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Venice 09: The Movie Orgy, Plus Awards Round-Up
Posted on Sunday September 13, 2009, 19:51 by Damon Wise

The awards were handed out last night (Saturday), and there were few raised eyebrows when it was heard that the big award had gone to Lebanon, a tense, atmospheric war movie set entirely inside a tank containing four rookie Israeli soldiers during the first days of the 1982 conflict. I didn't get to see it, but I hear it will be in the London Film Festival, along with Women Without Men, an offbeat drama from Iran that divided audiences with its pace and strange use of magic realism (a character dies, is buried, and then mysterious rises from the grave – apparently to no one's surprise). I saw half of the other winners, though, and agreed strongly with both the main acting choices. Colin Firth, as I have said elsewhere, is overwhelmingly terrific in A Single Man, and it might be worth putting Bafta bets on him now, assuming the film gets a release in time to qualify. Ksenia Rappoport was a more leftfield but equally deserving choice, and her performance in La Doppia Ora (The Double Hour) really makes this thriller something special. That, too, will be in the LFF, and, although I think it loses some ground at the end, the middle section is excellent and truly innovative, so if you're feeling adventurous, try to catch it. In the meantime, to recap, the awards ran thus:

Best Film: Lebanon, by Samuel Maoz (Israel/France/Germany)
Best Director: Shirin Neshat, for Women Without Men, Germany/Austria/France)
Special Jury Prize: Fatih Akin, for Soul Kitchen (Germany)
Best Actor: Colin Firth, for A Single Man (USA)
Best Actress: Ksenia Rappaport, for La Doppia Ora (Italy)
Best Young Actor Or Actress: Jasmine Tinca, for Il Grande Sogno (Italy)
Best Production Designer: Sylvie Olivé, for Mr Nobody (France)
Best Screenplay: Todd Solondz, for Life During Wartime (USA)

After the ceremony, I went to check out the film I'd most been dying to see. Annoyingly, it was slapped on at 9pm on the last night, and because I was leaving early in the morning I knew I wouldn't be able to stay for all of its four-and-a-half-hour running time. It's called The Movie Orgy (pictured) – although this version of the once seven-hour film seemed to be called The Son Of Movie Orgy Rides Again – and it was made by Joe Dante in 1968 from all the odds and ends of film he had in his collection. Dante introduced the film and practically dared us to sit through it all, insisting that it was a film you could walk in and out of. I stayed just over an hour, and I could have cheerfully gone on. Although the image and sound was horribly degraded at times, the clips are hilarious; the effect is like watching pre-JFK assassination-era American TV in the company of a pot-smoking, ADD-afflicted teenager.

One minute you're watching an advert for Colgate, then there's a clip of Groucho Marx on a panel show, and then there's a military recruitment commercial. But as the film develops, Dante starts weaving in recurring clips from B-movies – The Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman, Speed Crazy, Teenagers From Outer Space – and starts returning to them at odd intervals. The funny thing is, even with big gaps in narrative, the clips make a surprising amount of sense, even when Dante lurches off at tangents with clips from an old weepie called Silver Threads Among The Gold, lots of snippets of Mighty Mouse, and (my personal favourite) some Dentine-sponsored footage from American Bandstand of dumpy college girls dancing to The Four Seasons' Big Girls Don't Cry. Dante says the film will never be on DVD or the net (presumably for of copyright reasons), but hopefully some UK festival will get the rights and show it here. It was the perfect end to a great 11 days: Venice 09 was very strong indeed.

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