Dear Diary #6 – Venice 75? This year is decidedly bookish

From The Favourite to Suspiria: the big theme is that of films with chapters and chapter headings

Dear Diary

Well, we’ve already covered the theme of singing cowboys and siblings. Of course I was wrong about there not being any singing in Peterloo and the film actually opened with a bugle playing, so all in all it was a very musical day. I am now free to tell you that there were no singing cowboys in The Brothers Sisters. However, we now have a few more films under our collective belt and the big theme is that of films with chapters and chapter headings. Although First Man did not have actual chapter headings, director Damien Chazelle chose to break up the story into years and events, which were screened at the beginning of each new focus in the film’s chronological progress, from Neil Armstrong’s first attempt to fly through the atmosphere to his eventual landing on the Moon.

Yorgos Lanthimos had visually stunning chapter headings (and end titles that were lovely, but almost impossible to read) in The Favourite, which might just be my favourite film so far. His headings were direct quotes from the screenplay, so once the audience had clocked on to this fact, it was fun waiting for the zinging lines to appear. When writing a preview of The Favourite based on the trailer, I had noted that the scriptwriters were not exactly major names in Hollywood, with one of them – Deborah Davis – earning her first screenplay feature credit and the other – Tony McNamara – having mainly worked in TV. It is an accomplished, witty and darkly humorous script from two talented writers.

Anyway, back to those chapter headings. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs even uses an actual book, with pages being turned to the relevant chapter heading and coloured plate, to open each episode of these Western tales. Alas for the characters in this fictitious heavy tome, many of these chapters do not have happy endings, as you would expect from the Coen brothers, who have enriched our cinematic universe with some gloomy stories of man’s inhumanity to man. Luca Guadagnino is in competition with his remake of fellow Italian Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The film is broken up into chapters, with the respective number and heading looming on the screen and giving us an inkling of what’s in store.

This morning’s film, coming in at a gruelling 3 hours and 8 minutes, was Florian Henckel von Donnersmark’s Never Look Away. The time flew by and the audience was kept up to date with time and place thanks to handy headings, much in the way Damien Chazelle’s First Man was. Both films were at least partially set in the same period (although von Donnersmark’s epic tale covers more decades). Brady Corbet is also back in Venice today after his jaw-dropping debut with The Childhood of a Leader back in 2015. This year sees him in competition with Vox Lux, which, as a tidy way of bookending the films seen so far, also breaks its story into chapters, or acts. And with Saverio Costanzo’s My Brilliant Friend showcasing here, it appears that this year Venice is looking decidedly bookish.

Dear Diary #1: So, what makes this old lady of the festival circuit so special?

Dear Diary #2: Fly me to the Moon. Ryan Gosling and the Neil Armstrong’s legacy

Dear Diary #3:It wouldn’t be a festival if there weren’t a few complaints…

Dear Diary #4: Crooning cowboys and mad monarchs take over the Lido

Dear Diary #5: Brothers and sisters around the globe in search of festivals

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