2018 Venice Film Festival: Five Films That Made Me Think

I recently attended the Venice Film Festival, where I interviewed many guests for FRED Film Radio.

I am currently on a “traditional film review” hiatus, but my desire to write about my film experiences is constantly strong; so, rather than write a review for each of the many films I watched or even compile a list of the “best films” from the festival (whatever the definition for “best film” may be), here is a list of the five films that made me think – their impact still felt many days after the end of the festival.

This list is in no particular order.


Sunset (Laszlo Nemes, Hungary)

If a revolution is upon us – and many people tell me so – then I am selfish, for chaos is all around me and I’m too busy in the pursuit of my own selfish goals, whatever they may be.

I am a flaneur, who delights in looking and occasionally catching glimpses of history in the present. But I keep my distance and suspicion, never quite engaging for fear perhaps of awakening to the horrors that surround me. sunset forced me into such an awakening, more about myself than the reality of the world I live in.

Sunset is set in Budapest in 1918, on the brink of World War One. Yet, I was more taken by the close-ups of the beautiful leading actress and my desire to, uselessly, see what she sees, and understand what she understands of the world around her, which is simply never much at all.


Why Are We Creative? (Hermann Vaske, Germany)

If I look at this documentary as a serious pursuit in a certain inherent truth about creativity, then I am underwhelmed because the pursuit itself seems boring to me.

What truly fascinates me is how the title question grants its filmmaker Hermann Vaske an identity as a purveyor of an inherent truth – whether real or invented – and how it allows him to gain access to some of the most celebrated “creative minds” of recent times.

And good on him for doing that – for a part of me is almost certain that creativity is essentially a lie; a lie that is sustained by people like Vaske and without whom “creative minds” would not be celebrated… and the world itself, and existence as we know it would, perhaps, fall apart.


Charlie Says (Mary Harron, United States)

The recently deceased Charles Manson is one of the most infamous figures of our times. Charlie Says purposefully choose to focus on the women of his cult, who were desperately devoted to him.

More addictive than any of the fun substances they took while during those times, is “love.” The whole cult, as director Mary Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner see it, was built not only on a desire to be loved, but an addiction to the fulfillment of this desire.

Addiction leads to vulnerability and abuse; sure, the film could also be read as a metaphor of the evils of patriarchy. But as a white male, I did not feel sympathy for these women; I understood the very addiction that prevent them from leaving and awakening to the horrors that surround them and their own exploitation.


Women Making Films: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (Mark Cousins, United Kingdom)

Speaking of abuse… the incindiary #MeToo movement – of which I am a supporter, but not in the exploitative, mean-spirited THR and IndieWire vein – has been responsible for much hostility and disappointingly led to not so much rediscovery of some of the greatest filmmakers ever, who happen to be women – who happen to have been forgotten.

Mark Cousins counters that with the beginning of a new epic doc in which he celebrates such filmmakers as Samira Makhmalbaf, Kira Muratova, Larisa Shepitko … and many more.

The best part of this endeavor is that soon after the film begins, you don’t only forget that its director is a white male – you also forget that the filmmakers he talks about (through the voice of Tilda Swinton) are women! The message seems to be, for me, completely positive: an image of a youthful and empathetic cinema that defies the hostilities of gender.

The future is cinephile.


Your Face (Tsai Ming-Liang, Taiwan)

Tsai Ming-Liang is a filmmaker whose works I could only watch in the cinema. Why? I live fast. I have no home. I drift and walk lots, write lots and am constantly busy. More often than not, I look for cinematic experiences to slow me down. And think.

Tsai Ming-Liang’s films do that and his latest one is no exception – compiled as it is mostly from close-ups of people dealing with regrets or simply being; like the old man who falls asleep regardless of the camera recording him, or the woman who bursts spontaneously into laughter before revealing herself in a way she probably never has.

There’s real power in cinema, in all its parts and processes. Look no further than Tsai Ming-Liang to be reminded of that – and to remind you of asking yourself, “When was the last time I looked into someone’s eyes and bared my own soul?”


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