The Venice Film Festival Diaries: 'Mother!', 'Loving Pablo' Escobar and Jim Carrey Made Me Cry

09/06/2017 04:35 am ET
Jim Carrey in a still from ‘Man on the Moon’
Photo by François Duhamel, courtesy of VICE
Jim Carrey in a still from ‘Man on the Moon’

Every meeting at this year’s Venice Film Festival has been a once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter for me. From chatting with the fabulous James Toback, to meeting his visionary producer Michael Mailer, from the relaxed junket on San Clemente island with Kirsten Dunst and the Rodarte sisters to sitting leisurely with artist Shirin Neshat at Villa degli Autori, from the wisdom of Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel to the Zen discipline and class of Maestro Ryuichi Sakamoto — it’s all been divine. There is no other word to describe it.

And yet, on the seventh day of the festival, another surprise awaited me. A cozy, wonderful junket with Jim Carrey and director Chris Smith, who together made a film that has quickly risen to my top five — alright top three actually — in Venice.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Cliftonby Chris Smith

We all know the biblical implications of the seventh day, but for me in Venice it’s been about meeting a man who recently said “life is so beautiful, especially when I'm absent from it." Jim Carrey has ditched the Moses-like beard since announcing that on a late-night TV show and there is an intrinsically handsome vibe to this man we’ve always loved for making us laugh. Now, in an upcoming Vice film directed by Chris Smith, recounting his portrayal of Andy Kaufman (and obnoxious alter ego Tony Clifton) on the Milos Forman film ‘Man on the Moon’, Carrey makes us cry. It took me a few minutes to collect myself from my seat after the morning’s press screening of the film, because Smith masterfully mixes EPK footage from behind the scenes of the 1998 film, with a talking head interview of bearded Carrey he recorded in one session. And through it, simply and honestly, he takes us deep into this modern icon’s creative process.

Why cry then? Because Carrey is that most perfect of comedians, one that quickly after capturing our heart with laughter, breaks it by sharing his pain. His honesty and the sincere way in which he expressed his inner thoughts in person were so intense, as intense as those bright amber eyes, that all of us who came in contact with him walked out of it feeling like we’d attended a meeting with a spiritual leader rather than a press junket with a Hollywood superstar.

‘Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’ is a film that needs to be viewed, an it-will-change-your-life-in-one-swift-move masterpiece that gets to the heart of what it’s like to be successful and yet still be human, with all our sorrows, anxieties and discontents. It ponders out loud if once you have achieved everything on your bucket list, could you find that all elusive happiness — or will you simply discover the emptiness of not having anything more to strive for?

Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother!’

If I hadn’t watched ‘Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’ right after the morning press screening of ‘Mother!’ I would still be angry at Darren Aronofsky for subjecting us to all that anguish and violence. Yet, there was a poetic synergy to viewing the two films together, in that precise order. It was as if Jim Carrey’s earnest confessions explained the pain that Aronofsky tried to illustrate with his latest metaphysical thriller meets horror picture show.

Courtesy of the Venice Film Festival

At the end of the screening for ‘Mother!’ a gentleman started shouting profanities at the screen in Italian, and that accompanied me as I walked out of the theater. Feeling more in shock than furious, still reeling from the last twenty minutes of inexplicable carnage I’d witnessed, I found a quiet spot within my head where the idea of the artist destroying everyone around him for the sake of creation made sense. After all, I am the daughter of an artist myself, one who finds it necessary on a daily basis to create the kind of drama that inspires her, even years after retiring from her work. It’s a familiar place, that of being surrounded by idolatry, people who will do anything to get a piece of the artist you just happen to be standing next to. And they will trample you to do so.

Aronofsky just took it to the pathological level and filled it with images that I needed to look away from, for most of the last twenty minutes of his film. But the central idea... I get it. I really do.

Fernando León de Aranoa’s ‘Loving Pablo’

Alright, I have a confession to make, I mean this whole blog post has been about delving into our innermost thoughts and dredging up our soul secrets. So here it goes: in the mid-1990s I was a mini version of Penelope Cruz’s character Virginia Vallejo, the gangster doll to my pot dealing boyfriend whom we shall simply refer to as “Ernie”. I saw his money, I lived in his crooked shadow until I started to get nightmares that I was falling from Ernie’s fortieth floor high-rise apartment terrace and I left him. Shortly thereafter he was arrested, then deported and that was the end of that — and I swear I had nothing to do with it.

Courtesy of the Venice Film Festival

But it’s not difficult for me to buy the attraction that Vallejo felt for Medellin cartel king Pablo Escobar (played by Cruz’s real life hubby Javier Bardem) and neither is her decision to later collaborate with DEA Agent Shepard played by the subtly sultry Peter Sarsgaard. Especially after a scene in which Escobar explains to Vallejo his reasoning for gifting her a gun. Yikes, I mean, I felt like crying too.

In one trade review of the film, the attraction Vallejo feels for Agent Shepard is questioned and I thought, in all honesty, “is this critic blind?!” I mean, there is a way about Sarsgaard that simply has me at “hello!” and I think the filmmaker here makes perfect use of that quiet storm we can always find within this actor’s measured performances. He represents the handsome, stoic type and Vallejo has had enough of the overbearing Pablo drama by then.

‘Loving Pablo’ may not be a perfect film — its use of Spanglish is a bit heavy in parts and the narration taken from Vallejo’s book ‘Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar’ over-simplifies the story — but it is an undeniable visual feast and the honor of watching this real life story of lust, drugs and the 90s unfolding before our very eyes feels like a special treat, one that cannot be missed.

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