Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Venice Film Festival Diaries
Day 7

by Howard Feinstein

Wednesday, September 4

I have to admit that I've been walking out of a lot of movies this year. Would you stay in the theater to watch Vincent d'Onofrio talk to the camera (as if it were a woman interviewer) for an hour and a half? The premise in this film, called "Guy" and directed by Brit Michael Lindsay-Hogg, is a conceit that's been tried before ("Lady in the Lake", back in the '40s, for example), and, to make matters worse, it's set in Los Angeles.

I was compelled to exit from "Ponette", French director Jacques Doillon's study of a little girl (this kid looks like the young Jeanne Moreau) who has lost her mother and now plays with a rag doll she calls Yoyette. The young actress who plays Ponette did get into a little fight with "Basquiat" director Julian Schnabel by the pool of the Hotel des Bains. She was playing in the designated children's area, while Schnabel was doing interviews nearby. He wanted her to shut up. The rumor here, by the way, is that Schnabel, whose ego has trampled the Lido, is absolutely certain that his film will win the top prize.

That is rather doubtful. Abel Ferrara's brilliant "The Funeral" has already made a major impact here. The nerve of Schnabel: he comes with his first movie ever, and he actually thinks he can beat someone like Ferrara, who has made two dozen films - and good ones, like "Ms. 45", "The Bad Lieutenant", and "Dangerous Game" - over the past 20 years. And he would never, never, never superimpose a blond surfer on the Manhattan skies the way Schnabel does in "Basquiat". Only Woody Allen can get away with such a device - and that's his mother telling him to marry a Jewish girl, and it's played for comedy.

Besides Ferrara, another gifted filmmaker has made a splash here. Emma-Kate Croghan, a 23-year-old Australian, came here with "Love and Other Catastrophes", a delightful movie about a group of college friends and their individual and collective problems. (It was shown in the market at Cannes, but I missed it. Fortunately for those of you in American, Fox Searchlight, which has been releasing some dogs lately, will open it early next year.)

"Love and Other Catastrophes" is the kind of pearl that makes the long festival days worthwhile. It has energy, it's fresh, the characters are not two-dimensional. It centers around Mia (Frances O'Connor), who is trying to change her college department (thankfully, she wants to get out of cinema studies) and is having problems with her girlfriend. (The lesbian relationship is a given; nothing big is made of it - like real life.) One of Mia's friends has a crush on one boy, but a second boy is the one who likes her. Things like that. It's a movie about the joy of friendship, and how simple things (like which films we like) can be the best indicators of who we like.

Australia and New Zealand are, in fact, dominating this last portion of the festival, much as the U.S. had ruled the first. Scott Hicks's "Shine" is the closing night event, and Jane Campion's "Portrait of a Lady" plays one night before. Nicole Kidman is arriving this afternoon. If one more bellboy asks me if it's true that Tom Cruise is coming too, I'm going to reduce his tip from 1500 to 500 lira - and even 30 cents seems like a generous gratuity.

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