REVIEW ROUND-UP: ‘Miral’ at the Venice Film Festival

Another day of film premieres at the Venice Film Festival reveals another Best Picture hopeful – Julian Schnabel’s Israel-Palestinian drama Miral. Unlike yesterday’s Black Swan, Miral is not receiving all out raves and it appears to be splitting critics during its early screenings and is reportedly also stirring up some political controversy.

Guy Lodge of In Contention says that despite having a marvelous and diverse filmography, Julian Schnabel’s style does not fit the film’s story:

For Schnabel’s part, his stated passion for the material is scarcely evident in his screen treatment thereof, which rather awkwardly welds his pet visual and sonic tics onto a narrative that struggles to support them. (By the time he chooses to soundtrack a traditional Palestinian funeral with a phlegmy Tom Waits dirge, you wonder whether the director is treating the Jebreal’s work as an elaborate exercise to prove that, look, any story can become A Julian Schnabel Film.) Whereas Schnabel’s florid artistic sensibility previously successfully established a kind of empathy with fellow creative subjects like Reynaldo Arenas or Jean-Dominique Bauby, his approach feels both shoe-horned and faintly disingenuous in this context.

Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood says the film moved her two tears at its bookends, but overall it tells the wrong story and should have focused less on Miral and more on the orphanage founder played by Hiam Abbasss. She says one of the reasons for this is its star:

Clearly, Schnabel was stirred by this book to bring it to the screen, but Slumdog Millionaire star Pinto, while gorgeous, is not an expressive actress. (She likely helped to raise funding for the film produced by Jon Kilik with financing from Israel, Italy, India and France, which The Weinstein Co. will release stateside.) Her story remains expositional and flat, filled with long debates with her boyfriend Hani (Omar Metwally) about alternative routes to a Middle East solution. “What they really want is all of Palestine without Palestinians,” says Hani. “With them here there is no future for us.”

Derek Malcom of The Evening Standard doesn’t name any of the main actors individually, but he does say that as an ensemble they do very well:

The film moves backwards and forwards in time, sometimes confusingly. But its point is well made. Apart from Willem Dafoe and Vanessa Redgrave, who take only minor parts, the cast are virtually unknown in the west. But they play with an emotional skill that points up the story convincingly.

I will add more reviews as they come in, but for now it is looking like Schnabel might have a rare miss with Miral.

[Image: Movie Reporter]

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  • In all honesty, I never really got what people were expecting from this film. I never felt like it looked like an extraordinary film, even though it was from an extraordinary director.

  • Susan

    I am told by a Hollywood insider that there is an organized strategy behind these reviews. The subject matter can hardly be suppressed, so the m.o. is to attack the art in order to keep the film out of Oscar contention, thus minimising its exposure. Accusations of ‘anti-semitism’ will be laughed away, so critics are encouraged to find fault wherever they can (e.g. the decision to use a Tom Waits song?). Individually, none of these ‘faults’ will hold much water, but when taken together, the public will be encouraged to believe them along with the narative that this is the only of Schnabel’s films to fall short.

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