Stars shine in Venice

BOB DYLAN came to Venice on Tuesday in no fewer than seven guises in the Todd Haynes film I'm Not There, while Italian director Andrea Porporati unveils a bittersweet Mafia tale. The Haynes biopic with a difference is "inspired by the music and the many lives of ...

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Published: Wed 5 Sep 2007, 11:09 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:45 AM

Bob Dylan," a narrator says at the start of the film. A black boy named Woody (Carl Franklin), four men including Richard Gere, and two women incarnate the folk icon through the phases of his life in order to "accentuate his contrasts, contradictions and complexity," Haynes says.

Also Tuesday, Porporati's Il Dolce e l'Amaro (The Sweet and the Bitter) traced the coming of age of a Sicilian mafioso and a love affair that changes everything. "How is it possible to make the masculine, authoritarian, patriarchal element of the Mafia world coexist with the feminine, subversive and rebellious element of a true love?" Porporati asks.

A third selection, Taiwanese director Lee Kang Sheng's Bangbang wo Aishen (Help Me Eros), is a semi-autobiographical story of a man on the edge of suicide who turns to a help line after losing everything on the stock market. The film quickly takes off in an erotic and sometimes bizarre direction.

On Monday, quirky US director Wes Anderson drew heavily on his own family experiences for his brotherly bonding odyssey The Darjeeling Limited, in which a trio of brothers embark on a train journey across India in search of each other, their mother and themselves. The whimsical adventure flick includes a cameo by Bill Murray as a businessman who may or may not be their mystery father. "I've always wanted to make a film about three brothers," said Anderson, who has two brothers of his own. "It seems like we spent our whole lives fighting all the time, and yet they're the closest people in the world to me."

Also Monday, Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen offered up Taiyang Zhaochang Shengqi (The Sun Also Rises), a quartet of stories that dovetail together in the end, starring himself and Joan Chen. Beautifully filmed in locations from a village in southern Yunnan to the Gobi Desert in China's far west, the feature delves deeply into the psyche, dwelling on madness, desire and birth. "The public likes a film that gives them emotion," Jiang said, adding that he hoped the film would be "something like a strong and inebriating liquor."

Gere also stars in Richard Shepard's out-of-competition The Hunting Party as a discredited journalist who tries to track down Bosnian Serb fugitive Radovan Karadzic, indicted for war crimes at the UN tribunal in The Hague. Gere said he went looking for the former Bosnian Serb political leader in real life to prepare for the film. "I was mostly interested in seeing the look in people's eyes when I asked them if it was possible to speak to Karadzic," he said. "And what I saw behind their eyes was, "Yes, it's possible, but I would probably have my children killed'." The central question of the film, for Gere, is "How do these people (such as Karadzic) become leaders? In my own country, how did we elect (President George W.) Bush twice? How is this possible?"

Also Monday, Tunisian-born French director Abdellatif Kechiche proposed a French-Arab family saga in his La Graine et Le Mulet (The Secret of the Grain), about a grandfather who overcomes numerous obstacles including his age, latent racism and relative poverty to set up a restaurant.

The film is startling for the authenticity of the dialogue, notably in a chaotic scene showing a multi-generational family meal at home, full of gossip, laughs, arguments and complaints in rapid-fire delivery.

The world's oldest film festival, marking its 75th anniversary this year, runs through Saturday.

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