×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Venice Project

Filmed in three weeks during June at the Venice Biennale and in the villa belonging to Venetian aristocrat Count Volpi, "The Venice Project" earns full marks for getting to the screen in near record time.

With:
Countess Camilla Volta - Lauren Bacall Roland/Salvatore - Dennis Hopper Count Jacko/Count Giaccomo - Linus Roache Rudy Mestry/Bishop Orsini - Ben Cross Lark/Gippo the Fool - Stuart Townsend Danilo Danuzzi - Hector Babenco Senator Campbell - Dean Stockwell The Viscount - John Wood Chandra Chase - Stockard Channing Jenna - Victoria Duffy Maria/Sophia - Anna Galiena Danilla - Mia Maestro Myra - Parker Posey Alana/Lucrezia - Frederique van der Wal J.J. Rinquist - Ed Ruscha Lutist - Lucia Hwong Pendergrass - Gert Boeckmann As themselves: Cheech Marin, Lauren Hutton, Steve Martin, Perez de Cuellar, Hans Hollein, Arthur Schlesinger, John Guare

Filmed in three weeks during June at the Venice Biennale and in the villa belonging to Venetian aristocrat Count Volpi, “The Venice Project” earns full marks for getting to the screen in near record time. A last-minute noncompeting addition to the Venice film fest program, pic is a genuine curiosity, a playful item about the past and the future of art, decked out with an alluring cast plus a few celebrities from literature, the visual arts and even politics. Result is a highly specialized item that will appeal to a limited section of art lovers, indicating a very spotty theatrical career — ancillary, though, looks to be very promising.

Cluttered with characters, some of whose dialogue appears to be improvised, “Project” has the feel of one of those Henry Jaglom films in which the sum total is rarely as interesting as individual components. There are treasurable moments here, but also long stretches of indulgence. Flitting back and forth between 1699 and 1999 adds to the interest.

Pic begins quite charmingly with Dennis Hopper addressing the camera: “If you can see and hear me now, we made it to the next century.” Well, not quite, but probably by the time most of the audience for the film see it the millennium will be upon us. Hopper plays Roland, who lives in Venice, Calif., and dabbles in way-out art while his older sister, Countess Camilla Volta (Lauren Bacall), lives in style in the family’s ancient palazzo in Venice, Italy. Amazingly, the viscount (John Wood), father of the siblings, still lives, but barely: Before slipping into a coma he donated, most annoyingly for his children, his home and art treasures to the Italian state.

Roland has arrived to attend his sister’s grand party, which is to be held in conjunction with the last Biennale of the millennium, and he brings with him his most daring piece of art — a so-called Art Confessional, a gold-colored edifice into which celebrities and others are encouraged to sit and talk to a video camera about their theories on art — with the guarantee that their ideas will not be seen publicly for 100 years.

Meanwhile, in flashbacks to 1699, an ancestor of Roland and Camilla, Count Giaccomo (Linus Roache) asks his advisers, including Salvatore (Hopper again) to predict the future of art; his jester, Gippo (Stuart Townsend) proposes that future art will be abstract and experimental — like that currently created by lunatics — he’s thrown into the Grand Canal for his pains. Roache and Townsend both appear in the modern scenes, the former as a relative of the family, the latter as the fun-loving Lark, who’s having an affair with the pert family maid (lovely Mia Maestro in a Louise Brooks haircut). Lark predicts a future for invisible art — if you can’t see it, he says, you can’t buy or control it.

Also involved are Stockard Channing as an art dealer, Dean Stockwell as a U.S. senator, Hector Babenco as a film director and Anna Galiena as the palazzo’s beautiful chef, plus many others. A running gag has Cheech Marin, playing himself, constantly denied entry to the palazzo by a snooty doorman.

Script by Nicholas Klein (“The End of Violence”) is decidedly patchy, with many of the points made in labored fashion. Of the confessors who speak direct to camera, Lauren Hutton contributes one of the best comments: “Art makes me high, and it’s legal.”

Ultimately, pic is a plea for open minds when it comes to new directions in art and director Robert Dornhelm (whose previous work includes “Echo Park” and the excellent “Requiem for Dominic”) states his case quite amusingly. But for too much of the film the viewer is like an uninvited guest at a very elegant party, not quite privy to what’s being said, and made to feel a little self-conscious about it.

Technical credits are fine, given the rushed post-production schedule.

The Venice Project

Production: A Terra Film-June 99-Ozanit production, in association with ORF, OFI, WFF. (International sales: Lakeshore Intl., Hollywood.) Executive producer, Peter Rawley. Produced by Norbert Blecha, Kara Meyers. Directed by Robert Dornhelm. Screenplay, Nicholas Klein.

With: Countess Camilla Volta - Lauren Bacall Roland/Salvatore - Dennis Hopper Count Jacko/Count Giaccomo - Linus Roache Rudy Mestry/Bishop Orsini - Ben Cross Lark/Gippo the Fool - Stuart Townsend Danilo Danuzzi - Hector Babenco Senator Campbell - Dean Stockwell The Viscount - John Wood Chandra Chase - Stockard Channing Jenna - Victoria Duffy Maria/Sophia - Anna Galiena Danilla - Mia Maestro Myra - Parker Posey Alana/Lucrezia - Frederique van der Wal J.J. Rinquist - Ed Ruscha Lutist - Lucia Hwong Pendergrass - Gert Boeckmann As themselves: Cheech Marin, Lauren Hutton, Steve Martin, Perez de Cuellar, Hans Hollein, Arthur Schlesinger, John GuareCamera (Synchrofilm color), Hannes Drapal, Dan Gilham, Maurizio dell'Orco; editor, Klaus Hundsbichler; music, Harald Kloser; production design, Christian Marin; costume design, Birgit Wunder; sound (Dolby), Mohsan Nasiri; additional direction by Hector Babenco, Nicholas Klein; associate producer, Anja Stadelmann. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Special Event), Sept. 9, 1999. Running time: 86 MIN.

More Film

  • 'St. Bernard Syndicate' Review: A Quietly

    Film Review: 'St. Bernard Syndicate'

    John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan may have received major award nominations this season for their fine work in “Stan & Ollie,” but there’s arguably a superior Laurel & Hardy tribute act to be found in the droll Danish comedy “St. Bernard Syndicate.” As a pair of bumbling losers who turn an already dubious business [...]

  • With PGA win, 'Green Book' is

    Oscars: With PGA Victory, 'Green Book' Becomes Best Picture Frontrunner

    Save for a pair of recent back-to-back discrepancies in “The Big Short” and “La La Land,” the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Theatrical Motion Pictures has been a fairly reliable barometer for the annual Oscar season outcome. At least, ever since both the PGA and film Academy expanded their top categories, sharing the [...]

  • Peter Farrelly30th Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    PGA Awards: 'Green Book' Wins Top Feature Film Award

    “Green Book” has won the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award as the top feature film of 2018. The 1960s drama-comedy topped “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite,”  “A Quiet Place,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “Vice. “When you make ‘Dumb and Dumber’ you never expect to get an award,” [...]

  • Netflix HQ LA

    Andy Gruenberg, Veteran Film Executive, Dies at 68

    Veteran film executive Andy Gruenberg, who most recently oversaw theatrical distribution at Netflix, died suddenly on Friday. He was 68. Gruenberg worked on classic films like “Ghostbusters,” “Karate Kid” and “Silverado” while at Columbia Pictures in the 80s and 90s. He then moved to MGM where he served as exec VP of distribution. There he [...]

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. “Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content