The Clan

Venice Film Festival 2015: ‘The Clan’ + ‘A Bigger Splash’ + ‘Man Down’ + ‘Heaven Can Wait’

An old favourite rides to the rescue.

Normal business resumed on the fifth day as the sun returned, delighting tourists and horrifying poor journalists forced to queue under it at midday. As for the films, it was a day of solid fare, nothing tipping over into excellent, and nothing falling off a cliff, unless you count the little slice of Lubitsch I rewarded myself with (excellent just to be clear).

The day opened with a competition double-bill, and one I’d been looking forward to since the programme was revealed. First up came Pablo Trapero’s kidnapping crime thriller The Clan. Set in 1980s Argentina, it follows the criminal exploits of the Puccio family, who made a mini-habit of capturing victims, demanding obscene payment, and then bumping them off once the job was done. Not exactly the most uplifting subject matter, but boy was it cool. Cool cool, cool.

Sure, Trapero mostly ignores intra-family dynamics, and the women are left on the side-lines again, but it swaggers by with a soundtrack that includes lengthy use of the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon”, and the kind of moody characters that normally set up shop in American films. Black Mass eat your heart out.

With just enough time in-between to find a caffeine hit, the crowd rolled onto A Bigger Splash, the first film from Luca Guadagnino since 2009’s I Am Love. A remake of La Piscine, it reunites Guadagnino with Tilda Swinton and throws in Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson for good measure. There’s a lot of reopened wounds as they holiday in luxury on Pantelleria, and even more time devoted to the local scenery and classic rock tunes. Too distracted to deliver on all its potential, it compensates with Fiennes’ dancing, a sight to behold.

Man Down

Having negotiated the competition section, it was time to dip into another category as Shia LaBeouf goes to war. In Man Down he plays a solider in present day Afghanistan and some kind of guerrilla fighter in a destroyed America of the future. It’s as preposterous as it sounds with a hefty slice of cheese on top, and yet I kind of liked it. As much as the film labours his battle with PTSD, it packs in enough brash charm to while away 90 minutes. It’s not festival material, but everyone needs a break.

Heaven Can Wait

In fact, it turned out I’d become so jaded that the very thought of another competition film in the evening proved too much to bear. Luckily, Ernst Lubitsch came to the rescue as a remastered version of his 1943 classic Heaven Can Wait screened in the early evening. Watching Don Ameche relive his life and loves in an attempt to gain admittance into hell proved just the medicine. While the phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” is often horribly misused, all I can say about this wonderful comedy is they don’t make them like they used to.

The day finally concluded with a chance encounter in a pizzeria. Finally eating for the first time in 24 hours – it’s so easy to lose track – a couple of people turned around from the table in front when they heard us discussing the festival. It turned out to be Looking for Grace director Sue Brooks and her producer Alison Tilson. They were also very pleasant company. That’s the festival life people. Now if only I could manage some sleep.