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The Dark Side of the States - in Competition

The Dark Side of the States - in Competition

Simone Spoladori (September 5, 2009)
Viggo Mortensen - The Road, by John Hillcoat

Three dark american movies in competition on day 2 at the Venice Film Festival.


 In these first days three amercan movies has been showed here at the Venice Film Festival, all in the main competition. They have an important stuff in common: they someway reprehesent the "darkest side" of our times, metaphorizing what has happened in these last years - from the Iraqli war to the Hurricane Kathrina and the economical crisis. 

Moreover this is one of the point of the whole kermesse, never before so full of horror movies, thriller and dark stories. 
The first american movie digging into the black heart of States is Life During Wartime, directed by Todd Solondz. The movie is a sort of sequel of Happiness, taking up again the same themes of the 1998 movie and some characters but Solondz changes actors and situations.

Main character is Trish, played by Allison Janney, who has told her young son that her pedophile husband is dead while the truth is that he has been in prison. Trish fall in love with Harvey, played by Michael Lerner. Her sister Joy, played by Shirley Henderson, discovers that her husband Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams while the character was played in "Happiness" by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is still a pervert. 
Solondz has an outstanding skill in telling sorrows using few shots and few words. He is a master in directing actors. His dialogues are little masterpieces. But nothing can change impression that there is too mannerism, everything is too "Solondz-way" and a little bit artificial.
Anyway, there is at least a moment of cinema we can't forget, that is the dialogue between the father pedofile acted by Ciaràn Hinds talk and Jacqueline (Charlotte Rampling) about meaning of life. For now, it's the highest point of the whole venetian event.
The second dark-american movie is The Road, taken from the extraordinary Cormac McCarthy's novel.
The adaptation is directed by australian John Hillcoat and written by Joe Penhall and is quite near to the novel. Viggo Mortensen plays the role of a father carrying his son from coast to coast in America in a world completely destroyed by an unknown apocalyptic event. His wife (Charlize Theron) has killed herself after the cataclysm, when it has been clear that human race was going to a future of cannibalism and sorrows. Main problem of this movie is McCarthy's style, hard to adapt for the screen because of his spareness, his concision, his nihilistic choice of words. Coen brothers were able to find their way to McCarthy (No Country for Old Men was a masterpiece), also because they make movies for theirself someway close to the narrative universe of the writer. John Hillcoat, instead, isn't an author. Not yet. So his adaptation is too worried about not betray McCarthy's masterpiece, but is too full in style and in frills that the desperate message of the story become lighter.
Third american movie in competition is directed by famous austrian director Werner Herzog and is a "non-remake" (as told by Herzog himself) of a 1992 Abel Ferrara Movie, The Bad Lieutenant. In Ferrara' s movie, main character was a devilish Harvey Keitel, desperate sinners lost between hell and redemption. Herzog has chosen Nicholas Cage for his reinterpretation and opted for a lighter and easier story. It seems a sort of parody of the original movie, with many hilarious moments, but with a dark underground track. The location - New Orleans soon after Hurricane Kathrina - is extremely  meaningful, and the movie is full of ironic moments, in particular a series of Happy End mockingly showing the depraved policeman rewarded by faith in spite of his obtuse behaviour and his lacking of morality. A panegyric of fate that is also an ironic and provocative poin of view on american society.
An today is Michael Moore's day.

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