Friday, 1 September 2017

Venezia74: Flying the flag on Day 3

The weather shifted here on the Lido with an extended series of thunderstorms in the middle of the night, which left the Venice Film Festival rather drippy and wet for most of the day, a drastic change after the sunshine of the previous two days. There was also a shift in the films, from the thematically overheated to more overwhelmingly emotional adventures. Here's what I saw today, including one film that will surely be among my best of the whole year...

Brawl in Cell Block 99
dir-scr S Craig Zahler; with Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter 17/US 2h12 ****
After infusing the Western with horrific new life in 2015's Bone Tomahawk, S Craig Zahler is back with a thunderous reinvention of the prison movie. Set in the present day but playing out like a 1970s exploitation thriller, this increasingly grisly story unfolds with choreographed precision, grinding the audience into its emotional depths with several genuinely hideous plot turns. And it's anchored by a superbly thoughtful/fierce performance from Vince Vaughn.

Lean on Pete
dir-scr Andrew Haigh; with Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi 17/US *****
There's an unusual depth of character to this finely crafted odyssey about a teen who hits the road in a last-gasp effort to find some semblance of hope in his life. While there's plenty of potential for bleakness, writer-director Andrew Haigh instead infuses the film with warmth and honesty, facing the darkest moments head-on as the only way to get through them. It's an extraordinarily tough story told with a light touch that brings the viewer right into the journey

Our Souls at Night
dir Ritesh Batra; with Jane Fonda, Robert Redford 17/US ***.
In addition to screening their new film,
Redford and Fonda are receiving
a special award here in Venice.
Gentle and never pushy, this homespun drama spins a love story between two people who are pushing 80. Although it might be a little unrealistic, since they're played by perhaps the fittest 79 and 81 year-olds on earth: Jane Fonda and Robert Redford. Both actors easily reignite their on-screen chemistry, adding character details that give the film a strong emotional kick. It's all a bit cozy, but it touches on some sharper-edged themes.

Tainted Souls [Il Contagio]
dir Matteo Botrugno, Daniele Coluccini; with Vinicio Marchioni, Maurizio Tesei 17/It **.
This ambitious multi-character drama takes aim at several potent issues plaguing Italian society, from organised crime and drug abuse to the machismo that leaves men too proud to get a job. But the film's tone is all over the place, veering from quirky comedy to gruelling nightmare, more like a melodramatic TV series than a feature film. And the characters feel equally uneven as they look for happiness in all the wrong places.

No comments: