lux film prizeGiornate degli Autori - Venice Days

03 September, 2010

MACHETE - Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis

Since the first time I’ve watched the alleged mocked trailer of Machete (exhibited in the Tarantino-Rodriguez’s Grindhouse project) I have always wondered how this film would be and whether it would become real. Now, from Venice, I can say that Machete is deliciously demented, unlikely admirably, astonishingly thug, wisely irreverent, hilariously perverse, staunchly populist, too extreme and extremely excessive, as well as cunning, and infinitely bloody hilarious...

Robert Rodriguez and his copilot Ethan Maniquis have stepped the accelerator strongly and they have mashed every barrier: idiomatic, human, moral, ethic, physical... Having the chance of watching a film like this in a festival like the Mostra di Venezia is an unforgettable, delightly incredible spectacle. Since the first frame, this film is an explosion of memorable anarchic, brutal, insane sequences. When one may think that this vibrating rhythm is impossible to withstand, Rodriguez and Maniquis speed up even more and give you a punch in your stomach.

If you are already surprised by the prelude, you become captitave later when watching the initial credits: Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Don Jonhson, Robert de Niro, Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodríguez, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan… All of them funnily caricaturing themselves.

I have always liked Danny Trejo. In fact, he has always been a really pleasant supporting actor to me. Everytime I see him on the screen, I really enjoy him. But now, after watching Machete, he’s become some kind of ‘the king of tough guys’. He’s ferocious, lethal, incorruptible and inexplicably irresistible to women (and what women – Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez!).

This madness is an orgy of flesh, blood and guts in which a handful of psychopaths loose glorious gems left and right: “you just fucked with the wrong Mexican!”, “Machete improvises”...

Everything about this film is extreme, insane, fanatical, bloodthirsty, neurotic, brutish and, above all, absolutely brilliant! I watched every second of film with a delirious and malicious smile on my face. I really enjoyed everything my eyes saw and my ears heard (including a crushing soundtrack).

As a postscript (and last prank), at the end of the film a pseudo-commercial that promises two new releases is shown - Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again (hilarious!).

Discussion 2: Public and private Violence

Director of Venice Days Giorgio Gosetti moderated this second discussion with the 27 cinema lovers on Public and private violence. The panel of guests included L'amore buio's director Antonio Capuano and leading actor Fabrizio Gifuni as well as Andrea Segre (director of Il sangue verde), Denis Villeneuve (director of Incendies), and Adrian Wootton (head of Film London). The meeting was suddenly interrupted due to bad weather conditions.

Freedom of Expression and Censorship - Day One of 27 Times Cinema

The first thing on schedule for us 27 cinema lovers yesterday was a discussion based around freedom of expression and censorship. Sexually explicit material and violence have been seen over the years as the cause or symptoms of a society in degradation. This view has also been applied by some societies to opinions that criticise the government or the dominant culture of the time. The panel was headed by Variety Group Editor Timothy M. Gray and included notable speakers such as Giorgio Gosetti – General Delegate for the Venice Days, Gian Luca Farinelli – head of the Bologna Film Archive, Turkish journalist Mehmut Basutçu, Iranian filmmaker Masdak Taebi and Director of ART for the World - and Producer of Jafar Panahi's short The Accordion - Adelina Fürstenberg. This discussion centred on a topic that has been an ever-present thorn in the side of the art world that has flared up and caused many a problem in this industry.

A number of valid points were raised including the relationship between censorship and bureaucracy; highlighting how certain governments and ideologies limit the creative process through censorship. Another point raised was that censorship is not only exercised by governments but also by the market and can even be self-imposed. A clear example of just how prevalent censorship is today is the case of Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi who was imprisoned by the Iranian government for purportedly making a film against the current government in Iran. Though Mr. Panahi was released from prison, he is banned from leaving Iran and from making films; a prison of the mind.

For me, as the Maltese participant of 27 Times Cinema, this discussion was very important because Malta has suffered the censor's bite very recently, with the banning of the theatrical work “Stitching” by Anthony Nielson as well as the banning of an issue of student newspaper Ir-Realta which featured Alex Vella Gera's piece “Li Tkisser Sewwi” (What you break you fix). All this despite the European Union's promotion of Freedom of Expression and civil liberties.

Film has to go through ideology (quote Mazdak Taebi)

Jafar Panahi is a filmmaker from Iran who has been invited to the Venice Days in order to present his short movie “The Accordion” and to take part in a debate with us, the 27 members of the young jury. Although Jafar Panahi is not anymore in prison in Iran, he could not come to the festival because the Iranian government forbid him to leave the country. Instead of Panahi, a good friend of him and also an Iranian film maker, Mazdak Taebi, visited the Festival. He adressed some words to the audience before The Accordion was shown and he took part in our discussion, too.

The topic of the debate was: freedom of expression and censorship.

Obviously, Mazdak Taebi with his political background and knowledge of the Iranian filmmakers situation was a very interesting person to discuss this topic with. Mazdak reported about the situation of censorship and freedom of expression in his home country. In Iran today, a political system is in charge, that c the freedom of expression in various ways. Jafar Panahi`s faith is the best example. As already mentioned, he recently was imprisoned for his work and although he can now move in Iran, Mazdak Taebi stated, he is now mentally imprisoned, because he is forbidden to make films. This is censorship in the clearest facon. Mazdak Taebi says: “Film has to go through ideology”. And in the case of Iran, it is the religious islamic ideology a creative has to be conform with in order to be able to publish his art.

Though for Mazdak it is important to point out that, yes, there is a religiously driven government in charge at the moment, but the government behaviour and its supression is not representativ for the population´s will. Censorship through ideological forces have always existed in human history and at the moment this happens in Iran. Mazdak Taebi is confident that this phase will pass by... sooner or later.

Internet Piracy and Freedom of Expression (and South Park)

We always talk about internet piracy in negative connotations,but let’s try and talk about the positive effects of internet piracy in the context of freedom of expression. Internet Piracy is able to widen the audience for any work of art and is able to penetrate many barriers, for instance state borderlines. It can become an alternate distribution channel because of that, mainly in countries with a powerful censorship. Illegality of this activity goes aside in that case in my opinion. What is interesting, it can play a positive role even in USA, country we do not associate with a strong censorship.

Two episodes of famous South Park (200 and 201) were censored in USA by the company Comedy Central that has the rights for the show. We are unable to stream them on the official South Park site even though we can stream all the other episodes. 200 and 201 made fun of censorship and religion – Buddha is an addict in those episodes and Muhammad can be seen only as a black box with a word “censored” written on top of it (remember Muhammad cartoons?). Comedy Central was threatened after screening the first episode and afterwards it forbid any other release of those two episodes.

Luckily, we are able to find those two episodes on sites like Freedom of expression was achieved only because of internet piracy, censorship was overpowered by internet piracy. There are positive effects of internet piracy. And there is a censorship in modern countries too. Watch out for the blog entry by Martina Portelli.

SCHEDULE - Friday, September 3rd

27 Times Cinema
Villa degli Autori
Fear knocks at the door: Public and private violence

Sala Darsena
Followed by Q&A

IL SANGUE VERDE - THE GREEN BLOOD [out of competition]
Sala Volpi
Followed by Q&A

L'amore buio – The dark love

The Italian film director Antonio Capuano comes back on the big screen after La guerra di Mario with another film dedicated to his hometown, Napoli, a city full of breathtaking beauty as well as huge unresolved issues.

Napoli is here seen from a double view point: on one side we have Irene (Irene De Angelis), a young girl from the upper class who only looks at the city from above; on the other side there is Ciro (Gabriele Agrio), a fifteen-year-old scugnizzo (street urchin) who has hardly read five books in his life but knows life "first hand". The two protagonists only meet once, when Ciro takes part, together with three friends, in the raping of Irene. From this point on the film keeps the two stories separated: Ciro is taken the juvenile prison of Nisida while Irene goes on with her life trying to elaborate the trauma.

Dealing with such a difficult issue, Capuano leaves all the judgement outside the film, concentrating his attention on bare emotions; L’amore buio leaves no room for stereotypes: nothing is to be given for granted and even the cliché of the scugnizzo falls under the intense interpretation of the young and incredibly talented Gabriele Agrio. Too bad that the female leading role is not carried on with the same ability by the young Irene De Angelis, whose interpretation is hardly convincing, giving the viewer little chances of really getting the intimate side of her character: in a film like this, where the plot is reduced to its minimum, it is up to the actors to open spaces behind the words to let emotions flow.
It is clear that in the work Capuano, who is always the writer as well as the director of his films, the word has a special place and the screenplay and the dialogue are not only meant as a guideline for the shooting: the literary word, sometimes the poetry, make their way through the images creating either new harmonies or striking contrasts. While in his earlier works, especially in Luna Rossa, Capuano tended to impose the word over the characters making the acting quite artificial, here the author shows much more attention in mixing the ingredients. And among these ingredients a particular mention should also be given to the intelligent use of music and beautiful songs that make their way through the whole film.
But above the characters and the rest is the city itself that stands as the great protagonist of the feature: the hidden Napoli, with its narrow streets and Caravaggio's paintings being discovered by the amazed eyes of Irene and of Capuano himself.

It’s hard to say how a film that is so deeply rooted in Napoli, with its landscapes and its culture, might be appreciated abroad; we surely wish L’amore buio luck!