“When Marco Mueller took over as Rome Film Festival director prior to the event’s 2012 edition, he brought with him more than three decades of experience amassed at Venice, Locarno and Rotterdam,” writes Variety‘s Nick Vivarelli. “But nothing prepared him for the ensuing Roman roller-coaster ride, full of twists and turns dictated by Italian politics and the economy, an experience he compares with being on a mission out of The Expendables franchise.”
Vivarelli talks with Mueller about his uphill battle and, in the Hollywood Reporter, Ariston Anderson notes that the festival’s current budget, “hit by the country’s ongoing recession,” has been cut to around $7.6 million, “a third of its peak.” Many wonder whether Italy can really afford two big international festivals. “By rebranding the event for its ninth edition as a testing ground for the European market…, Mueller has set out to prove naysayers wrong. In lieu of traditional juries, there will be five People’s Choice Awards across the fest’s programs, voted on by the audience. And the lineup has been slimmed to 51 ‘popular but singular titles,’ as Mueller describes them, including 24 world premieres.”
And among those we’re most anxious to hear about are Takashi Miike‘s As the Gods Will, Christoph Hochhäusler‘s The Lies of the Victors, Park Chan-wook’s new short, A Rose Reborn, Aleksey Fedorchenko’s Angels of the Revolution, Walter Salles’s Jia Zhangke, un gars de Fenyang and a film being presented by Jia, Tian Ye and Gu Yugao’s Chen Jialing. We’ll be gathering reviews here as they appear; meantime, below, a few trailers and, for those who read Spanish, a preview of Rome 2014 from Diego Lerer.
This year’s edition opens today and runs through October 25.
No subtitles, but really.
Updates, 10/19: “Premiering his second feature at an international festival in almost a month, which makes for nearly a hundred credited productions in over twenty years, mindbogglingly prolific auteur Takashi Miike offers up a rather ridiculous and gory romp with his latest high school slasher, As the Gods Will (Kamisama no iutoori),” writes Jordan Mintzer (THR). “Adapted from a popular manga and made with tons of visual effects, plus considerably higher production values than certain recent efforts, this slaphappy action-adventure plays like a video gamer’s Battle Royale or Hunger Games—if the latter were made by someone who consumed large quantities of speed before guzzling an entire tank of laughing gas.”
“We’ve hardly had time to turn off our mobile phones when the blood starts to Jackson Pollock the classroom walls,” writes Lee Marshall for Screen. “The twist in this particular death game, or survivor story, is that each level is based on toys or cultural icons familiar to kids—most of them, apart from a final Matrioska sequence, specifically Japanese. The first is easily the most exhilarating and darkly comic, partly because it comes so unmediated by scene-setting: in fact the first victim (a girl, of course) has already been decapitated when we dive into a high-school classroom being terrorized by a scary ‘Daruma’ or dharma Buddha doll.”
For THR, Ariston Anderson reports on Rome’s presentation of the Maverick Director Award: “According to Miike, the Daruma dolls used in the film represent qualities in human beings required to advance in life: strength, intelligence and creativity. ‘All of these elements depend on something that we cannot escape: our fate, chance, destiny or luck,’ he said. ‘That was the underlying theme in the story…. But if we decide to summarize all of our existence in one hour and 57 minutes,’ he continued, ‘obviously we have to understand it all amounts to living our lives, meeting someone, moving away from someone and, at the end, our final curtain. And there is always a moment in which we shine.'”
Christoph Hochhäusler’s The Lies of the Victors
Update, 10/18: “An engaging, if never fully engrossing, conspiracy thriller where two dogged journos take on Germany’s vast military-industrial complex, Christoph Hochhäusler’s The Lies of Victors is a decent addition to a genre made famous nearly four decades ago by Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men,” writes Jordan Mintzer for the Hollywood Reporter. “Mining similar material to his 2010 Un Certain Regard entry The City Below, Hochhäusler casts an even wider net this time, focusing on a pair of investigative reporters tracking the backhanded dealings of evil corporations and corrupt officials, although the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead of everyone else…. Hochhäusler adds plenty of stylistic flourishes to keep up the pace, with DP Reinhold Vorschneider (The Robber) constantly pivoting his camera back and forth, or in 360° circles, to provide a flurry of movement in front of the lens. With whiplash cutting by Stefan Stabenow (In Bloom) and an atonal jazzy score by Benedikt Schiefer, the film’s aesthetics can be jarring at times, adding a certain level of intensity yet also distancing us from the action.”
Updates, 10/20: “There are shades of Polanski’s The Ghost Writer here,” finds Screen‘s Lee Marshall, “but in fact this good-looking film’s core theme—the frustrations of serious, investigative news reporting in an age when budgets are tight, legal challenges rife and targets increasingly media-savvy—is more reminiscent of Season 5 of The Wire, as created by David Simon, whose terse summary of that wrap season could well serve as a logline for this Berlin-set drama: ‘it’s about what stories get told and what don’t and why it is that things stay the same.'”
More from Diego Lerer (in Spanish).
Vittoria Scarpa interviews Christoph Hochhäusler for Cineuropa: “My previous movie was set in the world of high finance. I wanted to focus on something that shapes our lives that we’re unaware of. The media mould our thoughts but few people really know how journalism works and the type of power it has. I had a particular point of view and I didn’t want to make a documentary.”
Update, 10/27: “Damning the culture of lobbyists, as well as the way truth is circumvented or ignored when inconvenient, Lies gets bogged down by Hochhaeusler’s tendency to show off, yet remains a solid, absorbing drama,” finds Variety‘s Jay Weissberg.
Aleksey Fedorchenko’s Angels of the Revolution
Updates, 10/24: Clarence Tsui in the Hollywood Reporter: “Following in the footsteps of Silent Souls and Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari two years later, Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko again delves into the lives of his country’s ethnic minorities with Angels of Revolution, a visual feast depicting the cultural clash of a group of Russian avant-garde artists with the tribes they aim to bring into the nascent Soviet Union’s ideological fold in the early 1930s.”
Variety‘s Guy Lodge: “Weaving together blunt political rhetoric, naive traditional theater and arch sketch-based satire—equal parts Sergei Parajanov and Roy Andersson, yet wholly itself—the resulting tapestry matches 2012’s Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari for density, daring and probable divisiveness.”
Update, 10/17: “Soap Opera, the latest ensemble comedy from Italian hitmaker Alessandro Genovesi (The Worst Week of My Life), is a broad and gushy crowdpleaser that should rake in sizeable coin at the local box office when it’s released next week, but will be of little appeal to anyone living outside the boot,” writes Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter.
Updates, 10/18: “A entertaining and fascinating blend of Hollywood storytelling and Brazilian energy, Stephen Daldry’s Trash may well have the sheen of a classy foreign-language art-house film,” writes Screen‘s Mark Adams, “but its beating heart is the classy combination of Daldry’s astute filmmaking skills and unique ability to bring the best out of his young child stars and a savvy script from Richard Curtis (adapted into Brazilian-Portuguese by Felipe Braga).” Jordan Mintzer for THR: “Filled with numerous plot twists, street chases and upbeat vibes that will conquer the hearts of Western viewers seeking a safe foray into Third World territory—and one for which they’re accompanied by the do-gooding Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara—this energetic cross-cultural affair resolves local issues in a manner that only temporarily sojouring filmmakers can devise.” More from Jordan Riefe in the Guardian (4/5).
“Four years after his underwhelming Berlinale debut Shahada, Burhan Qurbani is back, this time in competition at Rome, with a dramatized, multi-strand account of the anti-immigrant riots that shook the former East German port town of Rostock in August 1992,” writes Lee Marshall for Screen. “Though it suffers from some of the same problems as that earlier Muslims-in-Germany drama—chief among them the script’s tendency to state the obvious, and a ponderously artsy mise en scene—[We are Young. We are Strong] is still a more mature, thoughtful social drama outing for Qurbani, whose own status as the German-born son of an Afghan refugee couple adds a meta-cinematic twist.” More from Vittoria Scarpa at Cineuropa.
Update, 10/22: Walter Salles’s Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang “is fuelled by an anxious look toward the future—not just Jia’s, but also that of his profession and his people as China marches on to the state-controlled drumbeat of economic liberalism and tight political control.” Clarence Tsui in the Hollywood Reporter: “While shown meeting his childhood friends and collaborators in his hometown—his early pivotal films like Xiao Wu, Platform and Unknown Pleasures were all shot in Fenyang, which was granted city status only in 1996—Jia muses about a fast-vanishing past replaced by high-rises and high-speed trains. Meanwhile, his recollections about past and present skirmishes with the authorities—the most recent being censors denying his latest film, A Touch of Sin, a license for domestic release—could easily be seen as a reflection of past and present schisms of the People’s Republic.”
Updates, 10/25: For Variety‘s Guy Lodge, Jia Zhangke: A Guy from Fenyang is “an intelligent, restrained but warmly intimate cinematic conversation with the Sixth Generation Chinese trailblazer. Similarly simple in concept to Olivier Assayas’s 1997 study of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Salles’s film follows Jia as he wanders the scarred streets of his hometown—many of them recognizable from his own films—and muses wryly on a politically fractious career.”
This year’s edition has wrapped with the presentation of the awards as voted upon by audiences:
- The BNL People’s Choice Award | Gala: Trash by Stephen Daldry.
- The People’s Choice Award | Cinema d’Oggi: 12 Citizens by Zu Ang.
- The People’s Choice Award | Mondo Genere: Haider by Vishal Bhardwaj.
- The BNL People’s Choice Award | Cinema Italia (Fiction): Fino a qui tutto bene by Roan Johnson.
- The People’s Choice Award | Cinema Italia (Documentary): Looking for Kadija by Francesco G. Raganato.
- Taodue Camera D’Oro Prize for Best Debut Film: Andrea Di Stefano for Escobar: Paradise Lost; Laura Hastings Smith producer of X+Y by Morgan Matthews; Special Mention: Last Summer by Lorenzo Guerra Seragnoli.
- DOC.IT Award to the Best Italian Documentary: Largo Baracche by Gaetano Di Vaio; Special Mention: Roma Termini by Bartolomeo Pampaloni.
- Marc’Aurelio Lifetime Achievement Award: Walter Salles.
- Maverick Director Award: Takashi Miike.
- Marc’Aurelio Acting Award: Tomas Milian.
- Farfalla d’Oro Prize – Agiscuola: Gone Girl by David Fincher.
- The SIGNIS Award – Ente dello Spettacolo: Fino a qui tutto bene by Roan Johnsond and Wir sind jung. Wir sind stark (We Are Young. We Are Strong) by Burhan Qurbani; Special mention: Biagio by Pasquale Scimeca.
- L.A.R.A. (Libera Associazione Rappresentanza di Artisti) for the Best Italian Actor: Marco Marzocca for Buoni a nulla by Gianni Di Gregorio; Special mention: Silvia D’Amico for Fino a qui tutto bene by Roan Johnson.
- AIC 2014 Award for Best Cinematography: Luis David Sansans for Escobar: Paradise Lost by Andrea Di Stefano.
- AMC Best Editing: Julia Karg for Wir sind jung. Wir sind stark by Burhan Qurbani.
- Best Sound Award – A.I.T.S.: Last Summer by Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli.
- La Chioma di Berenice Award for Best Hairstyling: Simona Castaldi for Soap Opera by Alessandro Genovesi.
- La Chioma di Berenice Award for Best Make Up Artist: Fabio Lucchetti for Soap Opera by Alessandro Genovesi.
- Akai Award International Film Fest: Fino a qui tutto bene by Roan Johnson.
- Green Movie Award: Biagio by Pasquale Scimeca.
- “Sorriso diverso Roma 2014” Award: Italian film: Biagio by Pasquale Scimeca.
- Foreign film: Wir sind jung. Wir sind stark by Burhan Qurbani.
Update, 10/26: So this was Marco Mueller’s last year as festival director. “With 80,000 admissions this year, the final numbers were greatly reduced from last year’s 130,000,” notes Ariston Anderson in the Hollywood Reporter. “Mueller has not had an easy job over the last three years he’s run the festival. Each year he’s been given different orders for how to resolve the fledging festival, often forcing him to scramble at the last minute to put together a standout lineup. His contract is up and he’s not coming back. ‘The Rome Film Festival has been an experience that I can only consider over, since my contract was for three years. I did my best each time to try to adapt to the directions I received,’ said Mueller at the festival close. ‘I learned a lot in these three years.’”