Venice Film Festival – Venice: Big cinema with big names

There is probably no prouder man on the planet than him at the moment: Alberto Barbera, the director of the film festival on the Lido of Venice, can be twice as happy at the moment. On the one hand, he put together the festival program this year with the most prominent participants (and they are all actually present in Venice despite Corona), on the other hand, the 71-year-old never got tired at the opening of the festival on Wednesday, the baby bump of his young wife Julia on present red carpet.

So one can congratulate Barbera, privately of course, and also for the film selection. With Pedro Almodovar’s “Madres paralelas” he had the right opening film ready for his wife’s pregnancy: In it, Penelope Cruz and Milena Smit play two women who become pregnant at the same time. As in many of Almodovar’s works, the tonality is sometimes exaggerated, over-aesthetic and excellently performed by his regular actress Cruz and the ensemble. An intense and sensitive portrait of two women dealing with a pregnancy with unpredictable consequences, which is about women’s solidarity and sexuality, which is experienced in full freedom and without hypocrisy, and all against the background of a reflection on the inevitable need for truth.

The power of the dog

Proud man and father-to-be: Alberto Barbera with wife Julia. – © Katharina Sartena

It was a fitting opening film, especially in view of the boss’s stipulation: Venice wants to celebrate the greats of cinema, discoveries are less of a concern, at least in the competition for the Golden Lion; the side series Orizzonti is responsible for this, although the competition would look a little more daring. But that can still happen in the second week of the festival.

For the time being, the big names are here: Jane Campion, who was awarded a Golden Palm in Cannes in 1992 for “The Piano”, goes to rural America in 1925 in “The Power of the Dog”, where people are still look like real cowboys, at a time when their clothes were more likely to be found in costume rentals than on a ranch. In any case, this is where Campion tells the story of two brothers, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), who live on their large cattle ranch in Montana. When George marries the widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a relentless war breaks out between the brothers, also because Phil shows off Rose’s son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) because of his delicate otherness. Under the rough shell of Phil, however, there is an undreamt-of core.

Netflix is ​​omnipresent

Campion stages all of this at a slow pace and focuses on visual value, figure drawing and historical accuracy. It is thanks to her famous cast that the spaces in the script rarely show up. The film would be wrongly classified as a western, but rather as a sensitive skinning of a vulnerable soul.

In addition to “The Power of the Dog”, Paolo Sorrentino’s “E stata la mano di Dio” is another film by the streaming provider Netflix in the program. With the help of the young exceptional talent Filippo Scotti, Sorrentino films his alter ego back to his own childhood and youth in Naples in the 1980s. A city full of corruption and grievances, but which was the director’s beloved home; You can see that at every nook and cranny: How the young Sorrentino begins to get enthusiastic about the cinema, among other things at a Fellini casting. How it flies over the city without the use of emotional music and still delivers goose bumps. As he shows that young Neapolitans ignored the most beautiful women back then because Diego Armando Maradona signed the contract with Napoli. How the juvenile passion was allowed to rave about women’s bodies and the god of football at the same time. A look back into a time of supposed innocence, because the gaze emerged from the transfiguration.

Former master Paul Schrader, on the other hand, has succeeded in creating a fascinating and exciting thriller in “The Card Counter”, in which Oscar Isaac plays a former soldier who now moves from casino to casino as a player and tries his calculated luck there between poker and blackjack. Together with a young company he wants to win the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

A missing daughter

In her directorial debut “The Lost Daughter”, however, the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal dishes up a story that is very close to parents. In it she follows the literature professor Leda, interpreted by Olivia Colman, on a holiday in Greece that throws her back on a past event. The presence of a family with a young daughter (primitive-provocative in the mother role: Dakota Johnson) throws them off track. When the girl seems to be disappearing, long repressed thoughts come back, and Leda lets herself be carried away into an impulsive act that will soon change everything. An extremely precise and nuanced drama that tells of overwhelmed parents and is based on Elena Ferrante’s novel “La figlia oscura” (2006), which Gyllenhaal also adapted for the film. The film is charged with a tension that is seldom so intense and at the same time touching that it is sure to win prizes in the awards season. We can also reveal here: It will be on Netflix from the end of December, but – due to the Oscar regulations – it will have a short theatrical release. Every bet, this calculation will work out again.

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