Marrying art and film at Venice

Posted by · 8:05 am · August 5th, 2009

Steve McQueenOne of the most unique virtues of the Venice Film Festival is that it every two years, it runs alongside the Venice Biennale — the world’s foremost contemporary art showcase, spanning almost 6 months and housing exhibitions from over 90 international artists. The overlap between the film festival and the Biennale can therefore bridge the artforms in some exciting ways.

As much as I’m looking forward to attending the Venice fest in September, I’m as excited to sample the delights of the Biennale for the first time, not least because two artist-filmmaker hyphenates I really admire will be exhibiting new work.

Steve McQueen, whose Bobby Sands biopic “Hunger” was one of the great directorial debuts of recent years, will be representing Britain on the international pavilion, has been the talk of the Biennale since unveiling his 40-minute gallery film “Giardini” in June. A cinematic portrait of Venice and its residents in winter composed of minute environmental details — greyhounds lurching in alleys, the roar of distant football crowds — it has drawn ecstatic notices from the art press. I’m keen to check it out.

Meanwhile, hipper-than-thou American oddball Miranda July will also be in evidence with a new show of conceptual sculpture. (Those interested can find a preview, and a hearty endorsement, of her work at We Love You So, the entertaining blog from the makers of “Where the Wild Things Are.”) Maybe it will partly temper my impatience for July to deliver the follow-up to her remarkable 2005 feature debut “Me and You and Everyone We Know.”

But the Venice Film Festival lineup itself is playing host to some film-art hybrids, notably a collaboration between über-egghead auteur Philip Haas (“Angels and Insects,” “The Music of Chance”) and Texas’s Kimbell Art Museum. “The Death of Penseus,” which will unspool in the festival’s avant-garde Orrizzonti sidebar, is one of five Haas-directed short films commissioned by the museum — collectively titled “Butchers, Dragons, Gods and Skeletons” — using artworks from their collection as inspiration. Exhibition curator Malcolm Warner explains:

“We’re delighted that this film commissioned by the Kimbell is to be shown at the Venice Film Festival. Taking an ancient Greek vase in the Kimbell’s collection as his inspiration and starting point, Philip Haas has conjured up the very spirit of Dionysus, the god of wine, sensuality, and abandon. It’s a work of great power that uses the means of modern art and film to capture an elemental and eternal theme.”

More the curious, more information can be found here. It’s becoming clear I’ll have to apply the term “art film” with greater care in my Venice coverage.

1 Comment Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

1 response so far

  • 1 8-05-2009 at 7:53 pm

    Matthew said...

    I hated July’s film, or no – that’s too heated. I found “Me and You and…” to be wholly unremarkable.