The Screening Room Blog
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Venice critic: Lee Marshall

VENICE, Italy -- I caught up with critic of 14 years and Venice veteran Lee Marshall to find out what he's excited about and why.

What's special about Venice?

It doesn't have the business side of things like Berlin and Cannes and it doesn't have the razzmatazz of Cannes -- it is just about watching films. Its location on the Lido and time of year in August make it gorgeous. If Cannes is all about in-your-face glamour then Venice is its laid back equivalent. Berlin in February has the weather going against it and in such a big city, sometimes the festival can get lost.
What are your thoughts on the line-up at Venice this year?

I've always liked Venice the best, but for me this year is quite weak. The selection is disappointing on paper but I'm still hoping for some pleasant surprises.

Possible Golden Lion winners?

Guillermo Arriaga's "The Burning Plain" will be among prize winners and Charlize Theron could be looking at a best actress award.

Worst film?

Barbet Schroeder's "Inju, the Beast in the Shadow." An embarassingly bad film that should never have been in competition.

What films are you really excited about?

Miyazaki's "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea." It is pitched to a much younger audience than say, "Spirited Away," but for me it was 90 minutes of pure pleasure. Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married" -- Demme is a very varied director who works in several different genres and I admire that about him.

Marco Bechis' "BirdWatchers" -- I liked his last film and he is the least parochial of the Italian directors who are in festival.

Thoughts on the so-called Italian film renaissance?

Whenever there are one or two good Italian films people always start talking about a "renaissance." The Italian film industry puts out on average three or four decent films each year. Mueller was probably kicking himself for not getting Matteo Garrone's "Gomorrah" and Paolo Sorrentino's "Il Divo" (both of which won prizes at Cannes earlier this year.)

Why do you love film festivals?

It's not for the big films like the Coen brothers' "Burn After Reading" but for the chance to see the small films that may never get distribution in your territory.

It really highlights how inflexible the system is. The film buff in Britain will have a different take than France or Italy, simply because there are films that they will never have seen.

-- From CNN's Mairi Mackay
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