The 68th Venice Film Festival: What’s Lurking on the Lido?

It’s the very first film festival and it’s celebrating its 68th edition on the Lido of Venice, from August 31st to September 10th, 2011, with director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream) as the jury president for the Venezia 68, the international feature films competition.  Italy’s Venice Film Festival, founded by Count Giuseppe Volpi in 1932, is organized by La Biennale di Venezia with current festival director Marco Müller and is a part of the Venice Biennale, a contemporary art exhibition and festival.  Aiming to “raise awareness and promote all the various aspects of international cinema in all its forms: as art, entertainment and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and tolerance”, the festival presents awards such as the Leone d’Oro [Golden Lion], the best film; the Coppa Volpi [Volpi Cup], the best actor and actress; and the San Marco Award, the best film of the Controcorrente [“against the stream”].

This year’s edition is opening with actor/director George Clooney’s The Ides of March and will be screening a total of 65 feature films; 22 in the Venezia 68 category, 19 in the Out of Competition category and 24 in the Orizzonti (new trends in world cinema) category.  In attendance to premiere Wilde Salome will be Al Pacino, who wrote, directed and starred in the drama, and will be presented with the Glory to the Filmmaker award.  Italian writer/producer/director Marco Bellocchio will also be presented with an award, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

Though far from the beauty of Venice and its canals, The Fright Channel has been spying on the Venice Film Festival and a few of its offerings…

Venezia 68

4:44 Last Day on Earth (USA / 82 mins / Drama, Fantasy & Sci-Fi).  Starring Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man 1, 2 & 3), Paul Hipp (Face/Off), Shanyn Leigh (Public Enemies) and Natasha Lyonne (Blade: Trinity).  Written & Directed by Abel Ferrara (The Addiction, Body Snatchers).

Screenings: Wednesday, September 7th @ 10p in Sala Grande & @ 10:40p in PalaBiennale

Synopsis:  In a large apartment high above the city lives our couple.  They’re in love.  She’s a painter, he’s a successful actor.  Just a normal afternoon except that this isn’t a normal afternoon for them or anyone else.  Because tomorrow, at 4:44 am, give or take a few seconds, the world will come to an end far more rapidly than even the worst doomsayer could have imagined.  The final meltdown will come, not without warnings, but with no means of escape.  There will be no survivors.  As always, there are those who, as their final cigarette is being lit and the blindfold tightened, will still hope against hope for some kind of reprieve.  For a miracle.  Not our two lovers.  They, like the majority of the Earth’s population, have accepted their fate; the world is going to end.

L’ultimo Terrestre (Italy / 100 mins / Drama & Sci-Fi).  Starring Gabriele Spinelli, Anna Bellato, Roberto Herlitzka and Teco Celio.  Directed by Gian Alfonso Pacinotti.

Screenings:  Thursday, September 8th @ 5:15p in Sala Grande & Friday, September 9th @ 2:30p in PalaBiennale

Synopsis:  The story unfolds during the week prior to the arrival of aliens on Earth.  An arrival announced by the world’s governments.  Late fringe news which doesn’t interest anyone.  On arrival, the aliens find a nation which is tired and disillusioned, steeped in economic crisis.  The reaction caused by the arrival of these extraterrestrials ranges from racism to bizarre mystic-religious interpretations.  This is the setting which hosts the story.  The film, however, is not about the population.  It follows the life of Luca Bertacci (Spinelli), a man with huge relational problems.  After being abandoned by his mother when he was very young, he grew up hating women.  Diffident, but above all, devoid of emotions.  The presence of the extraterrestrials changes everything.  The arrival of these aliens is so like the “final judgement“ and yet, by the end of the film, it’s almost impossible not to believe that they came to Earth just for him.  Like a gift.

Out of Competition

Contagion (USA / 105 mins / Action, Sci-Fi & Thriller).  Starring Marion Cotillard (Inception), Matt Damon (The Adjustment Bureau), Laurence Fishburne (Predators), Jude Law (Repo Men), Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 2) and Kate Winslet (The Reader).  Written by Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant!).  Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen, Traffic).

Screenings:  Saturday, September 3rd @ 6:30p in Sala Grande & @ 8:30p in PalaBiennale

Synopsis:  Contagion follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days.  As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself.  At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.

The Moth Diaries (Canada & Ireland / 85 mins / Horror)  Starring Sarah Bolger (TV’s The Tudors), Sarah Gadon (TV’s Murdoch Mysteries), Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) and Scott Speedman (The Strangers).  [Based on] Novel Written by Rachel Klein.  Directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho).

Screening:  Tuesday, September 6th @ 9:30p in Sala Darsena

Synopsis:  Rebecca (Bolger), a young girl haunted by her father’s suicide, begins her junior year at an élite girls boarding school, hoping for a fresh start.  From the outset, her friendship with sunny, innocent Lucy (Gadon) is shattered by the arrival of Ernessa (Cole), a mysterious, dark and beautiful girl from Europe.  As Ernessa consumes more and more of Lucy’s attention, the latter’s healthy young body grows pale, thin and weak – as if being drained of life itself.  Her friendship with Lucy slipping away, Rebecca develops a crush on her handsome English professor, Mr. Davies (Speedman), who is teaching a course on supernatural fiction.  Obsessed with LeFanu’s vampire story Carmilla, she is increasingly suspicious of Ernessa’s odd behavior and Lucy’s wasting illness, and when mysterious deaths shock the school, becomes convinced that Ernessa is a vampire.  Rebecca finds herself isolated when the other girls dismiss her suspicions as mere jealousy and Mr. Davies betrays her trust.  As Lucy’s inexplicable illness turns deadly, Rebecca is left alone to battle with Ernessa for the life of her friend.

Baish Echuanshuo [The Sorcerer and the White Snake] (China / 99 mins / Action & Fantasy)  Starring Jet Li (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), Eva Huang, Raymond Lam and Charlene Choi.  Directed by Tony Siu-tung.

2 September 00:00 – Sala Grande

Synopsis:  One day, a young herbalist Xu Xian (Lam) comes to the mountains and accidentally falls into a lake.  The White Snake (Huang), in the incarnation of a beautiful lady, comes to his rescue.  Her passion for this young man cannot be contained, and with the help of the Green Snake (Choi), she ventures into the human world and gets married to Xu Xian.  Fahai (Li) from Jinshan Temple, whose mission is to subdue demons and slay monsters, arrives in town and detects a touch of evil from the medicine provided by Xu Xian.  Xu Xian makes the White Snake drink some sulphur-flower wine during the Dragon Boat Festival, and the lady immediately turns into a big white snake.  Fa Hai comes to subdue White Snake but in the confusion, Xu Xian uses a sacred sword and wounds his beloved one.  The White Snake escapes with serious injury.  Xu Xian is grief-stricken and tries to make a remedy by risking his life to obtain a spirit grass for his wife.  Xu Xian gets the grass but is possessed by demons.  In order to save him, Fahai keeps him in Jinshan Temple.  After taking the spirit grass, the White Snake regains her strength and power and rushes to Jinshan Temple for her husband.  She is overcome with rage after failing to enter the Temple. In extreme frenzy, she summons up a flood over the temple causing death and destruction…

Rabitto Horaa 3D [Tormented] (Japan / 83 mins / Horror).  Starring Hikari Mitsushima, Teruyuki Kagawa, Takeru Shibuya and Tamaki Ogawa.  Written by Sôtarô Hayashi, Daisuke Hosaka and Takashi Shimizu.  Directed by Takashi Shimizu.

Screening:  Wednesday, September 7th @ 12a in Sala Grande

Synopsis:  Rabitto Horaa 3D centres on a young boy whose family seems to be falling apart around him.  The situation gets worse when he manifests a growing and dangerous friendship and reliance on a stuffed toy rabbit that comes to life.  Is he crazy, is his sister alive or dead, is their storybook illustrating father going insane or are they all delusional?  Shimizu ventures once more into the terrifying recesses of the mind.  The film marks his first collaboration with award-winning cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Ondine), who previously worked with many other noted Asian directors.

Feed me at sharon@horrorhaven.com

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