Venice Film Festival 2011

Despite all the attention the big-name directors in competition will surely attract, many eyes are on Venice’s reconfigured Horizons section.

According to fest topper Marco Mueller, “It’s not just a second competition. It’s a totally different universe in itself.”

After opening the section in 2010 to works in different formats — a move that drew more submissions from the broader visual arts world — Mueller has further redefined the section by breaking down barriers between features and documentaries. Perhaps more importantly, Mueller and his team seem increasingly prone to inviting works that establish stimulating connections between Horizons and the main competition.

“It’s about selecting films in different formats that in some cases have some kind of link with the main competition, not about having the hottest trendy stuff,” says Venice programmer Marie-Pierre Duhamel.

For example, Horizons includes British cross-media artist David Pummel’s “Shock Head Soul,” which explores the life of lawyer and psychotic writer Daniel Paul Schreber who, in 1893, claimed to receive messages from God and was sent to an asylum. His memoir of his psychotic illness was subsequently made famous by Freud.

Pummell’s eclectic combination of live action, documentary interviews, animation and CGI can be seen as a companion piece of sorts to David Cronenberg’s competition psycho drama “A Dangerous Method,” starring Viggo Mortensen as Freud, Michael Fassbender as Jung and Keira Knightley as a patient of Jung’s with whom he had an affair.

Another interesting Horizons entry is “Girimunho” (Swirl), a first film by Maria Sebastiana and Martins Alvaro about village life in the Brazilian bush, narrated by two octogenarian women, with a mythical, magic, dreamlike touch partly inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

“There is a story, there are characters — all the vocabulary you use in cinema: location, development, dialogue,” says Duhamel. “But at the same time, you are looking at something that goes beyond, that escapes all the classical cinema language.”

According to Duhamel, one could connect this movie with “Carnage,” based on Yasmina Reza’s play, and say, “You have two worlds of theater present in Venice. One is contemporary theater seen by Roman Polanski; the other is folk theater, as seen by two young Brazilian directors.”

Of course, there are several name helmers within the rich mix of narrative pics and more experimental works in Horizons, which includes world premieres from Jonathan Demme (“I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad and the Beautiful”), James Franco (“Sal”), Ross McElwee (“Photographic Memory”) and Japanese cult helmer Shinya Tsukamoto (“Kotoko”).

But there are also visual artists usually shown in galleries who have long been riding the cutting-edge art scene and have something significant to say about cinematic language.

Mueller and Duhamel are proud to show a six-minute “experimental” short by Canadian Mark Lewis titled “Black Mirror at the National Gallery,” which Duhamel describes as “a manifesto about the fact that today you can make a film without anybody behind the camera.”

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2011:

Mueller navigates art, biz and glamour | Impressive lineup builds on perfect ’10 | | Art pics join Cattleya herd | Venice addresses venue woes with fresh plans | Horizon titles complement competish titles
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