Tuesday, October 4
Shadow

Venice Film Festival 2022: The Biennale College and Classics | Festivals & Awards

It’s always a terrific privilege and pleasure to come out here and tell you about some of the movies that I saw. But the primary reason I’m here is the Biennale College, the remarkable program sponsored by the festival that selects some projects from a pool of applicants, workshops them in Venice, then finances them with 150,000 Euros and a directive to return ten months later with a completed feature film. Part of the end process is for a group of critics to watch them and talk about them in a panel now held at the Excelsior Hotel (because the former space for press conferences in the Casino is now, yes, that screening room that used to be on the first-floor level).

On occasion this way of putting together a picture yields radical results, as in 2019’s “This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection.” It is not dismissal to note that the four films this year were linear narratives going straight down a line. Which is not to say they were conventional. Three out of the four pictures were directed by women; two of them featured the director in the lead acting role. I’ll start with those two.

In director Monica Dugo’s “Come le tartarughe” (which translates as “Like Turtles”), the veteran Italian actress plays a matriarch whose physician husband does what I’ve come to think of as a very 1970s thing (although this is not a period film): he walks out on his family to find himself. Dugo’s Lisa reacts to the event by living out of one section of the giant wardrobe that dominates the family apartment. This leaves her teen daughter and younger son in a bit of a lurch. 

The basics of the setup call to mind the 2002 Elena Ferrante novel Days of Abandonment, although its specifics aren’t as raw and violent; this is a melancholy drama tinged with humor. Being arguably Ferrante-adjacent definitely helps its commercial chances, as I observed at the panel, which was attended by all the filmmakers. For better or worse, in these days of algorithm, saying, for instance, “If you liked ‘The Lost Daughter,’ you may enjoy this” is a good hook. And apart from that, Dugo’s work is a lean, honest, assured, smart, and accessible picture.

Leave a Reply