterious film that involves the audience in its spiral.
Finally, out of competition, the international première of a film from the Philippines, Limbunan by Gutierrez Mangansakan II: a ritual and enigmatic movie, peopled by female figures of sublime beauty and subtle desperation who live imprisoned in an ancestral tradition, apparently with no way out. Another story of women, where a pitiless custom denies them the right to choose the object of their love. A fascinating and charming film, that will bring this special edition of the Venice International Film Critics’ Week to a suitable close.