Venice film festival off to shaky start

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VENICE: The 65th Venice film festival has produced no standouts since it opened on Wednesday, with reactions to the first crop among the 21 movies vying for the Golden Lion ranging from lukewarm to hostile.

“The Burning Plain by Guillermo Arriaga of the United States disorients the viewer with flashbacks that cannot be identified as such until much later in the film, a device the reviewer in leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera branded as “gratuitous.

But the reviewer noted that the emotion-laden mother-daughter drama was the Mexican-born Arriaga s first stab at directing, after his widely acclaimed screenplays for “Babel and “21 Grams.

As for the French literary-erotic thriller “Inju, the Beast in the Shadow, the daily La Repubblica was scathing, asking “How did such a film get into the competition for the Golden Lion? under the headline, “A horror movie that provokes hilarity.

Corriere accused director Barbet Schroeder of “(badly) imitating Alfred Hitchcock in a film “without suspense, which ends up irritating the spectator, trapped in a cerebral and weak-willed farce.

The Corriere reviewer blasted Marco Mueller, who this year began his second four-year term as director of the grand dame of film festivals, for making a choice that was “difficult to forgive.

Takeshi Kitano of Japan, with his tragi-comic “Achilles and the Tortoise, has been the front-runner in the Italian press according to a tally by the festival s daily newsletter Ciak, but even the positive reviews have come with caveats.

“Despite some refreshing and surreal touches of humor, the tone seems uselessly gratuitous, wrote Corriere s Paolo Mereghetti, pointing to the suicides of the young artist’s parents and, later on, his indifference at the sight of his daughter’s corpse.

Mereghetti also panned German director Christian Petzold’s film “Jerichow, a love triangle set in East Germany, as lacking depth and being “cold and linear.

Two more films joined the race on Saturday, “A Perfect Day by Turkish-Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek, and “Plastic City by Yu Lik-wai of Hong Kong.

The first belies its cheery title, which is also reflected in the poster for the movie showing a couple with two smiling children on the grass, as if for a picnic.

Based on the novel of the same name by Melania Mazzucco, it centers on a crime of passion and is a series of snapshots – some poignant, some mundane – from the 24-hour period leading up to the tragedy.

Isabella Ferrari, who won the award here for best supporting actress in Ettore Scola s “Romanzo di un Giovane Povero (1995), plays the estranged wife of a lawmaker s police bodyguard, played by Valerio Mastandrea, who also won honors in Venice, a special mention best actor award for “Velocita Massima (2002).

Able acting fails to compensate for heavy-handed melodrama and an intrusive subplot about the lawmaker and his family.

“Plastic City is set in the violent Liberdade neighborhood of Sao Paulo, Brazil, home to the world s largest immigrant Japanese community.

The convoluted saga of gangland warfare over a counterfeit goods racket is rife with violence and unfolds piecemeal, giving it a dreamlike, not to say nightmarish quality. -AFP

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