VENICE — Yesterday's Al Pacino vehicle here at Venice, "The Humbling," was a disappointment: this is not the Pacino you are looking for. Thank goodness, then, for "Manglehorn", where the sure directorial hands of David Gordon Green know exactly how to unlock latter day Pacino's strengths while reining in his worst excesses.
TELLURIDE — While press and patrons were hustling into gondolas and over to the Chuck Jones Cinema for the World Premiere of Jean-Marc Vallée's "Wild," the 41st annual Telluride Film Festival was kicking off with a bang at an over-stuffed Werner Herzog Theater for the lead program of this year's schedule: a tribute to Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now." The ticket was so hot that well over a hundred pass holders were turned away at the door.
TELLURIDE — There are two reasons Andrew Hodges' biography of Alan Turing references "The Enigma" in its title. The first is in reference to the Engima machine, the legendary secret code the Nazis used during World War II, which was solved by a secret UK military division lead by Turing. The second is Turing himself.
VENICE — Your enjoyment of dodgy comedy "She's Funny That Way" will depend hugely on your personal tolerance for coincidence as plot mechanic. How many coincidences need to occur before the characters might as well start saying "a wizard did it" by way of explaining the wherefores of the plot? What's your personal tipping point? Perhaps your answer will depend on genre. Even in sci-fi or fantasy, "a wizard did it" is still a pretty poor explanation unless the wizard has a satisfying motive. In a more realistic genre, the greater the number of coincidences, the greater the strain on audience credulity. The genre of farce, though broadly realistic (there are usually no wizards), is of course often borderline fantastical in terms of the believability of people's behavior and the frequency with which coincidence craps all over the characters' hopes and dreams. "She's Funny That Way" leans heavily on this creaky genre convention until it finally gives way and collapses.
TELLURIDE — There is a moment near the end of "Wild" where Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) runs into a young boy and his grandmother out on a weekend hike. Strayed has walked hundreds of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to deal with personal, emotional pain that has plagued her most of her young adult life. After learning of Strayed's heartbreaks the young boy (Evan O'Toole) sings her the song "Red River Valley." In the hands of a lesser director this scene could have been overly saccharine and misplaced. But director Jean-Marc Vallée makes it as artful and touching as it needs to be. Clearly, we should not have doubted him.
When last we left Andrey Zvyagientsev's "Leviathan," it was causing a stir at the end of Cannes and looking like a sure-fire Palme d'Or winner. In the end, the Russian drama — which is a spin on the Biblical Book of Job — settled for a screenplay award at the fest, but now it's set to spur discussion again as it's set for a North American premiere at the Telluride Film Festival Friday night.
VENICE — Known as the "First Lady of Iranian Cinema", Iran's premier female director Rakhshan Bani-E'temad is a formidable chronicler of the day-to-day existence of Iranian people. Not a million miles removed from the outlook of the Dardennes brothers in Belgium or Ken Loach in the UK, she is concerned largely with so-called ordinary lives. "Tales (Ghesseha)" is a multistranded take on a dozen or so people's stories intersecting across a single city. Some characters are encountered once, never to return, others recur throughout, but it's not a film with a protagonist or supporting characters in the traditional sense; it's much more a slice of life/lives.
VENICE — The title treatment for Ramin Bahrani's Venice Competition entry consists of blood red letters on black. Filling the entire screen with blocky all-caps letters and numbers dozens of feet high, we read: 99 HOMES. It looks more like the title treatment for a horror than a drama digging into a moral morass of foreclosure, subsistence level employment, and better paid but more spiritually costly work. As it turns out, it is also a horror movie of sorts. The first shot of the film itself is even a post-mortem scene, as Michael Shannon's predatory realtor Rick Carver -- and how's that for a horror movie name? -- gazes almost impassively at blood dribbling down tacky pink bathroom tiles.
As fully expected, Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" was on the Telluride slate when it was announced this morning. This marks Miller's second trip to the Colorado fest after 2005's "Capote," and that last time was kind of significant.