Diary of Venice #10 – Saints and martyrs – Blog

by Elisa Giudici

It’s the last full day of Venice with the rewards about to be announced as you read this…or maybe they’ve already been announced depending on when you clicked on them. Yesterday I was chatting with Italian colleagues. Our country’s films in competition ranged from outstanding to very good. We were quite proud… but then two more Italian films came along and some of us had to rethink our position.

CHIARA by Susanna Nicchiarelli
Saint Chiara is a revolutionary figure in medieval Italian history. She was a real radical in the society of the time. Influential from a young age, Chiara’s fame is somewhat obscured by the fact that she lived with Saint Francesco, the country’s patron saint.

While Nicchiarelli aims to give the Saint the attention she deserves, her film will do next to nothing to achieve it. The production somehow reads wrong from the start, giving off a feel of a TV movie rather than a historical feature film. The acting isn’t strong either. Nicchiarelli’s management does little to help Margherita Mazzucco (my brilliant friend). In her film debut and in the lead role, she remained alone in front of the rolling camera, trying to react to the most insignificant twists and miracles in the same way. She is also asked to sing like a Disney Princess.

There is no sense in the script how innovative and radical Chiara’s work with the poor outside the monastery and the Church was. She was also a controversial figure, so committed to her fast (apparently for God), that some historians believe she actually suffered from a severe form of anorexia, which caused her to have mystical visions. Almost nothing of what makes Chiara such an interesting woman from the Middle Ages in Italy is depicted. The most infuriating aspect is that Nicchiarelli tries to shed some light on Chiara by denying Saint Francis his own remarkable charisma; It shouldn’t be hard to give space back to an iconic female figure without diminishing the merits of the men around her.

SICCITÀ by Paolo Virzì
Siccita is also a mess, albeit quite interesting. Siccita brought something to the festival that no other major title has brought: the present. Writer/director Paolo Virzì (The first beautiful thing, human capital) wrote it during confinement. Virzì imagines a Rome without drinking water, the Tiber a distant dream and insects everywhere. The assembled characters (rich and poor, famous and unknown, ordinary and powerful people) move around the city, not really realizing the gravity of the situation. It’s a powerful setup but Siccita has too many stereotypical characters. Monica Bellucci plays a famous actress living in a huge apartment with an impressive terrace. She seduces a specialist in the water crisis who has become a kind of rising star on television. Also watch out for Tommaso Ragno (also in I eat your heart this year at the Lido) and for Emanuela Fanelli, an Italian actress who plays a central role in the film.

Despite all its faults, the film also has some truth. It is an apocalytic and allegorical account of the fall of Rome, a city that in recent years has seemed lost and doomed. Better to fail ambition and think outside the box. Whatever its flaws, Siccita deserved the place of Competition which went to Chiara!

NO BEAR by Jafar Panahi
Lots of cynical comments about this situation, basically saying that Panahi has to do very little to be a Golden Lion contender. It is believed that the jury will be affected knowing that he is in prison. And yet, Panahi did more than “very little” – he made a remarkable film. no bear is somehow, against all odds, a step forward in Panahi’s career. The writing is more complex, giving us a layered film that mimics a documentary and is sometimes able to make you think you’re witnessing a scene from the life of Jafar Panahi. Then you remember someone is behind the curtain – yes, there is a camera recording the scene.

Jafar Panahi’s character makes a film about two people trying to leave Iran for Europe. We finally realize that they are shooting the film as a kind of documentary about their real attempt to leave Iran for Europe. So no bear is a kind of mockumentary about two people fleeing Iran while filming the fictionalized version of their own story. Outside of Tehran, Jafar becomes a character in the storyline’s other major storyline. A famous person in the capital, in the small village of Jaban, he finds it very difficult to understand how to navigate life in the countryside. A memorable line from the film to this effect “City dwellers have problems with institutions. Country people have superstitions”. no bear is the story of a nation trapped within its own geographic and cultural boundaries, inhabited by people desperately unhappy but unable to leave.

Panahi’s film is less upbeat and darker than his previous films. The director himself dwells on the possibility of fleeing his beloved country. The anger and frustration are visible in his eyes at the end of a film where the dangers (bears, police, smugglers patrolling the Turkish border) are not quite visible, but drawn into the darkness.

I would love to see Panahi win the screenplay award, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win a second Golden Lion. The film is well written and directed with a little technical virtuosity that underscores his creativity, even in a desperate situation like the one he lives in.

The conclusion of my ‘jury of one’ festival is coming tomorrow


#1 – Tar, white noise…
#2 – Bardo False Chronicle of…
#3 – Bones and All, Monica, All Beauty and Bloodshed
#4 – The Whale, Argentina 1985, Master Gardener
#5 – L’Immensità, other people’s children, love life
#6 – Banshees of Inisherin, Don’t Worry Darling Eternal Daughter
#7 – Saint Omer, lord of the ants

#8 – The Son, Beyond the Wall, Dreamin’ Wild
#9 – Blonde, Our Ties, Athena

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