Venice Film Festival openers are often a different animal than the films that open Cannes Film Festival. Where as Cannes often goes for bright and shimmery works, from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom to Pixar’s Up, Venice has often steered clear of blockbusters kicking things off. That’s lead to openings as small and quickly discarded as last year’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist or 2009’s Baaria, but also more prestige titles as 2010’s Black Swan or 2007’s Atonement. With this year’s opening film announced, it’s safe to say they’re steering more into the latter classification this time around.
Many felt Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity was inevitable to show up at Venice, Cuaron having launched many of his films in the past there, though I’m surprised how few expected it would be the curtain raiser. True, it is a flashier blockbuster attraction than the festival usually gets, but I feel as though it would’ve felt out of step with any competition lineup. From the start Gravity has seemed like a premium popcorn thrill-ride, even if Cuaron delivers far more pathos and introspection than a more run-of-the-mill director might.
The trailer for the film hit a while back and response to it has been stunning… at least from most critics circles I’m reading. When the same trailer played before a midnight show of Man of Steel, however, the room just broke into disbelieving laughter. I’m simply going to chalk that up to a clash of audience with material. Men going to see a film about alien superheroes laying waste to cities in “awesome” (in air quotes) action really wouldn’t see the value of two people clinging on for dear life in the vast expanse of outer space. I imagine there will be much more fervor from eager audiences when the film releases on October 4th, though that’ll largely depend on how it’s received at Venice.
Months back I discussed how The Great Gatsby would define the majority of features at Cannes Film Festival as a lavish party. Though Venice openers haven’t been quite as definitive of their festivals, I’ll put out a prediction that this year’s fall attractions could be predicated on searingly intimate adventures where one person faces extreme odds. It’s a broad description, but one that applies to Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, The Counselor, and likely many others.