Saturday, September 1, 2007

Competition Heat in Venice

Well, well, well...

Four of the major films at VIFF have already been screened and there seems to be a leader already. While the opening night film - 'Atonement' garnered very strong reviews, another film has blown into town to sweep everyone away - De Palma's 'Redacted'.

"Harrowing", "Emotional", "Cathartic", "Shocking", "Sensational" and simply "Great" are just some of the laudatory remarks coming from the media. The film apparently stunned the audiences with its extreme power and gut-wrenching depiction of explicit violence. Reports of a ten minute standing ovation confirm that this is a clear front-runner for the prize. It also helps that this is perhaps the most politically edgy film among a whole bunch of very politicized pics in Venice. If one were to look at the winners of Golden Lion for the past decade a clear pattern emerges. Films with a strong agenda and relevant "messages" had won the day and this year can't possibly be any different. De Palma is also one of the few great filmmakers in the world who has never won a prestigious festival prize in his career, so maybe Venice will be able to "atone" for that come next week.

Regardless of the relevance of De Palma's film, I'd still like the festival to award the most artistically ambitious picture in the competition. Greenaway and Haynes? Maybe not.

Ang Lee's film has fallen behind for some reason. The reactions have been strangely lukewarm. Kenneth Branagh's new version of 'Sleuth' is a reportedly a mild, if accomplished, entertainment. Then there is the George Clooney starrer 'Michael Clayton'. We know what suit George was wearing at the premiere but we couldn't find anything on the film itself.