Critics Rock Venice Festival's Boat
The selection of films for this year's Venice Film Festival is getting as many negative reviews as some of the actual on-screen fare. "The overall impression here is one of disappointment and everybody is desperate for a really good film in competition," Reuters commented in a report from the festival. The French wire service Agence France Presse observed that "reactions to the first crop among the 21 movies vying for the Golden Lion [range] from lukewarm to hostile." It said that the U.S. entry The Burning Plain, directed by Guillermo Arriaga and starring Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, "disorients the viewer with flashbacks that cannot be identified as such until much later in the film." However, a few films have appeared to be standouts, in particular Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's take on The Little Mermaid, called Ponzo on the Cliff by the Sea. Deborah Young of the Hollywood Reporter called it "a refreshing thirst-quencher in a thus-far dry lineup." (Director John Landis, a member of the Venice jury, told the BBC, "Tonight we saw a Japanese anime about a fish, and then we had sushi. We really did! I was thinking, 'This is ironic.'") Japanese director Takeshi Kitano's Achilles and the Tortoise has emerged as the front-runner in the competition although Paolo Mereghtetti, the critic for Corriere della Sera wrote, "Despite some refreshing and surreal touches of humor, the tone seems uselessly gratuitous," referring to certain violent scenes.