Venice Film Festival day 1 reviews: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Superstar and Izmena
The Venice Film Festival opened with three very interesting features: The Reluctant Fundamentalist from Mira Nair (out of competition), Superstar by Xavier Giannioli and Izmena by Kirill Serebrennikov (both in competition).
Lahore, an American professor is kidnapped by a group of terrorists. Agent Bobby Lincoln (Liv Schreiber), disguised as a journalist, is on the trace of politically involved university teacher Changez (Riz Ahmed), suspected of being mastermind of the crime.
Changez studied in the United States and became an extremely successful consultant at a major New York firm. He is respected by his colleagues and bosses, and loved by his girlfriend (Kate Hudson).
The 9/11 attacks cause cracks in his perfect life, suddenly the world he once loved starts to distrust him. Invasive inspections from the police and racist talk at work from his colleagues slowly irritate and lacerate his mind.
Changez decides to move back to Pakistan when a loved one portrays him as a stereotypical Islamic outsider in her upcoming exhibition. He starts to teach at the university and several fundamentalists approach him to join the Jihad.
The movie is a face-to-face dialogue between an American spy and an alleged terrorist set in a troubled Lahore where the US forces are about to respond violently to the kidnap of their citizen.
A very formative story from the talented Indian director Mira Nair.
2. Superstar by Xavier Giannoli
Martin Kazinski (Kad Merad) is an ordinary man, a nobody. Suddenly one day he gets on the metro and everyone starts to stare at him, to talk about him. The public knows his name, they all want his autograph and to take a picture with him.
He is invited to talk shows, and he is offered a reality programme. Martin is puzzled, he feels totally lost and does not know what to do. Ironically the man who never had anything does not want fame and money.
He decides to trust and rely on the PA (Cecile De France) employed by the tv producer who is working on his story. However, she abandons him when the public moves from idolising to hating him; when autographs turn into spit, love into violence.
The spectator wants to know why, they need an answer. But the movie is like a pretty box with no key to open it because there is no content inside.
Clearly an intriguing idea, it fails to deliver on substance. Worth writing a little bit more before shooting, maybe?
3. Izmena (Betrayal) by Kirill Serebrennikov
In a movie deprived of any references, where characters do not have a name, the location could be either a city suburb or a small town, every detail of the story adopts an archetypal value.
She (Franziska Petri) is a doctor, he (Dejan Lilic) is her patient. The two protagonists do not have anything in common until she tells him that her husband has betrayed her with his wife.
It is never clear whether there is a need for revenge or true passion to bind them – Izmena is a tale of betrayal, love, pain and sadness.
Their respective spouses die while having sex in a hotel, there is an investigation and a policewoman suspects them of the crime.
He is a difficult father, detached and not very talkative, he does not know how to explain the death of his wife to his son – trying to avoid questions regarding the circumstances.
This is a complex film, with feeble layers of emotions and a very dry and cold atmosphere. All this is expertly conveyed by stunning cinematography with vivid but chilling colours and shades.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor