Saturday, August 30, 2008




Venice Musings


There is cigarette smoke everywhere.


But you have to give it to the Italians, They will crawl over all kinds of arms and legs to get a seat, talking all the while on a cell phone. No problema!


It is another beautiful day in Venice. Yesterday got a little interesting. I fell in the Pala Lido theater. The steps are uneven and made of rough cement. I should have stayed seated til the lights came up but I dropped my cane and when I took a step to pick it up, I missed and down I went! The good part? The lights were still down. The bad part? I am pretty sure from the angry red swelling of the  toe next to my little toe on my right foot, that I fractured it. But as everyone knows, there’s nothing to be done for a broken toe except ice and keeping it elevated and to take lots of motrin. All done. Today I am navigating quite well…. Thank God. Oh, and a giant centipede crawled slowly down my curtain last night, and I got so agitated I couldn,t find the OFF right away and had to hop around on one foot to get it… but when I did I sprayed into the valance, shook the curtain and down he came.  Squish. Maybe you had to be there. I don,t know.


So for today’s films... The theme of Don Juan de Marco keeps playing in my head because a version of it was playing all the way through UN GIORNO PERFETTO)




This Brazilian-Japanese collaboration is a really ugly watch. It tells the story of a Chinese man who gets smuggled into Brazil in the 1980,s and the small Japanese boy he found in the rain forest and adopted as his son. They went into business (eventually) selling cheap knock off,s, fakes, using a guerrilla sales force in any market place available in the northwest part of Brazil. As the older man grows rich, the market is now global and the face of crime is changing. Instead of cheap knockoff,s, the new crooks want to do overruns on quality merchandise and put on false labels. The Chinese boss, however, doesn,t believe he can make money from doing this, only from fake stuff.


There is a mix of politics and other Asian criminals from New York, violence and betrayals …. As well as the income from the usual vices of the night. The father-son relationship is supposed to drive the film but it was a harsh film, both as story and visually. I can imagine that this is reality for many populations around the world, however. People need to eat, to survive, and economic and power forces make it very hard to lead a virtuous life. This doesn,t excuse crime, or ugly filmmaking, but the truth is out there.


There wasn,t anything socially redeeming about the film that I could find, as film. I don't know who would watch it.




A short film about life today in a Roman neighborhood by Mario Monicelli, a well-known director. Okay….. but ... why?



Because we were born


A bleak Brazilian film about two young boys coming of age in rural Brazil amidst real hardship. You can feel the heat, the struggle for clean water and the stench of dead farm animals that starve as the people watch. They work for a few reales to buy food for their families while their illiterate mother tries to get them to go to school. This is a cinema verite - existential type of film, and believe me it breaks your heart.




Probably one of the best advertised films of the festival, the critics hooted it to death at the end. The title is truly ironic because no one has a perfect day, not the divorced mother of two, her children, her greatly troubled, mentally ill cop ex-husband (for I while I was thinking this was going to be an Italian version of a Lifetime movie: I should have been so lucky), thepolitician running for office, his young trophy wife or his grown son…. While this was a very  well made film and yes, watchable until the end, it is terribly pessimistic. However, given the rates of wife and child abuse in the world, perhaps the ending was to have been expected. The Italians know their cinema, however. At one point, the grown son of the politician, an artist,  paints the face of his young step-mother all over a dilapidated wall and lights candles before it. The critics laughed and guffawed and it was downhill from then on…. When the Italian critics don,t like a film, they clap while making this strange booing like sound. I aksed the lady next to me what it meant, and she said, "Oh, I don,t think they liked it very much at all....It is their way to scorn...." Well, as our nuns like to say, Los Angeles audiences are very big hearted and applaud the efforts of our filmmakers. I think it takes a lot of guts to make a film in Italy....





Souleymane Sy Savane as Solo (rt) and Red West as William in GOODBYE SOLO, a film by Rahmin Bahrani


Now this small, American-made film was really good and the acting excellent. A taxi drive in Winston-Salem, a man from Senegal, picks up a fare…an older man, William, wants Solo, the driver, to drive himto a mountain in NC, on a certain date. Solo realizes the man wants to kill himself and he spends the next ten days doing everything he can to talk him out of it. Solo is also studying to become a flight attendant, his great dream, but his pregnant wife who is Mexican, wants him to keep the safe job as a taxi driver. Alex, his young step daughter, loves him, and they have a lovely relationship as she teaches him many things. Solo,s wife kicks him out (temporarily) and he moves into a motel room with William.


I won’t give away the ending but I saw William as a kind of alter-ego for Solo, who appeared for a time to act as a father figure and teacher who makes Solo stretch and grow by aggravating him, and then … disappears. One of the best I have seen so far and it is not in competition. Too bad!


Off to an evening screening now….



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