Venice Film Festival 2015 Round-up


Well that’s Venice done for another year marking the official end of summer time. At least that’s how I see it. It’s been a good festival as well, despite the usual carping you hear every time. The standard was certainly higher than last year, and if nothing matched the 2014 Golden Lion winner A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, there was far more strength in depth, particularly in the main competition.

That doesn’t mean the awards went to the best films of course. That would just be silly. Alfonso Cuarón’s jury surprised us all by handing the Golden Lion to Venezuelan film From Afar (Desde Allá). Lorenzo Vigas’ debut is actually pretty good, it’s just not that good. The same goes for the Silver Lion for Best Director, handed to Pablo Trapero for his Argentinian crime drama The Clan. A perfectly enjoyable and very slick film, it’s all style and no substance.

At least they saw fit to give Charlie Kaufman’s return, Anomalisa, the Grand Jury Prize. Essentially the runner-up award, it’s thoroughly deserved. Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion journey through one man’s existential life crisis is brilliantly inventive, funny and disturbing. It was my film of the festival and I’m glad it walked away with something. I was also pleased to see Frenzy grab the Special Jury Prize. Emin Alper’s terrifying slice of Istanbul paranoia gets too confusing by the end, but it’s impressive stuff.

In the acting stakes, the Volpi Cup awards went to Fabrice Luchini for Courted (L’hermine), and Valeria Golino for For Your Love (Per Amor Vostro). Luchini is a wonderfully likeable misanthrope in Christian Vincent’s drama which also scooped Best Screenplay. I enjoyed it immensely, and if neither would be my choice, I’m happy to see Courted grab both awards. Golino is another matter. To be fair it’s not her fault, but For Your Love is a horrendous film. By some distance the worst I saw at the festival, and in contention for worst of the year. They always give something to an Italian film. Why did it have to be this soulless mash-up of styles?

The final award in the main competition went to Abraham Attah for Best Young Actor. He carried large parts of Beasts of No Nation and would have been deserving of the Volpi Cup. Cary Fukunaga’s impressive film wouldn’t have been half as good without Attah.

That’s the official awards for you (full listing below), but I leave you with my own personal top five for the festival.

5. Rabin, the Last Day (Main Competition)

I’ve never been a fan of Israeli director Amos Gitai. I find most of his work tedious in the extreme, and nowhere near as thoughtful as it seems to think it is. So imagine my surprise when I sat down for Rabin, the Last Day and discovered it was actually good. Better than good really. A docudrama looking at the death of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, it uses a Parliamentary commission to investigate the security failings that led to his assassination, and the political environment that made him a target in the first place. Running to over two and a half hours, its gripping, doom laden, and yes, even thoughtful.

4. A War (Orrizonti)

Is there anyone better at tense and grounded drama than Tobias Lindholm right now? The Danish writer/director has previously made two features, including the rather wonderful A Hijacking, co-writes with Thomas Vinterberg – The Hunt is partly his handiwork – and came up with a large chunk of the first two seasons of Borgen. In A War, he turns his attention to the conflict in Afghanistan, where frequent collaborator Pilou Asbæk’s military officer makes an impossible choice that finds him damned either way. That fact that he manages to craft a scenario that had us debating well after the film finished is testament to his abilities.

3. Remember (Main Competition)

Like Amos Gitai, I’ve come to expect little from Canadian director Atom Egoyan. The difference is, Egoyan used to be good, before embarking on a long dry spell. That ends in spectacular style with Remember, a geriatric holocaust thriller with tinges of Memento. Christopher Plummer plays an ageing Auschwitz survivor living in America who sets out to track down the SS concentration camp officer who killed his family. His mission hampered by a number of obstacles, most notably dementia, the closer he draws to his target, the more suffocatingly intense it gets. This really is one hell of a thriller.

2. Spotlight (Out of Competition)

Oh Thomas McCarthy, it’s good to have you back. We can forget about The Cobbler, it’s only one film. After three wonderful features, and an Adam Sandler aberration with the fourth, McCarthy is on form again with his most ambitious effort yet, at least in terms of scale. Spotlight is the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into the sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church, and the subsequent cover-up that kept the crimes quiet and the priests still in circulation. Put together methodically, the investigation builds layer by layer as a top drawer cast including Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo seek out evidence and piece it all together. The best film about journalism for decades.

1. Anomalisa (Main Competition)

A new film from Charlie Kaufman is something to get excited about. A new film from Charlie Kaufman made with many of the team from the TV show Community is something to get really excited about. Oh, and it’s in stop-motion. Who can say no to that? Anomalisa has all Kaufman’s biting humour and existential angst, this time allied to truly gorgeous animation courtesy of co-director Duke Johnson and his team. The film centres on Michael Stone, a customer services expert in Cincinnati for a conference. He’s also going through something of a mid-life crisis, and can no longer distinguish one person from the next. They all look and sound alike, forcing a gradual breakdown. It’s dark, extremely disturbing and somehow delightful. In short, it’s brilliant.

Well that’s what I made of it. I now declare the 72nd Venice Film Festival over. See you for the 73rd.

The Venezia 72 Jury, chaired by Alfonso Cuarón and comprised of Elizabeth Banks, Emmanuel Carrère, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Diane Kruger, Francesco Munzi, Pawel Pawlikowski and Lynne Ramsey having viewed all 21 films in competition, has decided as follows:

Golden Lion for Best Film to: DESDE ALLÁ (FROM AFAR) by Lorenzo Vigas (Venezuela, Mexico)

Silver Lion for Best Director to: Pablo Trapero for the film EL CLAN (Argentina, Spain)

Grand Jury Prize to: ANOMALISA by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson (USA)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actress: Valeria Golino in the film PER AMOR VOSTRO by Giuseppe Gaudino (Italy)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actor: Fabrice Luchini in the film L’HERMINEby Christian Vincent (France)

Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor to: Abraham Attah in the film BEASTS OF NO NATION by Cary Joji Fukunaga (USA)

Award for Best Screenplay to: Christian Vincent for the film L’HERMINE by Christian Vincent (France)

Special Jury Prize to: ABLUKA (FRENZY) by Emin Alper (Turkey, France, Qatar)

Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film Jury at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, chaired by Saverio Costanzo and comprised of Charles Burnett, Roger Garcia, Natacha Laurent and Daniela Michel, has decided to award:

Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film to: THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER by Brady Corbet (United Kingdom, Hungary) (ORIZZONTI)

The Orizzonti Jury of the 72nd Venice Film Festival, chaired by Jonathan Demme and composed of Anita Caprioli, Fruit Chan, Alix Delaporte and Paz Vega having viewed the 34 films in competition has decided to award:

the Orizzonti Award for Best Film to: FREE IN DEED by Jake Mahaffy (USA, New Zealand)

the Orizzonti Award for Best Director to: Brady Corbet for THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER by Brady Corbet (United Kingdom, Hungary)

the Special Orizzonti Jury Prize to: BOI NEON (NEON BULL) by Gabriel Mascaro (Brazil, Uruguay, The Netherlands)

the Special Orizzonti Award for Best Actor to: Dominique Lebornein the film TEMPÊTE by Samuel Collardey

the Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film to: BELLADONNA by Dubravka Turic (Croatia)

the Venice Short Film Nomination for the European Film Awards 2015 to:
E.T.E.R.N.I.T. by Giovanni Aloi (France)

The Venezia Classici Jury, chaired by Francesco Patierno composed of 25 students of Cinema History, chosen in particular from the teachers of 12 Italian Dams university programmes and from the Venice University of Ca’ Foscari, has decided to award:

the Venezia Classici Award for Best Documentary on Cinema to:
THE 1000 EYES OF DR. MADDIN by Yves Montmayeur (France)

the Venezia Classici Award for Best Restored Film to:
SALÒ O LE 120 GIORNATE DI SODOMA by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1975, Italy, France)

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement 2015 to:
Bertrand Tavernier

Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to The Filmmaker Award 2015 to:
Brian De Palma

Persol Tribute Visionary Talent Award 2015 to:
Jonathan Demme

L’oréal Paris per il Cinema Award to:
Valentina Corti

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