After a critical mauling for Roman Polanski, there was a warmer reception at the Venice Film Festival on Monday for another blacklisted director — Woody Allen — who insisted he supported the #MeToo movement “when it’s beneficial”. The festival also saw the dark side of Elvis Presley with Sofia Coppola’s well-received biopic of the rocker’s wife, “Priscilla”. But there was particular adulation for Allen’s 50th film, “Coup de Chance” (“Stroke of Luck”), underlining that he is now far more popular in Europe than the United States.
His first movie entirely in French is a classic Allen morality tale about love, infidelity and murder. Most reviews called it his best work in a decade, following a weak run of films from the prolific director. “I thought to myself: it’s my 50th film and I love Paris so much that I’ll make it in French… And then I could think I’m a genuine European filmmaker,” he told reporters.
The 87-year-old has been shunned by Hollywood since the #MeToo movement emerged, due to allegations he molested his adopted daughter in the 1990s, which he says were fabricated by his ex-partner Mia Farrow. He told Variety that he backed #MeToo “where it does something positive. “I read instances where it’s very beneficial… for women,” he said, but added: “When it’s silly, it’s silly.”
The festival has drawn flak for including Allen and Polanski, who has a child sex conviction and faces other unresolved assault allegations, in its out-of-competition section. Allen’s film fared far better than Polanski’s slapstick comedy “The Palace”, which was torn to shreds by critics after its premiere on Saturday. Set in a fancy Swiss hotel at the turn of the century, and with jokes that include a dog humping a penguin, critics called “The Palace” a “laughless debacle” (Variety) and “soul-throttlingly crap” (The Telegraph). “It beggars belief, but, at the age of 90, Polanski may have actually cancelled himself with a film that will probably never see the light of day in any English-speaking countries,” wrote Deadline.
Meanwhile, Priscilla Presley joined Coppola on the red carpet for the biopic of her life. There were strong reviews, though many said it made disturbing viewing, showing Elvis wooing a 14-year-old when he was 24 — “an insecure narcissist fixated on a teenage girl and unwilling to allow his young wife any independence,” according to The Independent. Priscilla herself told reporters “Sofia did an amazing job”, but added: “It’s very difficult to sit and watch a film about you, about your life and your love.”
She defended their relationship, saying they “never had sex” when they were first together during Elvis’s military service in Germany. “He was very kind, very soft, very loving, but he also respected the fact that I was 14-years-old,” she said. Coppola won the top prize Golden Lion in Venice in 2010 for “Somewhere” — controversially awarded by her ex-boyfriend, Quentin Tarantino. Her new film stars Cailee Spaeny (“Mare of Easttown”) as Priscilla, and Jacob Elordi, famous as the heartthrob in Netflix show “Euphoria”, as the rock’n’roll legend. There are 23 films competing for the Golden Lion, to be announced on Saturday.
Frontrunners include “Poor Things”, with Emma Stone as a sexually voracious reanimated corpse, and “Maestro”, in which Bradley Cooper transforms into legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. David Fincher’s “The Killer”, starring Michael Fassbender as a cold-blooded assassin losing control, and Michael Mann biopic “Ferrari”, were also well-received by critics. Many of the stars have been unable to attend the festival due to strikes by Hollywood actors and writers, primarily over pay in the streaming era and the potential threat of AI. – AFP