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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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VENICE FILM FEST 99: News Report

Jane Campion's new opus HOLY SMOKE has received a mixed reception on its debut at the Venice Film Festival, says Jimmy Thomson, our man on the Grand Canal.

While most, but not all, Australian critics are determinedly supportive of the Kate Winslet-Harvey Keitel movie, the general buzz is that the film is a major disappointment.

"Winslet's dazzling performance almost saves the day"

The tale of a cult buster trying to deprogram a young Australian woman who's fallen under the spell of an Indian guru falls short in a number of areas: the plot seems confused, Keitel's performance is mannered and stilted, the Australian content feels like the worst of Woop Woop and the story seems dated and improbable. On the plus side, the opening sequences are visually stunning and Winslet's dazzling performance almost saves the day.

But if the response of media types on the Lido is any measure, this is not the movie that will put Campion's career back on track.

The biggest round of applause for Holy Smoke came at the press conference when Harvey Keitel paid tribute to his co-star Kate Winslet. Keitel said the young British star's decision to seek challenging acting roles rather than cash in on the succes of Titanic, plus her talent, courage and determination, made her "an icon for her generation". Hear, hear!!

Aussie director Stephan Elliott wasn't the first to be interrupted by a mobile phone ringing, but he was the first to complain. Press conferences, previews and even interviews at the Venice Film Festivals have been interrupted all week by a cacophony of beeping, chirping and classical tune-playing mobiles sported by the local press and, it seems, Japanese journos.

But Elliott, in full flood of talking about his new techno-thriller Eye of the Beholder, finally snapped. "Those bloody phones," he said in the midst of a diatribe about the dangers of new technology in general and the Internet in particular. (Elliott is pictured with Eye Of The Beholder star Ashley Judd.)

And you can bet your life none of the culprits are Australian. It costs far too much for us to leave our phones on here.

In one of the weirdest twists of an unreal week, Stephan Elliott ended his press conference for his new movie Eye Of The Beholder with a cry for help. Elliott, helped by Priscilla star Terence Stamp, has tracked down an unmade Federico Fellini script in which the Italian genius played out his own death. According to Elliott, Fellini was terrified that making the movie would hasten his own demise and so it has lain untouched for a quarter of a century. Now Elliott is wading through the legal labyrinth left in the wake of Fellini's death to try and buy the rights to make the film. But frustrated at the red tape, he made a direct plea to the Italian people via the TV cameras at the press conference.

"I'm asking anybody who can help me to get this film made, to get in touch with me now," he said. "This would be a fitting tribute to one of the great masters."

After 18 years as a successful actor, Australia-based Gosia Dobrowolska (pic) has finally returned to Poland to make her first movie ever in her native tongue. And what a movie it is: A Week In The Life Of A Man, starring, and directed by, Jerzy Stuhl, is one of the dark horses in competition for this year's Gold Lion for the best film.

Former Ballykissangel star Dervla Kirwan (pic) finally cracked up under the pressure of being the only star in town to promote her new Michael Winterbottom movie, With Or Without You. In her 56th interview in just two days, a Brazilian journalist, referring to the love triangle story at the heart of the film, asked her what it was like to be part of a threesome. Dervla's giggle turned into hysterical laughter and eventually the cameras had to be turned off while she calmed down and a PR assistant explained the subtle difference to the bemused South American.

It doesn't take much to get the shutters clicking and flashes popping on the Lido. More than one photographic feeding frenzy has been ignited by friends taking holiday snaps of each other. All it takes is one person to point a camera at another, and everybody wants a piece of the action.

On the fringes of one throng of photographers one snapper was heard to ask another, "Who are we shooting?" The reply was, "I don't know, but the guy next to you says he was in My Best Friend's Wedding."

In fact, the subject of that particular bout of photo fever was Dermot Mulroney (pic), in town with his wife Catherine Keenan, who was here to promote the movie sensation of the first week, Being John Malkovich.

The scariest interview this week has been with the star of the eponymous Being John Malkovich (pic). Quietly spoken and intimidatingly intelligent, Malkovich gives little away. Asked whether the John Malkovich we see in the movie which features a bizarre tale of people entering his brain for US$200 a pop is the real J. M. or just a public perception of him, the star of Dangerous Liaisons and Line of Fire replied, "It's the public perception. He's a fictional character who just happens to have my name."

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Jane Campion


Kate Winslet in Holy Smoke

Harvey Keitel in Holy Smoke


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