Sex and Profiteers Threaten to Undermine the Venice Legend By Ahmed Muztaba Zamal

in 64th Venice International Film Festival

by Ahmed Muztaba Zamal

As a festival goer I was curious to see the changes in the Venice Film Festival since my last visit in 2001. Everything is almost perfect and busy with hard work, parties and screenings. I have seen many good movies during the festival. I always prefer to see some films in the other sections like Horizons, Critics’ Week, Directors’ Fortnight or Forum in the big festivals.

But my first shock was watching a French movie. It has given me a terrible feeling about the future of my all time favourite subjects and I strongly believe that they need protection. I do not know how to protect this combination of all art forms. I am talking specifically about a film, L’Histoire de Richard O., by Damien Odoul. The story takes place in Paris. The director wants to explore the sinuous mysteries of eroticism and the women who populate the city in the summer months. While watching it, I asked myself why this film has been included in one of my favourite film festivals, Venice! It is a completely pornographic film. Does the director or screenwriter want to establish Richard O. as a philosopher of sex? No, I do not think so. Nudity is not a problem, but for the sake of the commercial aspects, this is a film full of sex which is irritating. Our physical needs do not make plausible a middle aged person to have marathon sex in four days!

At this moment the film industries of every country around the world are entirely within the greedy grasp of the business community and profiteers who have very little concern for the art of the cinema. In a situation like this, principles of profitability are being preferred at the cost of aesthetics. But there is still no doubt that the cinema is for us the most important of the arts. The present situation can be avoided through a cine club movement.

Nevertheless I have some favourites from the festival. Among them, I would like to choose a film entitled Il passaggio della linea by Pietro Marcello. It is a film about a journey through almost every corner of Italy which is marked by the rhythmic sound of the long distance express trains, as they run along the track, and which have long been allowed to degrade. The editing and screenplay in this film are marvellous. They have been perfectly matched with the director’s point of view. While watching this docu-fiction, I observed some similar connection with vendors, who are trading food and snacks throughout their enter lives, in buses or trains.

In Bangladesh we have a community: they are the snake charmers and they are going through village after village and their journey is by river, by small boats. In this film, outside the dirty, steamed up windows, landscapes flash past, at times marred by human intervention, at times intact and overwhelmingly beautiful. Inside, the passing of time is marked only by the variations of light which illuminate the narrow corridors and the many different, often tired faces they contain. This light and shadow reflects the variations of our lives. This is a very powerful and strong part of this film.