Death reigns unexpectedly light-heartedly at the 79th Venice Film Festival so far

Death reigns unexpectedly light-heartedly at the 79th Venice Film Festival so far
Death reigns unexpectedly light-heartedly at the 79th Venice Film Festival so far

An intellectually ambitious film about death that sparkles with laughter: the 79th Venice Film Festival opened brilliantly on Wednesday night with white noise by Noah Baumbach. Adam Driver plays one Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler studies who ends up with his family in a chemical disaster. Jack has been severely exposed, is he going to die? Yes, but the doctors don’t know when, so not that much has changed. But why is his wife secretly taking pills?

As a director, you want your film to premiere in Venice: eight of the last ten Oscars for ‘best director’ come from the Lido. So far death reigns there, in an unexpectedly light-footed way. Could it be the pandemic? white noise Based on the cult novel by Don DeLillo from 1985, it is a savage high-academic comedy about our repression of death and how it results in lingering terror, crisis neurosis, apocalyptic fascination and an obsession with life extension. Baumbach, once known for his small character studies, goes all inclusive with mass scenes and wry monologues in beautiful Don DeLillo style: “Did you know how much Elvis and Hitler have in common?” The film slaloms through the eighties genre, past Spielberg, John Carpenter, neo-noir and even includes a swinging MTV clip in a supermarket.

shady games

If you are terrified, you can always contact Lars von Trier, who, after a quarter of a century on the Lido, is finishing his occult TV series for a third season. The Kingdom (rigeto) adds. Von Trier’s cosmos is an accumulation of pain, it turns out, created by a ‘Big Scream’ that now manifests itself in – yes – white noise, television noise.

Little seems to have changed in the hospital where von Trier was treated at the time Twin Peaks inspired soap opera. The orange Dogme light is back, the swiping camera, the jaded rooms and the basement where rational doctors – all neurotics – indulge in infantile rituals and shady games. The protagonists are also back, often in new incarnations.

Or is that such a good idea? I doubt after two episodes, which have strong moments, but also a lot of Danish-Swedish nonsense and rude jokes about recent MeToo problems at Von Trier’s studio Zentropa. Is the sharpness a bit off with the former enfant terrible, who recently announced that he suffers from Parkinson’s?

Also read: Hollywood now prefers to roll out its Oscar cannons in Venice

Surreal bravado shots

bardo by Alejandro Iñárritu – known for birdman and The Revenant – is also about death. The title refers to a Buddhist purgatory between life and death. There is Iñárritu’s alter ego Silverio, a star journalist. We flow for almost three hours through memories, dreams and musings. Netflix pays, and it cost something, this spectacular Mexican take on Fellini’s classic 8. If there’s one director who follows in Fellini’s footsteps, it’s the masterful stylist Iñárritu who indulges in breathtaking, surreal bravura shots through an endless memory palace. The film is about Mexico and the US, family, a dead baby, shame and compromise. There is a resounding fiesta and conquistador Cortes philosophizes on a pyramid of Aztec corpses. Completely excessive, and stunning.

derailed conductor

Also of a very high standard is Tár by the brilliant American Todd Field, jazz musician, actor, writer and director of only two feature films, In the Bedroom and Little Children. However, those earned him three Oscars, after which he toiled for sixteen years on doomed projects with big names – DiCaprio, Craig – that never got off the ground.

Fortunately, this time with the proud Cate Blanchett in the lead role. The life of female star conductor Lydia Tár is thrown off balance in slow motion as she spirals into a lesbian MeToo situation at the height of her fame. In two and a half hours – Field has some catching up to do – we explore a world of top music, elegant whispers and subtle intrigue. And rediscover Field’s extraordinary talent for peeling off characters who are very different from what they’re telling themselves. With Blanchett as a formidable, deeply flawed heroine worthy of a Greek tragedy.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Death reigns unexpectedly lightheartedly #79th Venice Film Festival

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