The 76th Venice International Film Festival was definitely the experience of the year for me. Not only because I was about to see some of the most anticipated films of the year, but because I was among the lucky ones that got to see films like Marriage Story or Joker before anyone else on this planet. On the latter, is Todd Philips’ Joker better than Christopher Nolan’s? The answer is they are categorically different. This is like comparing tea and coffee, personally I love both of them. The truth is that Philips’ Joker bears the inward story of the bitter-sweet villain, while Nolan’s explores the interplay between Joker and Gotham City. Phoenix’s portrayal of the Joker is unbelievably mesmerising, as at times it makes you feel uncomfortable and out of your skin, trying to feel what he feels in his. The use of colour contributes to the overall aesthetics, as the main palette relies on the yellow, green and blue tones. The lighting merges with the costumes and makeup and it creates a seamless world of destruction, annihilation of the identity, and societal chaos.
The highlights of the festival were not only the new releases, but the restored films that were gathered in the category of ‘Venice Classics’. The Incredible Shrinking Man, directed by Jack Arnold in 1957, felt like a perfect time capsule back to that era. At the dawn of science fiction, the film is saturated with an incredible substance in terms of messages towards humanism under the surface of the plot, which essentially revolves around the story of a man who starts shrinking due to unexplained phenomenon. The elaborate script by Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone) manages to balance the terror from the unknown and question of self-identity.
On a similar note, another restored classic was Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, starring Robert De Niro and Liza Minelli. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the producer of Scorsese, Irwin Winkler. The details he shared around Raging Bull, New York, New York and even the latest The Irishman were pure joy for all of the cinephiles in Sala Giardino.
The most experimental films I saw during the festival were Ema by Pablo Larrain and Madre by Rodrigo Sorogoyen. Ema and the electric disco music that was the foundation reminded me instantly of the recent surreal horror production Climax by Gaspar Noe. Aesthetically, the connection with Climax is as overt as the structure similarity between Ema and We Need To Talk About Kevin. Both of the films focus on dysfunctional families and tackle central topics such as motherhood, society and relationships. Due to its extreme scenes, Ema is not a film for the mass audience, but it is wonderfully shot, directed and acted. Equally, the Spanish film Madre explores motherhood, a prevalent topic at this year’s festival. With a superb script, lead actors Marta Nieto and Jules Porier manage to sustain exceptional chemistry throughout.
Undoubtedly, the 76th Venice Film Festival will stay with me a long, long time. Be it the red colours of the buildings or the blue lasers used when someone tries to use their phone, my trip had an inexpressible flavour of uniqueness.