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Art Cinema Pearls at Venezia 62

Fellini’s Il Casanova and the competition film Sympathy for Lady Vengeance by Park Chan-wook brought world class art cinema to the screens of Venezia 62 yesterday.

There is Casanova, and there is Il Casanova. Fellini’s Il Casanova is required viewing before or after the popular success of Lasse Hallström’s Casanova. The restoration of Fellini’s 1976 print began in 2001 and was supervised by Giuseppe Rotunna, the photographer of the film present at the press conference at Venice today along with Casanova - Donald Sutherland. The decision to screen the film at this festival was an excellent one.

Here the complexities of the story of Giacoma Casanova are revealed such as his knowledge of medieval alchemy, complete with recitations from his work. Fellini didn’t rent Venice for a day as Hallström did for last year’s Carnevale but worked in a studio, reconstructing the Rialto Bridge, and using black plastic to simulate the Venetian lagoon. Donald Sutherland whose voice is proficiently dubbed by Gigi Proietti revealed at the press conference that Fellini told him to let the role happen. Sutherland was well regarded by Fellini for his work in art cinema, so Casanova he was.

What is a virtue to Hallström’s Casanova is that he provides a woman’s angle to the story whereas Fellini seems more content with his own mythology about women superimposed on to this 17th century figure. Yet the Italian master created exquisite moments with characters in scene after scene, with visual imagery that works ingeniously with the script. The decision to screen this beautiful film was an excellent one.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance by Park Chan-wook is every bit the cliff-hanger that Old Boy was. The “story” is about a woman who assisted a man in abducting a child that was later murdered. She does time for this. A prison exposé is not only about her, but the other female inmates. Her plan to find the man who abducted the child is laid out piece by piece, as she is reunited with a daughter she had to give up for adoption while in prison. Numerous instances of premeditated vengeance may jar the viewer, especially just because it is committed by a woman, but at the same time the deeds are provided with enough visual terrain to fully take in the experience.

Regrettably, Terry Gilliam’s The Brother’s Grimm, competing for a Golden Lion, was a major disappointment, not least to Gilliam fans. Not that the film is without its moments: there are some exquisite scenes of cinema magic, such as one featuring a tower where an evil queen sleeps, starring “Lido Diva” Monica Bellucci. Heath Ledger not only stars in this film but Brokeback Mountain, and Casanova as well and does better than Matt Damon, encumbered in a wooden performance and bad English accent, as is Jonathan Pryce’s French, and Peter Stormare’s Italian. But maybe that is just a Gillianism.

Moira Sullivan


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