This weekend saw the Venice International Film Festival get well under way. Have you been keeping up? For the uninitiated, this year marks the 69th Venice International Film Festival, directed by Alberto Barbera. The aim of this festival - the oldest international one in the world - is to raise awareness and promote all the various aspects and forms of international cinema; the festival looks upon cinema as art, entertainment and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and tolerance. What's more, the Festival boasts retrospectives and homages to various major figures in its attempt to raise awareness of the history of cinema. It also provides attractive actors with another opportunity to swan about the place.
So what's been happening? While movies like The Master (starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, loosely based on the inception of Scientology) have been received warmly - with Phoenix earning himself a nudge towards Best Actor Oscar nomination - others haven't faired so well. So far there's been lots of talk about Terrence Malick's divisive flick which debuted over the weekend, To The Wonder. Described by Deadline as an impressionistic take on love and religion, despite the consensus that it was shot beautifully, complete with poetic voice overs and the likes, this movie was actually greeted by a hiss of boos for its sense of self indulgence. The movie stars Ben Affleck who has next to no lines - not surprising when it comes to Malick - as well as Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem, but it's actress Olga Kurylenko who Malick sees as the real lead here. What's more, the visionary director actually cut Rachel Weisz, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet and Barry Pepper entirely from the movie; not something you expect when such highly rated actors were cast.
With The Master, the general consensus from Deadline is that the whole scientology thing isn't as much a 'whale in the room' as people expected. Commenting on the fairly obvious linkage, director Paul Thomas Anderson said: "I really don't know a whole hell of a lot about Scientology." What's more interesting though is that the director actually showed the movie to celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise, whom Anderson directed in Magnolia (earning Cruise an Oscar nod). "Yes, I showed it to him. We're still friends and the rest is between us," said the director. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation.
Elsewhere over the festival weekend, Zac Efron drew a large crowd to his screening of Lido which tells the story of a father-son relationship set against the backdrop of agricultural farming and auto racing in the Midwest of the USA. Whether the the crowd formed as a result of the quality of the movie or the fact that Efron the dreamboat himself was there, we'll have to wait and see.
Check out our photos from the Venice Film Festival here.