Thursday, September 2, 2010

Venice Film Festival: Miral

For once in my life, I find myself in a position to be right. No doubt you've heard that one of the films playing at Venice is Miral, from director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), and many have pegged this down as one of the bigger Oscar contenders. Since the trailer came out, I did not share this belief. It just felt an uneven waste of time, and I waited to be proved wrong, as I usually am. However, it turns out that the film is more or less what I expected. To help further my point are reviews from Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood) and Guy Lodge (In Contention).

Lodge writes, "Enlightening neither as emotional essay nor as straight-up history lecture, then, Miral's tricksy oat-bran filmmaking seemingly lands shy of every imaginable target audience: it’s too dry for the middlebrow awards set that might otherwise thrill to its superficially good intentions, too didactic for the highbrow intelligentsia that turned out for the director’s previous outings, and too dull for just about everybody. 'I feel so useless, I really want to do something,' frets Miral midway through the movie; it’s representative of the film’s minimal emotional investment in its protagonist that the reply to this confession is: 'You have beautiful eyes.'"

Thomson has a somewhat more positive outlook on the film, but still states, "This kind of earnest agit-prop material is tough to adapt to the screen; Schnabel needed a more proficient dramatist to pull this off. He’s an elegant, visual director—he and cinematographer Eric Gautier adopt an unusual blurry technique for the more intense scenes—but this movie, while filmed on authentic Jerusalem locations, too often devolves into dull talking heads. It’s possible that the Weinsteins will fan flames of controversy around this film’s highly-charged subject. Nonetheless Miral—which will also play Telluride and Toronto—will likely remain within a narrow art-house niche."

For now, we don't have any reviews from professional critics, but it's safe to say that Miral won't be the Oscar contender everyone was hoping for. Get ready for a lot of films to drop like flies as they are brought to light. As the weather outside gets colder, the competition gets more heated.

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