Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Venice 2007: Dark period movies to begin with

The Venice Film Festival rolled out its 75th anniversary on August 29 with a cascade of stars gracing the red carpet. George Clooney, Woody Allen and Keira Knightly were some, and the opening movie, Joe Wright’s “Atonement” set the mood for the 12-day cinema event on Lido, off Venice.

A dark, sombre piece about love, jealousy and regret, “Atonement” is an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s best-selling novel. Set in the England of 1935, just
Keira Knightly in Atonement
as the world was ready to face the catastrophic War, the film opens on a hot summer’s day with young, fledgling writer Briony Tallis and her wealthy family coming to grips with heat and humidity. For Briony, there were other concerns: her crush for the housekeeper’s son, Robbie Turner, was not going the way she wanted to, with the lad in love with Briony’s elder sister, Cecelia (Keira Knightly).

“Atonement” is a powerful study of British class prejudice and distinction that see the ruination of Robbie and Cecelia. Briony’s fertile writer’s imagination appears like a mere excuse in fuelling a series of terrible events. It is her envy and anger over unrequited love that push her into committing a dreadful injustice.

However, there are some unanswered questions, and one would be, why could Robbie not clear himself of a crime he had not committed but was accused of when he had an excellent alibi.

However, the movie is well mounted and is so engaging that most of us would miss these finer points.

Equally dark was Ang Lee’s latest work, “Lust, Caution” set in 1942 Shanghai and Hong Kong that narrates the tale of a group of Chinese students resisting Japanese occupation. One of them is beautiful Wang Chia-Chih (played by Tang Wei), who is assigned to sexually trap a corrupt Chinese politician, Yee, (Tony Leung).

The tables are turned midway, when Wang finds herself in love with the politician, and the race to a dramatic climax begins.

Extremely intimate, “Lust, Caution” has some extraordinarily bold sex scenes, though wonderfully choreographed and aesthetically shot.

This film is not as appealing as Lee’s earlier “Brokeback Mountain”, though the helmer’s fans would not be too dissatisfied, for he captures the essence of resistance and espionage with panache.

(Webposted August 30 2007)