One day, a pigeon crashed into a window in Valentyn Vasyanovych’s house. The crash impacted the Ukrainian director, and especially his young daughter. But he says it also made him think. In children and their fears, in death. So much so that, as a result of that failed flight, a movie was little by little unfolding its wings. Now, Reflection It has landed in the official competition in Venice, but amid much turbulence: there was lukewarm applause for the film, which recounts the horrors of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia and its aftermath, but a beginning of booing was also heard.
The other two films of the day did not help to lift spirits. Here I laugh, by Mario Martone, tried to bring joy, with the story of the main Neapolitan comedy writer, Eduardo Scarpetta. After some smile, however, the critic’s face became serious. AND Old Henry, Potsy Ponciroli’s out-of-competition western, did not reach the heart of the public either, even though its protagonists exchanged shots.
The shots are also heard at the beginning of Reflection. But it’s just child’s play, with paintballs. On the Ukrainian front, however, the gusts really kill. And trauma, too. So much so that the main surgeon, kidnapped by Russian troops, accumulates scars impossible to heal before his eyes. Blood, torture, cruelty. Vasyanovych films it all as a theatrical experience, almost always with still shots and his main character in the center. But it generates doubts not only narrative, but also ethical: it is debatable to pursue an impeccable staging and even a certain aesthetic beauty in images of death and sadism. And more in an antiwar plea. When the man returns home, desolation and silence await him. He cannot recover. Neither does the movie.
Quite the opposite of the atmosphere of Here I laugh. “We wanted to tell the mythological figure of Scarpetta and the mystery of her extraordinary family,” Martone told the press. Wife, lover, sister, legitimate children and other secrets, friends, grandchildren: in the actor’s clan, played by Toni Servillo, there was room for everyone. A tragicomic circus, like Scarpetta’s own epic: an idol of the theatrical masses at the end of the 19th century; denounced by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio for allegedly plagiarizing his Iorio’s daughter; father of the also famous Titina, Eduardo and Peppino de Filippo, whom he never recognized. The film pays tribute to the great tradition of Neapolitan tables, relives the first copyright lawsuit in the history of Italy and, in general, tries to catch such an entertaining existence. Despite a unique character, however, it leaves a constant sense of already seen.
The idea of Old Henry has also been seen previously. The director of the festival, Alberto Barbera, evoked Without forgiveness, Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece, by introducing the film into the schedule. But the comparison is damaging. And that the film proposes a convincing start: the old Henry of the title has retired to a farm, far from a past that feels as glorious as it is dark. The appearance of a stranger, and his bag full of money, disrupts his placid retirement. There is never peace for outlaws. Rather, betrayal, adrenaline, danger and revenge. The script, however, begins to opt for predictable or not very credible choices. And when the bullets start to fly, the film itself ends up bored.
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The Venice Film Festival laughs, cries and shoots, but is not enthusiastic | Culture