Homegrown goods could lead to gold

ROME — Call it flying the home flag with a twist.

While Italo pics have always been a fixture at the Venice Film Festival, fest topper Marco Muller has found a different way of displaying local fare. He favors more marketable titles for competition, and slots homegrown goods in the revived Midnight sidebar, dedicated to genre pics.

Actually, genre titles from Italy crop up a lot throughout the 61st edition’s roster, in vivid contrast with last year’s batch of strictly arthouse local entries: from Michele Placido’s supernatural romancer “Wherever You Are” and Guido Chiesa’s 1970’s-set heist pic “Radio Alice,” both in competition, to Eros Puglielli’s serial-killer thriller “Crystal Eyes,” in the Midnight sidebar, and the Kings of the Italian B’s retro, championed by Quentin Tarantino.

The Lido’s new lord takes the helm after controversy erupted among local industrytes last year when veteran auteur Marco Bellocchio’s terrorism-themed drama “Good Morning, Night,” failed to scoop the Golden Lion.

Though Muller claims to be adamant about not favoring Italo cinema, the lineup features three local titles in each of the main sections.

Leading the pack is Gianni Amelio’s “The Keys to the House,” which sees the 1998 Golden Lion winner return to the Lido with a father-and-son drama, starring Kim Rossi Stewart (“Beyond the Clouds”) and Charlotte Rampling. Amelio says “Keys,” for which Lakeshore has international rights, is his most mainstream work.

Out of competition is the three-part “Eros,” to which Michelangelo Antonioni contributed a steamy segment; the other two parts of this collaboration are from Steven Soderbergh and Wong Kar-wai.

Immigrant drama “Saimir,” by first-timer Francesco Munzi; generational portrayal “I Can Read It in Your Eyes,” by another freshman helmer, Valia Santella, and produced by Nanni Moretti; and “Vento di terra” (Wind From the Earth), by sophomore Vincenzo Marra (“Sailing Home”), comprise the Italo trio unspooling in Venice Horizons.

“It’s a balanced selection. I really tried to find the right slot for each title,” notes Muller.

But Venice’s new topper also has broken with protocol, placing newcomer Eugenio Cappuccio’s wacky work-themed comedy “Sleeping on Her” in Midnight alongside high-profile Hollywood titles like “Man on Fire,” and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

The 21-title-strong Italian contingent goes to Venice during a difficult juncture for the local industry, crippled by a funding freeze and with draconian government coin cuts on Parliament’s agenda.

Indie producers and young directors are the most affected by the current crisis, which may have contributed to their being no Italian works in the independently run Critics Week, dedicated to first works.

Then again, in another break with the past, three Italo debuts made the cut for prominent official selection berths.

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