The Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute are currently at work on a major Edward Yang retrospective and exhibition slated to open next summer and featuring new restorations of A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1996), the two films Yang made between A Brighter Summer Day (1991) and Yi Yi (2000). Writing in the Chicago Reader in 1997, Jonathan Rosenbaum called Mahjong “Yang’s angriest and most provocative film.” By contrast, A Confucian Confusion is a satirical comedy—and one of eighteen new restorations lined up for this year’s Venice Classics program.
When A Confucian Confusion premiered in Cannes, Georgia Brown, dispatching back to the Village Voice, found it to be “a drama dealing so nakedly with moral breakdown that it risks being embarrassing.” But for Rosenbaum, both this film, “set over a couple of frenetic days and [weaving] a web of romantic, sexual, and professional intrigues among an energetic businesswoman, her reckless fiancé, a TV talk-show hostess, an alienated novelist, and an avant-garde playwright, among others,” and Mahjong are “rich orchestral versions of the same themes played as chamber music in Taipei Story –more intricate narrative mosaics also concerned about the effects of capitalism on personal relationships in Taipei.” And Rosenbaum pulls a quote from Yang himself: “Wealth was never really intended for the people in Confucian doctrines.”
Following the premiere in Cannes of the new restoration of The Mother and the Whore (1973) in May, Jean Eustache’s follow-up, My Little Loves (1974), now heads to Venice. Based on the director’s own adolescence, the film is “a remarkable feat of imaginative reconstruction,” wrote Richard Brody in the New Yorker in 2016. “In Eustache’s loamy, holistic vision, the events are shaped less by the demands of drama than by the meanderings of consciousness itself.”
The other French film in the Venice Classics lineup is The Elusive Corporal (1962). By the time Jean Renoir made his last feature for the big screen, he had come “a long way from the playful, even genial depiction of class in his earlier films, as seen most memorably in The Rules of the Game,” wrote Ela Bittencourt in the Notebook in 2020. “The Elusive Corporal’s greatest addition is love, portrayed not as a destructive force, but a transcending one.”
Programmers Alberto Barbera and Federico Gironi note that a fair number of the selections mark the centennials of the births of their makers or stars—all of them Italian. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema (1968) “evinces his seemingly irreconcilable allegiances to Marx, Freud, and Jesus Christ,” wrote James Quandt in 2020. Luciano Salce’s Crazy Desire (1962) stars Ugo Tognazzi—also born a hundred years ago—as a middle-aged businessman who falls for a woman half his age (played by the late Catherine Spaak). Tognazzi and Vittorio Gassman—he, too, born in 1922—play disillusioned fascists in Dino Risi’s March on Rome (1962). Venice will also pay tribute to Monica Vitti, who passed away in February, with a screening of Carlo Di Palma’s 1973 comedy, Teresa the Thief.
Two other countries are well-represented in the lineup, the U.S.—with Frank Lloyd’s Cavalcade (1933), Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934), and Jacques Tourneur’s Canyon Passage (1946)—and Japan. Yasujiro Ozu’s A Hen in the Wind (1948) stars Kinuyo Tanaka as a mother who resorts to sex work in order to pay her ill son’s medical bills. “A pointed moral indictment of Japan’s postwar society, this is also one of Ozu’s most emotionally charged movies,” wrote Reece Pendleton in the Chicago Reader in 2005.
Composer and musician John Zorn wrote in 1999 that of all of Seijun Suzuki’s “disturbing masterpieces, none is as powerful or unique” as Branded to Kill (1967). In 2010, Midnight Eye coeditor Jasper Sharp wondered how he might describe Shohei Imamura’s Profound Desire of the Gods (1968). “Picture, perhaps, an Okinawan-set The Wicker Man as reimagined by Herzog and Jodorowsky, portraying the superstitious denizens of a remote island and their reactions to the ‘civilizing’ mission of capitalist interests from the mainland,” he wrote. Imamura “presents the world as is, in all its messy splendor, irrational yet spontaneous and teeming with vitality.”
New documentaries on cinema will be added to the program when Venice announces its full lineup on July 26. In the meantime, the festival has named the juries for the Orizzonti section, a program a bit like Un Certain Regard in Cannes, and the Luigi De Laurentiis Venice Award for a Debut Film. Spanish director Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me) will preside over the first, and Michelangelo Frammartino (Il buco) has been named president of the second. The seventy-ninth edition will run from August 31 through September 10.
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