From the Vault: Venice Film Festival

The Venice Film Festival has been the center of attention for film lovers since its inception and is often considered to be the first international film festival. The festival was founded under the leadership of Count Giuseppe Volpi in 1932 and is considered to the model of modern film festivals worldwide.

The original goal for the festival was to screen Italian films on an international stage. The first film screened as part of the festival was Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s the film that is considered to have kicked off film festivals as we know them.

It’s been a week since the launch of the 69th annual Venice Film Festival and the world has been buzzing about the films in their line-up. The festival, as always, includes films from all around the world, but two films, in particular, have been the talk of the festival.

Terrance Malick, who has become notorious for the amount of time he takes to work on his films, is part of the competition. In his 39 year career, he has had six films to his name. There was a twenty-year gap between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, which were released in 1978 and 1998, respectively. The Tree of Life, which won him a Palme d’Or at the Festival de Cannes, was released last year, and now, he is back with another film, To the Wonder. That’s two films in two years – shocking.

To the Wonder has received a lot of attention after reports came in that several of its stars, including Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen and Amanda Peet were left on the cutting room floor. That’s more notable actors left out of a film than most directors have a chance of working with in their careers. It’s also been said that Ben Affleck, who was once thought to be the star of the film, only has a handful of lines in the entire picture. It’s no surprise, however, for the reclusive filmmaker, who always finds a way of leaving his audiences in wonder (no pun intended).

The festival also welcomes Paul Thomas Anderson, who joins the line-up with The Master, his first film in five years. The film is his follow-up to his most successful film, both critically and commercially, There Will Be Blood. The Master was faced with considerable criticism because of its similarities with Scientology. The protagonist in the film is said to have been modeled after Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The film, however, has garnered a lot of praise for the two star performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, who is making his comeback with this film after disappearing a few years ago. The film had a lot of difficulty with financing, and after the original studio pulled out of the deal, the director waited until independent producer, Megan Ellison (who he calls an “angel”) came seemingly out of nowhere and financed his film.

The Venice Film Festival will come to an end in a few days, and while another film other than these two could potentially be awarded the Golden Lion, it’s interesting to think about which film of these two could win. Terrance Malick’s film is said to be a little more narrative-based than his experimental spiritual journey, The Tree of Life, whereas Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is being labeled as “challenging.”

In a year that’s been rather slow, we have two great films that could be potential masterpieces.

The Master is scheduled for release on September 14, 2012. To the Wonder currently does not have a scheduled release date, but is expected to be released at the end of the year.