The two are among the 18 movies in competition at the world’s oldest film festival in Venice where stars, auteurs and industry honchos have been rubbing shoulders at the seaside for nearly two weeks of art house cinema.
The selection is “the best around,” said festival director Alberto Barbera.
A major underlying theme of the festival this year has been the crisis of spirituality ― the heart of Austrian director Ulrich Seidl’s entry “Paradies: Glaube” (“Paradise: Faith”) which has also caused ripples at the fest.
|Actress Cho Min-soo and director Kim Ki-duk pose for portraits at the 69th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Wednesday. (AP-Yonhap News)|
Fans also crowded the festival area for “Spring Breakers” starring former Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens and for “Bad 25” ― a documentary by Spike Lee about the music of the late king of pop Michael Jackson.
But by pooling the judgment of 23 film critics, the daily bulletin at the festival “Venezia News” is giving “Pieta” as the favorite so far.
With a title inspired by the famous heart-wrenching statue by Michelangelo in the Vatican of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus Christ, the bleak morality tale about a brutal loan shark has captured viewers’ hearts.
Kim said his movie was “dedicated to humankind in a situation of a deep crisis in extreme capitalism,” adding that for him there were three protagonists ― the loan shark, the woman claiming to be his mother and money.
Italian daily La Repubblica said “Pieta” was “the shock film” of the festival and had “conquered audiences with an avalanche of applause for this extreme story of characters torn between revenge and compassion.”
The 51-year-old Kim is no stranger to Venice, where he won the Silver Lion award for best director in 2004 for “Bin-jip” (“3-iron”), but the low-budget filmmaker is still seen as a bit of an outsider in the Korean film industry.
Phoenix is seen as a possible best actor award winner on Saturday along with Italy’s Toni Servillo who plays the part of a Sicilian father crushed by fate in “E’ stato il figlio” by Daniele Cipri about a family in crisis.
The best actress award is still seen as wide open at the festival, which organizers said has given women their rightful place in the cinema world by including 21 female directors out of the total of 52 films being shown.
The last word on the winners will of course be up to a nine-person jury presided this year by influential Hollywood director, screenwriter and producer Michael Mann, who has kept his preferences a closely guarded secret.