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Cat Bauer has lived in Venice since 1998. She was a regular contributor to the "International Herald Tribune's" Italian supplement, "Italy Daily," and is the author of the novels "Harley, Like a Person" and "Harley's Ninth," published by Knopf.
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1. New Sponsor! Venice Haute Couture - Fashion by Emma Gaggio & Romi Loch Davis

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher

(Venice, Italy) For centuries, Venice has been known for its lush textiles. Today, an exciting new collaboration has arrived in town. The combined talents of Venetian Emma Gaggio and South African Romi Loch Davis add a fresh element to the ancient fashions: Venice Haute Couture

Here is the story:

 "The silk craft is a very noble art, worthy of being plied by any true gentleman..."
---16th Century writer

Sumptuous to touch and impressive to behold, velvet is traditionally associated with nobility. As far back as the 800s, Venetians in Constantinople excelled at producing the exquisite cloth. Originating in the East, textiles made of silk and velvet were prized by the European elite as an expression of power, wealth and culture.

Today, Venetian textile diva Emma Gaggio and South African fashion designer Romi Loch Davis have joined forces to bring the ancient Venetian fabrics into the contemporary world of fashion.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Centuries ago, the fabrics traveled along the Silk Road, where the Venetians had strategic bases located in the Byzantine, Persia and the Middle East. Venice itself became a center where skilled craftsmen began to produce the valuable fabrics, achieving such excellence that the trend was reversed -- instead of importing the lush textiles, Venice exported the fine cloth to the markets of Constantinople and beyond. During the Renaissance, significant families incorporated their coat-of-arms and other motifs into bespoke patterns, displaying their importance on their clothing and the furnishings of their homes. By the 15th century, Venice had become one of the world's most renowned centers of the fabric industry.

The Gaggio family has been at the pinnacle of luxurious Venetian fabrics for four generations, adorning official residences, private jets, private villas -- even the La Fenice opera house -- with exquisite brushed velvets and brocades.Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Givenchy are some of the couture clients of Gaggio.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Emma Gaggio grew up surrounded by the lush Venetian tapestries that her relatives upholstered onto furniture and stretched across the walls of the finest houses. While only in her twenties, Emma took the family business a step further, creating her own hand-printed wooden block motifs for the hand-dyed velvet. Her designs are inspired by periods in history, dating back to when Venice was part of the Byzantium Empire, through Art Deco, and up until today. The unique patterns and meticulous workmanship have earned Emma Gaggio international acclaim, and the patronage of a sophisticated, trend-setting clientele.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
These days, Emma has taken the business in a new direction. After a 2012 fire in her Venetian shop, like a phoenix she rose from the ashes, restored, redecorated and added a new branch to the family business -- a collaboration with the Paris-based South African fashion designer, Romi Loch Davis. The restored shop is like a bustling theatrical set, with Emma's fabrics providing a luxurious backdrop for Romi's wood-nymph-with-an-attitude fashion. Then, together, they have developed a line of clothes, accessories, cushions, bags and scarves that combine the hand-printed designs and fabrics of Emma Gaggio with the creative vision of Romi Loch Davis. Designed with elegance and a sense of fun, anyone from grande dames to rock stars can feel comfortable wearing the fashions.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Years ago, Romi Loch Davis fell in love with Venice and the Gaggio fabrics during a family trip for her 25th birthday. She remembers how the shimmering green fabric of a jacket in the Gaggio shop window stopped her in the middle of Calle delle Botteghe -- where today, thanks to synchronicity, her own dazzling fashions stop the passersby.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Romi's line of apparel combines whimsy with sophistication, and is brought to life by the clever hands of  Elizabeth Lutz. Romi often highlights her clothing with intricate Zulu beads from her native South Africa, the handmade jewelry adding an exotic flair. Now, by using Venetian fabrics as the material to spin her magic, Romi adds another element to her repertoire.

CLICK TO CONTINUE READING Venice Haute Couture and view the gorgeous images by Paolo Utimpergher

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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2. Venice Literary Festival - Crossroads of Civilization - Incroci di Civilt脿 2014

(Venice, Italy) Crossroads of Civilization, Incroci di Civilt脿, Venice's international literary festival wrapped up its seventh edition on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Once again, the writers spoke about how we need good literature more than ever. Caryl Phillips from Great Britain nailed it when he said, "Google is not knowledge. Google is information. ...Our brains are becoming increasingly narcissistic. Literature is needed as a counter-balance."

Reading good literature encourages our brains to process information and transform it into real knowledge. Good writers impart knowledge gathered from deep within themselves, transforming it into a feast that humanity can savor. As the world twitters away, those of us who still make time to read good literature dine on satisfying sentences and sumptuous words, a meal that leaves a lasting impression.

Unfortunately, because of schedule conflicts, I was not able to see all the writers I wanted to -- especially Raja Alem from Saudi Arabia, whom I had met back in 2011, but the conversations I was able to attend left me encouraged that Venice's literary festival continues to thrive. Especially heartening was the large number of students in attendance -- the University of Ca' Foscari here in Venice is a valuable contributor to Incroci di Civilt脿.

Here are the writers who attended and their countries, stimulating diverse, international conversations about how the world looks from his or her unique point of view:

Naomi Alderman - Great Britain
Raja Alem - Saudi Arabia
Salwa Al-Neimi - Syria
Massimo Carlotto - Italy
Patrizia Cavalli - Italy
Arne Dahl - Sweden
Rita Dove - United States
Abilio Est茅vez - Cuba
Ge Fei - China
Rhea Galanaki - Greece
Peter Greenaway - Great Britain
Jhumpa Lahiri - United States
Abdolah Kader - Iran/Holland
Daniel Mendelsohn - United States
Carlo Petrini - Italy
Caryl Phillips - Great Britain
Marc Scialom - Tunisia/Italy/France
Sergej Stratanovskij - Russia
No茅mi Sz茅csi - Hungary
Uwe Timm - Germany
Olivier Truc - France/Sweden
Varujan Vosganian - Romania
Binyavanga Wainaina - Kenya (unable to attend)

I did manage to see David Mendelsohn over at the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi (and bumped into Martin Bethenod, Director of the Francois Pinault Foundation, for the second time that day -- earlier in the morning he was at Le Stanze del Vetro on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore presenting I Santillana - Works by Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana, the outstanding exhibition he conceived; everyone is talking about it; it is a MUST SEE). Mendelsohn was interviewed by Pietro Del Sold脿, of Radio Rai 3, who spoke in Italian while Mendelsohn responded in English.

Mendelsohn is an American critic, author, essayist and classics professor. His 2006 memoir has a notable title -- The Lost: A Search for Six Among Six Million. With a background in Euripidean tragedy, he applied his talents to search for the phantoms that were haunting his family: six of his relatives that disappeared during the Holocaust.

Mendelsohn said his problem was how to tell a story that everyone already knew. He was a critic sitting in his pajamas, writing reviews, when he decided to delve into his family's history. He kept reminding himself to keep a narrow focus and stick to the story: "There's never been a story about my family before." His six relatives were representative of the six million Jews who disappeared during the Holocaust. Since his background was in Hellenic studies, he called upon his old friends Herodotus and Homer for help, and used Ring Composition for his structure. This fascinated me, and I knew I had to have his book. But Daniel Mendelsohn is such a riveting speaker that his book was sold out both in English and in Italian. (I will have to get my hands on a copy by other means:)

This incredibly educated, well-traveled, enlightened American man said something that struck me as an American who has lived in Europe for sixteen years. While doing his research, Mendelsohn realized how remote Europe was to the United States; that Americans are oblique to Europe. I have noticed the same thing. He said every American is haunted by another history... growing up in a small town in New York State, who visited his relatives in Miami for a couple weeks every year, he kept hearing about "the Old Country," "the Old Country." He said, "Even educated Americans like myself don't understand it." Now he is an American who finally has discovered what the Old Country is.

While traveling in Eastern Europe, every town he visited had a mass grave. It was a question he was repeatedly asked: "Do you want to see the mass grave?" Mendelsohn remarked, "Your whole country is a cemetery!" His relatives were from a small town called Bolekhiv in the Ukraine. In 1890, there were over 4,000 Jews living there; only 48 survived World War II.

Mendelsohn's brother, Matt, who did the photography, wanted to see Auschwitz; he did not. He was amazed when they were driving along the highway and saw the signs for "Auschwitz." "Imagine growing up in a country where the names are places of genocide!" His brother responded: "You grew up the same way." Mendolsohn said that where he grew up in New York State, everything was named after Native American tribes. When I processed that thought, I was stunned. That is also how I grew up, surrounded by Native American names -- Pompton Lakes, my little hometown in New Jersey, was named after the Pompton tribe. Although the Indians left a deep impression on my childhood, it was a romanticized version of history -- wearing moccasins, walking toe-heel, toe-heel, gathering berries in the forest. But, in reality, it was genocide. An entire people were wiped out.

Mendelsohn said that 9/11 was the first chance America had to feel like Europe. If you are a regular reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know I just wrote the same thing last week when I commented on the book The H么tel on Place Vend么me:

"Here in Europe, you can still feel the echoes of the World Wars, something that only a handful of today's Americans understand. The wars touched the lives of everyone in Europe, many of whom are still alive today. The pain of 9/11 shook the world, Americans in particular, but the event itself was isolated to a section of New York. The World Wars were anguish ramped up to the umpteenth power as country after country fell under the control of the Nazis and Fascists. It is almost unimaginable that such a short time ago France was under German rule; the Nazis were bombing Great Britain, and the US and the Soviet Union were allies -- the Soviets were the first to liberate the Jews from Auschwitz."

Daniel Mendelsohn said that the ancient Greeks were alert to the terror in the world, and that Americans have an infantile desire for closure, packaging everything to feel good. He said that there is not always a redemption, and instead we should ask, "How can we heal? What if there is healing?"

Mendelsohn was inspired by Marcel Proust, and closed with these thoughts: "Without pain, life is tasteless. Pain is the salt that gives life flavor. Pain is a necessary ingredient in the soup of life."

Click for The Lost by Daniel Mandelsohn on Amazon

Click for Incroci di Civilt脿 on Facebook.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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3. Books! The Hotel on Place Vend么me, Arrigo Cipriani's latest, and The Garden of Eden in Venice Revealed

(Venice, Italy) The Hotel Ritz is in the heart of Paris, but when Harper Collins offered me a review copy of The H么tel on Place Vend么me by Tilar J. Mazzeo, I readily agreed. If you are a longtime reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know that I have written about many of the fascinating denizens of the Hotel Ritz, who also made Venice part of their theatrical production. The Ritz was the glamorous setting for many of the major players of the time, who lived, loved and betrayed one another during the Second World War.

Ernest Hemingway and a couple of his wives, journalist Mary Welsh and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn were there; Gellhorn's rival, Marlene Dietrich, was there, peeved when another star, Ingrid Bergman, entered the scene and fell in love with Hemingway's friend and rival, Robert Capa -- whom Gellhorn considered to be "her real brother." Pablo Picasso and his surrealist lover, Dora Maar, Coco Chanel and her younger German lover, Hans von Dincklage, and an abundance of glitterati and literati made the Ritz their living room. Aristocrats and politicians, movie stars and celebrity writers played a deadly game of intrigue while carrying on illicit affairs under the eyes of the hotel staff, who added a deeper dimension to the schemes

Before delving into WWII, Mazzeo starts with a pivotal event before the First World War: The Dreyfus Affair. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish artillery officer, had been falsely charged with passing secrets to the German embassy in Paris. The Hotel Ritz opened its doors on June 1, 1898, a week after Emile Zola went on trial for writing his scathing letter-to-the-editor in support of Alfred Dreyfus, directed to President of France. Zola accused the French government of framing an innocent man, forcing them to put Zola on trial for libel "...literary and intellectual France broke ranks with the aristocracy, and came to the aid of Alfred Dreyfus." The story is told from Marcel Proust's point of view, touching upon how Sarah Bernhardt, the longtime lover of Aguste Escoffier, legendary chef and one of the partners in the Hotel Ritz enterprise, dined together every year on her birthday.

Ritz regular, Luisa, the Marquise Casati "a living work of art" then makes an appearance -- when Picasso attended a party at her palazzo on the Grand Canal here in Venice (the next grande dame to move in would be Peggy Guggenheim) he was astonished, and we can imagine he was not easily surprised. Luisa wore a drugged, gold-painted snake around her neck as a living necklace, and dyed her hair the color of flames. Her naked, gilded footmen tossed copper filings into the fires so they burned green and blue while the guests smoked opium, as she openly carried on with her lover, Gabriele D'Annunzio. (The 2014 Autumn at Palazzo Fortuny exhibition will be devoted to Luisa and the atmosphere of fin-de-si猫cle Venice, so mark your calendars -- October 3, 2014 to March 8, 2015.)

I devoured the book in two days, and think it is an excellent history lesson told in terms of giant personalities and the personal relationships they had under one roof during one of the most devastating challenges this planet has ever faced. Told in a series of vignettes with gossipy titles -- "The French Actress and Her Nazi Lover," "The Jewish Bartender and the German Resistance," "The American Wife and the Swiss Director," "Coco's War and Other Dirty Linen," "The Blond Bombshell and the Nuclear Scientists" -- Mazzeo uses a format that indulges the reader's thirst for scandal while imparting well-researched information that has been suppressed for too many years. 

During World War II, when the Germans occupied Paris, many high-ranking officers, such as Reichsmarschall Hermann G枚ring, Adolf Hitler's second-in-command, made the Ritz their home, causing many of the famous residents -- like Coco Chanel -- to change their suites.The image of Chanel dramatically descending into an air raid shelter, a servant trailing behind, carrying her gas mask on a satin pillow, is priceless. When challenged about her German lover, Hans von Dincklage, Chanel quipped, "at my age you don't ask to see the gentleman's passport."

As in life, Ernest Hemingway and his outrageous antics dominate the story as he races to be the first writer to "liberate" the Ritz -- and its wine cellar -- from the occupation. He leaves a immense imprint -- as he did here in Venice when he lived at the Hotel Gritti Palace and frequented Harry's Bar; the bar in the Ritz is now named Bar Hemingway.

In the prologue, Mazzeo writes that "we live in the long shadow of this history," and I agree. Here in Europe, you can still feel the echoes of the World Wars, something that only a handful of today's Americans understand. The wars touched the lives of everyone in Europe, many whom are still alive today. The pain of 9/11 shook the world, Americans in particular, but the event itself was isolated to a section of New York. The World Wars were anguish ramped up to the umpteenth power as country after country fell under the control of the Nazis and Fascists. It is almost unimaginable that such a short time ago France was under German rule, and the Nazis were bombing Great Britain. A fascinating bit of history, not in the book, is that Hitler and Mussolini first met each other in Venice

Mazzeo writes: 'On at least one occasion, I was warned that I should not attempt to tell this story. The warning came from an elderly Frenchwoman... she said, ..."The truth you are looking for, it was lost to history the moment the war ended. Perhaps it was lost even before that. The questions you are asking are more treacherous than you think. This book about the Hotel Ritz and the story of the occupation, you should not write it. I am sorry."'

Thankfully, Mazzeo ignored that advice, and wrote The H么tel on Place Vend么me. Read it, and bring yourself up to speed.

Review from the New York Journal of Books

Review from The Toronto Star

Review from Book Reporter

The H么tel on Place Vend么me at Amazon

Arrigo Cipriani, the owner of Harry's Bar in Venice and many other exclusive properties around the globe, has written a new book -- not about Ernest Hemingway -- called Stupdt. O l'arte di rialzarsi da terra, which translates to Stupdt. Or the Art of Getting up off the Ground. It is the third of a trilogy, where Cirpriani, a man with a vivid and wonderful imagination, leaves the world of Harry's Bar and brings us to a whimsical universe where a sleep-walking wife has sex with her neighbor, returns to bed, and complains about her husband's snoring, and God argues with Buddha, takes it out on Adam, who, in turn, takes it out on Cain. The always-entertaining Marino Folin, who has gone back to his long-haired style, presented Arrigo's novel.

For those of you who are wondering what happened to the book launches that were formerly on the top floor of Mondadori bookstore by Piazza San Marco -- which is now Louis Vuitton -- you can find them at the Casin貌 in the elegant piano nobile on Wednesdays at 6:00 PM, still hosted by the delightful
Giovanni Pelizzato. 

If you're in Venice, you can find the Italian edition at Giovanni's bookstore La Toletta over in Dorsoduro. And I'm sure they have some copies over at Harry's Bar:)

Stupdt. O l'arte di rialzarsi da terra at Amazon

Completely closed to the public, everybody in Venice wants to know what is behind the immense walls of the Garden of Eden on the island of Giudecca, and Annemette Fogh finally takes us behind the that solitary gate. Bought by an English couple, Frederic and Caroline Eden in 1884, the nine-acre garden was the hub for some of the international elite that we will find later at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Marcel Proust was there in the garden, as were Rilke, Henry James, John Singer Sargent, Robert Browning and Claude Monet, along with members of the Anglo-American colony living in Venice. During the presentation at the Bauer Hotel, Fogh spoke about the secrecy surrounding the Eden family, and how difficult it had been to gather information.

Frederic Eden, a great-uncle of Sir Anthony Eden, the future prime minister, and Caroline, the elder sister of the well-known garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, lived in Venice for 50 years. After wearying of life on the Grand Canal, Eden purchased the huge plot of land on the Giudecca, and created an English garden complete with milk cow. "What scope for planting," Eden declared when he first saw the plot, "what an escape from constant idleness, what a relief from my lately loved mistress the lagoon, from whom my soul now turned in the ungrateful satiety of too long possession."

In 1928 the garden was sold to Major James Horlick, who gave it to Aspasia Manos, the ex-Princess of Greece and Denmark. For the rest of her life she lived in the small palazzina in the garden, often together with her daughter, Alexandra, the former Queen of Yugoslavia. 

In 1979 Friedensreich Hundertwasser, one of the best-know contemporary Austrian artists, took over the garden. During WWII, he and his Jewish mother posed as Christians; he went so far as to join the Hitler Youth. His experience under the Nazi regime made him yearn for rule by a constitutional monarchy: 

"...While the rationalist way of thinking has given us in this century an ephemeral, higher American standard of living at the expense of nature and creation, which has now come to an end, but our heart, our quality of life destroyed, our desires, without which an Austrian does not want to live. It is outrageous that Austria has an emperor who did no evil to anyone, but is still treated like a leper. Austria needs a crown! Long live Austria! Long live the constitutional monarchy! Long live Otto von Habsburg!"

Hundertwasser had his own ideas about gardening, which was to let nature take its course. The Garden of Eden is now owned by the Hundertwasser Foundation in Vienna and is completely closed to the public. Hundertwasser's possessions are just as he left them when he died at sea in 2000, and the Garden of Eden is growing wild, as nature, true to his wishes, takes its course. 

In May 2012, the Danish author, Annemette Fogh, was granted exclusive admission to the garden to take photos with the help of Mimmo Fabrizi. Her pricey paperback (鈧45) is the only opportunity we have to get a glimpse into this garden where phantoms of the past still roam.

If you're in Venice, you can find the book at the new Wellington Books English-language bookshop over by the new Rossini cinema complex.

The Garden of Eden at Saxo.com

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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4. Venice International ARTE LAGUNA ARTE PRIZE - 2014 - The Winners

Interior Arsenale Novissimo
(Venice, Italy) The Arte Laguna Art Prize, now in its eighth year, continues to evolve, growing more international and prestigious every year. With strong support from Veneto Region, the Provinces of Venice and Treviso, as well as the Comune of Venice, the Arte Laguna Art Prize has built a network of collaborations with foundations, museums, galleries, art residencies and private companies all over the world to invest in emerging contemporary artists, helping to launch their professional careers.

PAINTING - The Four Seasons by Bianca De Gier (Netherlands)
The exhibition space for Arte Laguna is the immense Arsenale Novissimo. It is a fun adventure to go down there -- the vaporetto stop is at Celestia -- and see a part of Venice way off the beaten track. Last night at the opening reception, the space was lit with a very cool light show, with very cool music playing in the background, and, as usual, the place was packed. I've known Beatrice Susa, co-founder of the Prize, along with Laura Gallon, since the beginning, and these two ladies continue to impress.

SCULPTURE: Raum by Elaine Byrne (Ireland)
The works of the 105 finalists selected among thousands of entries in Painting, Sculpture & Installation, Photographic Art, Video Art, and Performance are on display through April 6, 2014. The finalists come from all over the planet, from the United States, Brazil, Mexico and all of Europe to Hong Kong, Israel, Russia and the Republic of Korea. In addition to zipping to the top of the heap in terms of international recognition, each winner receives 鈧7,000, a nice bit of change that can really make a difference in an emerging artist's life.

The winners of the five Insitutional Prizes are:

Section: Painting
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Bianca De Gier
Gouda | Netherlands 1966

Selected Artwork:
The Four Seasons (nr.56), 2013
Mixed media on canvas

VIDEO ART & PERFORMANCE - Not Swiss Made by Apiyo Amolo (Kenya)
Sezione: Video Arte e Performance
Premio Vincitore Assoluto: 7.000,00 Euros
Selected artist: Apiyo Amolo
Kenya, 1978

Selected Artwork:
Not Swiss Made, 2012
SONY HVR-Z5E HDV and Adobe Premium Pro, 3'

Section: Sculpture and Installation
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Elaine Byrne
Dublin | Ireland 1970

Selected Artwork:
Raum, 2013
Wooden construction bolted together, sound, text and found objects

PHOTOGRAPHY - Gardens by Victoria Campillo (Spain)
Section: Photographic Art
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros
Selected artist: Victoria Campillo
Barcelona | Spain 1957

Selected Artwork:
Gardens, 2013
Lambda print on aluminium

VIRTURAL ART - D茅rives by Emilie Brout & Maxime Marion (France)
Section: Virtual Art - iFOPE
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: 脡milie Brout & Maxime Marion
Nancy | France 1984 鈥 Forbach | France 1982

Selected artwork:
D茅rives, 2011-2013
Algorithmic cinema installation

It's interesting that all five winners happen to be women this year. There are all sorts of other prizes, such as artist residencies and collaborations with galleries, and different categories, including under-25, so please visit the Arte Laguna Art Prize for all the details.

Congratulation to all the finalists and winners!

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 

March 22 to April 6, 2014
Arsenale Novissimo
Vaporetto: Celestia (Line 52)
Daily 10AM to 6PM
Entrance: free

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5. FUNDAMENTALS - Rem Koolhaas Transforms Architecture by Going Back to Basics

Paolo Baratta & Rem Koolhaas - Photo: La Biennale
(Venice, Italy) Rem Koolhaas, the dynamic Director of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition has come up with a scheme to rattle architecture on a global scale by going back to the fundamentals, the theme of the 2014 program, and a subject that Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, is passionate about. With esteemed Rolex as the exclusive partner, and a list of prestigious donors, this year's exhibition promises to be exciting, educational and innovative on a premier level.

Yesterday, March 10th, more details about the project were presented in a conference held in the elegant Sala delle Colonne at Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale headquaters. Koolhaas said that when he was approached to head the exhibition, he would do it under two conditions: first, he wanted to take more time, and second, he wanted it to be based on research, rather than display.

His wishes were granted. This year, instead of opening at the end of August or in September, the Architecture Exhibition will open on June 7th (previews June 5 & 6) and run through November 23, 2014. There will be 65 nations participating, 11 countries for the first time. Normally, the curator decides a theme and creates "his own" exhibition, leaving the individual nations to follow his lead or not. This year, a specific topic -- Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 -- has been offered to all of them.

Koolhaas states: "Fundamentals consists of three interlocking exhibitions - Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, Elements of Architecture and Monditalia - that together illuminate the past, present and future of our discipline. After several architecture Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will look at histories, attempt to reconstruct how architecture finds itself in its current situation, and speculate on its future." It sounds like an enormous lesson for all of us, not only architects, about how the planet arrived at its present state, and what the outlook is for the future.

In 1914 -Photo: courtesy La Biennale
In Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, the 65 different nations contribute to tell a single story about architecture in the last century. Koolhaas asked: "Is the lens of a nation-state appropriate?" His research showed an enormous and critical relationship between architecture and the turbulence of history, wars and politics, and that most nations have abandoned their national identity. Each country is invited to show, in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language.

In 2014 -Photo: courtesy La Biennale
Here are the titles of the offerings by the nations of the G8:

CANADA - Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15
FRANCE - Modernity: promise or menace?
GERMANY - Bungalow Germania
GREAT BRITAIN - A Clockwork Jerusalem
ITALY - (details below)
JAPAN - In the real world
RUSSIA - Fair Enough

Stair - Models at the Friedrich Mielke Institute of Scalology
The Elements of Architecture will be in the Central Pavilion, and will pay close attention to the fundamentals of our buildings, used by any architect, anywhere, anytime: the floor, wall, ceiling, roof, door, window, fa莽ade, corridor, fireplace, toilet, stairs, escalator, elevator, ramp... the balcony... Koolhaas said history would be entirely different if not for balconies, and he became fascinated about how people use them. (I could offer my own input about the creative use of balconies...) He hopes the public will be drawn by the topic. For instance, he learned that during the last fifteen years the elements have become more comfortable. We are not as robust, and steps have become flatter. Windows used to have aesthetic value, now they are all the same. President Baratta said, "With great courage and ambition, after having traced the history of modernity over the past 100 years to the present, [Koolhaas] identifies and presents the elements that should act as references for a generated relationship between us and architecture."

Corderie Map - Arsenale
Monditalia will be dedicated to Italy, which is emblematic for what is happening in the world, and it will take over the enormous Corderie inside Arsenale, where Venice once made its naval rope. We will look at Italy as a "fundamental" country, completely unique but showing certain features -- particularly the coexistence of immense riches, creativity, competences and potential combine with political turbulence -- that also make it a prototype of the current moment. From south to north, all of Italy will be examined. In addition, all the other festivals of La Biennale will be involved -- Film, Dance, Music, Theater -- to collectively represent a comprehensive portrait of the host country.

Arnaud Boetsch from Rolex announced the major new partnership, becoming exclusive Partner and Official Timepiece of "the world's premier architectural forum." The sponsorship will run over the next three editions of the Biennale Architettura, from 2014 to 2018. Boetsch said, "Rolex is immensely proud to be lead sponsor of the Biennale Architettura. This reflects the brand's long-standing commitment to world-class architecture.Whether it is through the architecture of our own buildings or supporting the work of great architects, Rolex will continue its dedication to technological and aesthetic innovation -- a clear refection of the spirit that guides our approach to our watches."

Koolhaas writes:

Architecture, not architects...
An umbrella theme for the national pavilions from national to universal...
The Arsenale as performance space...

For more information, please go to La Biennale.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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6. Dora Maar - DESPITE PICASSO - Women Artists Welcome Spring at Palazzo Fortuny

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Dora Maar 
Picasso debout travaillant 脿 Guernica dans son atelier des Grands-Augustins, 1937
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sof铆a
漏 Dora Maar, by SIAE 2013
photo credit: Archivo Fotografico Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sof铆a, Madrid
(Venice, Italy) Only Dora Maar, the beautiful, enigmatic photographer, was allowed to document the progression of Pablo Picasso's masterpiece, Guernica, which he painted in response to the bombing of the Basque village during the Spanish Civil war in 1937. Maar was 28-years-old and established as an artist in her own right when she met the 54-year-old Picasso in 1936, and became his lover, muse, confidante and artistic companion. When their nine-year relationship ended, the sensitive soul underwent years of intense psychotherapy, recovered and lived to the age of 89, always haunted by the memory of Picasso.

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Assia by Dora Maar, 1934 
Parigi, Centre Pompidou,
Mus茅e national d'art moderne/Centre de cr茅ation industrielle
漏 Dora Maar by SIAE 2014
Dora Maar - Despite Picasso at the Fortuny Museum spotlights the work of the extraordinary artist who captured images of the poor in Paris, endowing them with dignity, and whose mystical Surrealistic photographs earned her a special place among the artists in Paris at the time.

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Dora Maar 
Vendeuses et vendeur riant derri猫re leur 茅tal de charcuterie, 1933
漏 Dora Maar, by SIAE 2014
漏 Joan Marques
Henriette Theodora Markovitch, who shortened her name to Dora Maar, was born in Paris on November 22, 1907, and grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her father was a well-known Croatian architect, and her mother was French. She returned to Paris with her family at the age of 19, and joined the Academy of Andr茅 Lhoteein Paris in 1927, where she met and formed a friendship with Henri Cartier-Bresson. She studied at the 脡cole de Photographie de la Ville de Paris, but it was the photographer Emmanuel Sougez who taught her the technical aspects of the medium. She earned her first commissioned works in 1928 at the age of 20, and worked as assistant to Harry Ossip Meerson in 1930.

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Dora Maar 
No Dole, Work wanted (Pas d麓aum么ne. Je veux du travail), Londres, 1934
Parigi, collezione privata
漏 Dora Maar, by SIAE 2014
Photo credit: Xavier GRANDSART
Maar was deeply moved by the Great Depression of 1929, and the effect it had on the poor. Her gaze is sometimes compassionate, and sometimes ironic, as in the photo of an impeccable gentleman selling matches and holding a card that reads: "I lost everything in business."

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Dora Maar 
29, rue d麓Astorg, 1936 circa
Parigi, Centre Pompidou,
Mus茅e national d'art moderne/Centre de cr茅ation industrielle
漏 Dora Maar by SIAE 2014
Daar's political involvement coincided with her joining the Surrealist group; in addition to taking the side of the deprived, she was fascinated by the magical and the supernatural, and attracted by the Surrealists' focus on automatic thinking, folly, children's art, the primitive world and eroticism. Her talent was "revealing the strangeness of everyday life." Maar alternated experimental photography with commercial work, producing portraits, nudes, landscapes, fashion and advertising photographs, and street scenes in Paris, Barcelona and London.

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Man Ray 
Ady Fidelin, Marie Cuttoli et son mari, Man Ray, Picasso et Dora Maar assis sur les marches d'un parc, 1937
漏 Man Ray Trust/ Adagp, Paris
漏 RMN 鈥 Grand Palais / Franck Raux
Maar was stunning, passionate and intensely intelligent; in the intellectual and artistic circles she traveled in Paris, it was inevitable that her path would cross with Pablo Picasso's. They had friends in common, including Man Ray, who photographed her, Andre Br茅ton, the founder of the Surrealist Movement, and Paul Eluard, the poet.

On January 7, 1936 Paul Eluard introduced Dora Maar to to the legendary Pablo Picasso at the Caf茅 les Deux Magots. Picasso was married, but estranged from his wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, and had a new-born daughter with his mistress, Marie-Th茅r猫se Walter, who would later hang herself four years after his death.

Portrait de Dora Maar aux petites mains, by Man Ray, 1936
New York, Collezione Debra e Jean Bensadoun
Photo credit: Alister Alexander /Camerarts
Picasso was fascinated by Maar, who was not only a brilliant photographer, a creative thinker and a beautiful woman, her Argentinian youth also made her fluent in Spanish. In 1935 and 1936, her work appeared in a succession of exhibitions: at the Surrealist exhibition of Tenerife, the Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism exhibition in New York, the Objets Surr茅alistes exhibition at the Charles Ratton gallery and the International Surrealist exhibition in London. Maar's photography and the experimental techniques she used were a source of inspiration to Picasso. They began an artistic collaboration and passionate love affair that would last until 1945.

The Weeping Woman by Picasso, 1937, Tate Collection
In addition to working with Picasso as he began Guernica and through its completion -- Maar's step-by-step photographic documentation of the masterpiece is part of the current exhibition -- Dora Maar was the model for Picasso's renowned Weeping Woman, an image which he obsessed over; it would appear in about 60 drawings, prints and paintings throughout 1937. (That image above is not part of the exhibition; I am including it for illustrative purposes.) Picasso said:

"For me she's the weeping woman. For years I've painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one."
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T锚te de Femme (Dora Maar) by Pablo Picasso,1939
Artemundi Group, courtesy of Javier Lumbreras
Photo credit: Jorge Parra
漏 Pablo Picasso by SIAE 2014

Dora Maar had a nervous breakdown when the relationship ended, and became a recluse who delved into the Catholic religion. In 1958, she traveled to Venice in the company of the American author, James Lord. She died in 1997 at the age of 89. According to the National Gallery of Victoria, after her death:

"... it was discovered that Dora Maar had kept everything connected to her relationship with Picasso, such as her Rolleiflex camera that was central to her commercial photographic practice, and therefore instrumental in Picasso's dynamic experiments with photography. Other objects included a fragment of stained paper labelled Picasso's blood, a magical sculpture of her beloved terrier torn from a napkin by her lover, and a copy of L'Humanite from 5 October 1944 announcing Picasso's allegiance to the French Communist Party. The personalised nature of these precious objects provided new and intriguing insights into Picasso's inventive art practice, as well as one of the most artistically inspiring relationships of the 20th century."

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Ritsue Mishima, 
Argo, 2013
Photo credit: Francesco Barasciutti
In addition to the Dora Maar exhibition, included in this year's Spring at Palazzo Fortuny are three other female artists, as well as the all-woman Amazons of photography from the collection of Mario Trevisan.

The works of the Japanese glass artist, Ritsue Mishima, are scattered throughout the Dora Maar - Despite Picasso exhibition, which, itself, is on the first floor, and entwined with the permanent Fortuny pieces on display, creating an exciting environment. Tras Forma presents Ritsue Mishima's latest creations based on the thousand-year-old tradition of making glass in Venice, and after a careful analysis of the modus operandi of Mariano Fortuny.

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Barbara Paganin 
Spilla n.12, 2011 鈥 2013
Argento ossidato, ritratto smaltato su rame, vetro, porcellana, quarzo di luna, oro
Fotografia di Alice Pavesi Fiori
Also on the first floor, inside the long glass cabinet near the back, is Open Memory by Barbara Paganin, an exhibition that presents "brooches" which draw their inspiration from the past. After searching through the antique shops of Venice to find whimsical objects such as good luck charms, 19th-century miniatures, ivory elephants and other tiny treasures, Paganin then arranged the memorabilia to create 25 different stories.

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Anne-Karin Furunes 
Crystal Images VII, 2013
Archivio Fortuny, 1910 ca.
tela dipinta e perforata
With Shadows, the Norwegian artist, Anne-Karin Furunes, has the second floor all to herself, spotlighting the enormous painted-canvas-and-perforated images of anonymous faces she found in archival photos that are her inspiration. From a distance, the images are almost solid, but as you approach, the faces dissolve into a mass of pointillistic dots. At Palazzo Fortuny, Furunes had the opportunity to dig through the photo archives stored in the palace, and became fascinated by Fortuny's interest in the effect of light. 

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Diane Arbu
Patriotic Young Man with a Flag, N.Y.C., N.Y.C. 1967
Mart, Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto
Collezione M. Trevisan
The Amazons of photography from the collection of Mario Trevisan claims the ground floor of Palazzo Fortuny, showcasing some of the top female photographers the world has known. If women have excelled in one artistic medium in particular, it is photography. Their unique vision captures an image in startling contrast to the traditional male approach. Italo Zannier, the curator of the show, writes: 

"...photography has also liberated [women] from some difficult manual aspects that for a long time were considered the prerogative of men, offering itself above all as an abstract, conceptual poetic language."

The Venetian Mario Trevisan has collected many of the great gals, from the contemporary Diane Arbus, Nan Golden and Cindy Sherman, to Julia Margaret Cameron working in the 1870s. Also on display are photographs by Lisette Model, a Jewish Austrian who moved to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War where she opened her famous school of photography, and whose best known pupil was Diane Arbus.

Spring at Palazzo Fortuny opened today, International Women's Day, and is a MUST SEE.


Doro Maar

Anne-Karin Furunes

Ritsue Mishima

Barbara Paganin

From the Collection of Mario Trevisan

March 8 to July 14, 2014

Please click Palazzo Fortuny for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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Princess for a Day by Enzo Sindoca - Photo: nuovovenezia
(Venice, Italy) The three top winners of the FIRST INTERNATIONAL MASK CONTEST during the Venice Carnival were announced on Monday afternoon, March 3, 2014. The winners were inspired by this year's Carnevale theme, La Natura Fantastica or The Fantasy of Nature, reminding us of the times when mankind stood in awe of nature's power and transformed their wonder into fairy tales and myths.

Please read the prior Venetian Cat - Venice Blog posts for the rest of the story:

First International Mask Contest - Venice Carnival 2014 - DEADLINE JANUARY 15, 2014

Strut Your Stuff in Piazza San Marco - Venice International Mask Contest - UPDATE

The top prize went to Enzo Sindoca for his mask, Principessa per un giorno, or Princess for a Day. Sindoca is a professional mask-maker from Mira, a town outside Venice. The mask was created from one unique piece of leather.

Flowers of Ice by Nicola Gasparini - Photo: nuovavenezia
One of the two Special Mentions went to Nicola Gasparini for her mask, Fiori di ghiaccio or Flowers of Ice. Gasparini is from Spinea, another town in the Province of Venice. She created her mask using recycled materials such as plastic, paper and tin.

Grain as a Collective Hallucination by Ahmad Jafari - Photo: nuovavenezia
The other Special Mention went to Ahmad Jafari for his mask La Grana come allucinazione collettiva or Grain as a Collective Hallucination. Jafari is originally from Iran and now lives in Tuscany.

The word "grana" or "grain" is slang for money in Italian, and the mask is a social commentary on how mankind has become more awed by the power of money than by the power of nature that feeds us.

Congratulations to all!

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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8. Russian Dancers in Venice - FROM SIBERIA WITH...

(Venice, Italy) With Russian aggression in the news, it was exhilarating to see that country's dynamic energy channeled joyfully by the dancers of the Omsk State Russian Folk Choir in Siberia during this year's Carnival.

After living in Venice for nearly sixteen years, I have learned that many of the greatest opportunities for entertainment during Carnevale are not found in Piazza San Marco or at the fabulous balls in Venetian palaces -- though those adventures can certainly be exciting depending on the company you keep -- but in some of Venice's other venues. Last night at the Goldoni Theater, the Russian dancers put on a vibrant show entitled from Siberia with... that had the audience clapping along to the folk songs, and received a standing ovation.

Dancing to the recorded voices of the folk choir and a live accordionist, the male dancers leaped through the air at astonishing heights, and the females spun so quickly, for such a long time, that it made me dizzy -- their skirts flared as they spun, revealing frilly bloomers and legs toned to perfection. The costumes were bold blasts of primary colors. It was fascinating to watch the interaction between the brazen male dancers zapped on testosterone with the coquettish-but-firm female dancers. The men did that Russian squat thing and kicked up their boots, leaping over each other with movement timed to the second -- one false move would have knocked someone out. The women were at times demure and then sassy, provocative and then restraining. The acrobatics performed by both sexes were impressive. The closest I can describe it so Americans can relate would be: it was as if a hip-hop Olympic gymnastic team who had studied ballet choreographed an old-fashioned square dance -- some of the music and the do-si-do moves were very similar to a square dance -- wearing clothing from Jamaica, if Jamaica had winter. One thing was abundantly clear: the Russian folk culture is strong and unique, with both sexes playing differentiated roles that are yet equal and complimentary.

(A long time ago, I was in the Russian Vodka Room in New York City where I met three Russian men who claimed to have been former comrades patrolling in a nuclear sub off the East Coast of the U.S. back in the 1970s. They were having a reunion and invited me to join them. I don't think I've ever drank so much vodka in my life, but they gulped it down like it was water with no visible effect. It was astonishing. In the early morning hours we found ourselves in the apartment of one of their friends, who claimed to be the nephew of Salvador Dali...)

One of the most delightful scenes was between the male and female principal dancers. They tweeted at each other with bird whistles, communicating without words in a language that everyone could understand. Their romance was like an owl ritual, primitive and sexy, flirtatious, yet withholding -- but with a wonderful sense of humor. I laughed out loud. They were both physically beautiful individuals --- in fact, everyone in the company seemed to be beautiful, and perfectly in sync. 

The local Venetians and intelligent tourists who comprised the audience, whistled and whooped after nearly every scenario. There were plenty of children in the audience who seemed riveted by the performance, and I thought about what a profound impression the show was making on their impressionable minds.

I am certainly no expert on foreign policy, but in my completely uneducated opinion, when world leaders boycotted the Winter Olympics, whose roots are grounded in culture like this, because of the Russian stance on homosexuality -- which, by the way, I am strongly against, as is the City of Venice -- and sought to impose its will on Russia, Putin had to react in some way. You can't jam change down someone's throat; you are bound to meet with resistance. Hopefully, he is just demanding a little respect and expressing his dissatisfaction by invading Crimea [click link for Russian POV], and things will soon quiet down.

Thomas Bach himself, the President of the International Olympic Committee, blasted world leaders over the Sochi boycott. From The Telegraph:

"Three days before the opening of Russia's first Winter Games, Mr Bach used a hard-hitting speech to call out politicians for using the Olympics to make an "ostentatious gesture" serving their own agendas. 

Without naming any individuals, Bach's comments appeared directed at David Cameron, US President Barack Obama and other European politicians who have taken stands against Russia's law banning gay "propaganda" among minors. 

The Olympics, Mr Bach said, should not be "used as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests." 

"Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes," he said at a ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. "People have a very good understanding of what it really means to single out the Olympic Games to make an ostentatious gesture which allegedly costs nothing but produces international headlines. 

"In the extreme, we had to see a few politicians whose contributions to the fight for a good cause consisted of publicly declining invitations they had not even received.""

The Siberians have a repertoire that includes both Russian folk songs and works by contemporary composers, and have been applauded in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Australia, USA, China, Israel, Mozambique and other places around the world. 

The symbol of the Omsk State Russian Folk Choir is a large, dancing teddy bear who strums a balalaika, a characteristic Russian folk instrument with a triangular body and three strings. And he can do that Russian squat thing.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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9. It's Carnival in Venice!!! 2014

(Venice, Italy) There is something liberating about walking around in a mask, dressed as a phantom from the past, yet with a new millennium twist.

People flock from all over the world to stroll around Venice -- Piazza San Marco in particular -- in elaborate costumes while hordes of visitors swarm to take their photo.

If you ever have yearned to pose as a movie star, Venice will be happy to accommodate you.

If your costume is creative enough, you won't be able to walk two steps without being mobbed by cameras.

Photo: Cat Bauer
 Or you can find a quiet place under the Campanile and let the photographers come to you.

Photo: Cat Bauer
As long as you are in costume, you even have the opportunity to promenade on the Grand Stage itself, right in Piazza San Marco, the world's most beautiful drawing room.

Photo: Official Venice Carnival site
I am like a Native American when it comes to strangers snapping my photo. If I put on my war paint ...er.. a costume and a mask, I have made a decision to go public and you are welcome to snap away -- I think most people are like this. But if someone takes my photo without my permission during a private moment -- and that has happened to me on more than one occasion -- that is such an invasion of privacy... it is like stealing a little piece of my soul. However, it's a lot of fun to pose intentionally to have your photo snapped; all those clicks and flashes can zap you full of energy. 

Carnival in Venice is an opportunity to indulge -- for just a brief moment -- the natural human desire for fame.

Carnival is a chance for ordinary people to flip things on its head -- it has always been that way in Venice. This cannot be stressed enough: it is part of Venetian culture to don a mask and move around town incognito. Wearing a mask in Venice came about organically -- in a city this small, where everyone knows everything about everyone; where gossip is used as a weapon; in a city where enormous wealth was concentrated into a tiny area; where your worst enemy lived next door... or even inside your own house... the only way to survive was to put on a mask.

Despite being cutthroat merchants, Venetians ultimately maintained a sense of humor, which was one of their very important secrets of success. During the Republic, servants dressed as masters, and masters dressed as servants.

Photo: Cat Bauer
 I have written about this many, many, many times before:

Venetian Masks

"Mask making in Venice can be documented back to the 13th century, though it probably existed much earlier. On April 10, 1436, the ancient profession of mascareri was founded under the jurisdiction of the Painter's Guild. Over the years, masks were used for a variety of reasons -- in the government, the theater, and as a means of disguise. Masks provided the Venetians a degree of anonymity.

The wearing of a mask put everyone on the same level: rich and poor, nobleman and citizen, beautiful and ordinary, old and young. It permitted confidences to be exchanged anonymously -- everything from accusations before State Inquisitors, to a potpourri of sexual indiscretions. Prostitutes practiced their trade without fear of retribution; homosexuals hid their illicit lifestyle. In 1458, it was decreed that men were forbidden to dress up as women and enter convents to commit indecent acts.

Not all masks were used for indelicacies, however. The bauta was worn by both men and women, and was not considered a costume but a form of dress -- required wearing if a woman wanted to go to the theater. Il medico della peste had a long beak-like nose stuffed with disinfectants, and, as its name implies, was used to protect doctors from the plague."

So, I am happy that all these international people still put on a mask and get elaborately dressed and come to Venice for Carnival in the year 2014. Even if today they are doing it for an entirely different reason.


Meanwhile, down at Giardini, it's La Biennale's 5th International Carnival for Kids. This year's theme is the Cookie Cottage.

The place is jumping with children of all ages emanating raw kid energy.

Germany even sent their Carnival royalty, Prince Pascal II and Princess Louisa I. This is such a clever idea, I think all of Europe should select a Prince and Princess to attend the Venice Kid's Carnival every year.

When I was a kid, the very first book I wrote at age six was entitled, Children of Other Lands. It was inspired by a deck of cards I had that was illustrated with European children wearing traditional clothing. I was fascinated to the point of obsession by that deck of cards... by the exotic children all over the world. If you are growing up in all-white small-town New Jersey, a deck of cards like that can open another universe...

So, seeing Prince Pascal II and Princess Louisa I was sort of like having the deck of cards come to life. And, of all the monarchs, I love Ludwig II, the fairytale King of Bavaria -- who gave us the music of Wagner, among many other things -- the most.

One of the best things about the Kid's Carnival is the free, endless supply of rich hot chocolate and frittelli. Another yum!


Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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10. Venice Lagoon Bird Strikes "La Fenice" Pose

(Venice, Italy) In the early morning hours, this bird in the Venice lagoon struck a "La Fenice" pose.

As we all know, La Fenice means, "the Phoenix," the bird that is eternally reborn, that burns and then rises from the ashes. The phoenix is a royal bird, associated with the sun.

The name of the opera house here in Venice is called "La Fenice," one of the most famous opera houses in Europe. It has burned and risen from the ashes more times than we can count.

The phoenix is one of my favorite symbols. They say it is a mythical bird, but I like to think that it's real. 

Ciao from Venezia,

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11. Venice - A VISION OF THE CONTEMPORARY CITY - Fernand L茅ger at the Correr

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Fernand L茅ger, Paesaggio Animato, 1924 
Philadelphia Museum of Art 漏 Fernand L茅ger by SIAE 2014
(Venice, Italy) The exhibition L茅ger- A vision of the contemporary city 1910-1930 starts with Animated Landscape, which the artist painted in 1924 after visiting Venice with the art dealer Leon Rosenberg. Seen through L茅ger's eyes, eternally ancient Venice has transformed into a "contemporary" city, perhaps for the first time in centuries. L茅ger was one of the pioneer Cubists, embracing the new artistic language that began to brew at the beginning of the 20th century.

What is Cubism? In 1912, the artists Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger wrote a book called Du Cubisme, the first major text on Cubism, illustrated with photographs of works by Gleizes, Metzinger, Paul C茅zanne -- considered the father of Cubism --  Fernand L茅ger, Juan Gris, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Andr茅 Derain, and Marie Laurencin.

Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 1), 1911
Marcel Duchamp
Philadelphia Museum of Art
漏 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
 From Wikipedia:

"The concept developed in Du "Cubisme" of observing a subject from different points in space and time simultaneously, i.e., the act of moving around an object to seize it from several successive angles fused into a single image ('multiple viewpoints' or 'mobile perspective'), is now a generally recognized phenomenon of the Cubist style."

 E = mc2
What fascinates me is that around the same time that the artists were looking at life from a new perspective, so were the scientists. In 1905, Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was developing his own thoughts about the nature of reality and the relationship between energy and mass, and Max Planck (1858-1947) was originating quantum theory, for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

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Fernand L茅ger 
Elemento meccanico, 192
Parigi, Centre Georges Pompidou, Mus茅e National d鈥橝rt Moderne
Fernand L茅ger by SIAE 2014 
漏 Centre Pompidou, Paris, Mus茅e National d鈥檃rt moderne/Centre de Cr茅ation industrielle
L茅ger - A vision of the contemporary city - 1910-1930 is curated by Anna Vallye, and comes to the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and the Correr Museum by way of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The star of the show is Le Ville, or The City that L茅ger painted in 1919 when he came back to Paris after serving in the French army during World War I. The war had a profound effect on L茅ger and his painting. He nearly died after a mustard gas attack by German troops in September 1916 and went three years without touching a brush. He declared, "I will gobble Paris up if I am ever fortunate enough to go back there."

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Fernand L茅ger 
La bandiera, 1919
New York, Collection
Mr. e Mrs. Howard e Nancy Marks
漏 Fernand L茅ger by SIAE 2014
L茅ger and his peers witnessed some of the most rapid changes in the history of the world. New inventions created during the second Industrial Revolution radically transformed the lives of humans and shortened the distance needed to travel in space and in time. Trains, cars, the telegraph, the telephone and film caused life to accelerate. Electricity zapped out candles and gas lighting, and assembly lines turned human beings into part of the machinery. L茅ger and his fellow artists captured the modern world in which they found themselves immersed.

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Juan Gris 
Natura morta davanti alla finestra aperta (Place Ravignan), 1915 
Philadelphia Museum of Art
 In 1914, L茅ger said:

"If pictorial expression has changed, it is because modern life has required it... The view from the window of a railway carriage and car travelling at speed has altered the customary appearance of things. A modern man registers a hundred times more sensorial impressions than an artist of the 18th century... The compression of a modern painting, its variety, its decomposition of forms, are the result of all this."

L茅ger was born 133 years ago on February 4, 1881 in the rural town of Argentan, in the north of France, 120 miles outside of Paris; his father raised cattle. L茅ger initially trained as an architect, and moved to the big city -- Paris -- in 1901 where he worked as an architectural draftsman. L茅ger applied to the prestigious 脡cole des Beux-Arts , but was rejected. In 1903, he began attending the Paris School of Decorative Arts, while also being unofficially mentored by two 脡cole des Beux-Arts professors. His early work showed a strong Impressionistic influence; after turning to Cubism, he later destroyed most of those paintings. An exception was My Mother's Garden, a painting that is not in the current show; I am including it here for illustrative purposes.

My mother's garden by L茅ger, 1905, 漏Mus茅e national
Then, in 1907, at the age of 26, he saw the C茅zanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automn, and, like many artists of the time, changed his direction. From Wikipedia:

"In 1909 he moved to Montparnasse and met such leaders of the avant-garde as Archipenko, Lipchitz, Chagall, Joseph Csaky and Robert Delaunay. His major painting of this period is Nudes in the Forest (1909鈥10), in which L茅ger displays a personal form of Cubism that his critics termed "Tubism" for its emphasis on cylindrical forms.

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Fernand L茅ger 
Fumo sui tetti, 1911 
Collezione privata
Courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan 
漏 Fernand L茅ger by SIAE 2014
In 1910 he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in the same room with Jean Metzinger and Henri Le Fauconnier. In 1911 the hanging committee of the Salon des Ind茅pendants placed together the painters that would soon be identified as 'Cubists'. Metzinger, Gleizes, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay and L茅ger were responsible for revealing Cubism to the general public for the first time as an organized group.

Robert Delaunay
Windows in Three Parts, 1912

Philadelphia Museum of Art. A. E. Gallatin Collection
The following year he again exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and Ind茅pendants with the Cubists, and joined with several artists, including Henri Le Fauconnier, Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes, Francis Picabia and the Duchamp brothers, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel Duchamp to form the Puteaux Group鈥攁lso called the Section d'Or (The Golden Section)."

L茅ger's masterpiece, La Ville, arrived in the United States years before the man himself thanks to the wealthy and innovative collector, A.E. Gallatin, whose patrician roots stretched back to the beginnings of the USA. He is credited with creating the first contemporary art institution in the United States. His great-grandfather, Albert Gallatin, was one of the founders of NYU and served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison as well as US Minister to France. From NYU:

"Contrary to popular belief, New York's Museum of Modern Art was not the first institution in the United States exclusively devoted to contemporary art. Between 1927 and 1943, New York University was home to A.E. Gallatin's Gallery of Living Art鈥攔enamed the Museum of Living Art in 1936鈥攚hich was restricted to "fresh and individual" works by living artists. 

Among the best-known works in the collection were Pablo Picasso's Three Musicians (1921), Fernand L茅ger's The City (1919), Joan Mir贸's Dog Barking at the Moon (1926), and Piet Mondrian's Composition in Blue and Yellow (1932)."

The new art movement was pioneered by big brains on both sides of the Atlantic who were on the same wavelength. Like L茅ger, Gallatin would radically change his direction around the time of the First World War. He sold all his Impressionistic and Ash Can paintings, and, by 1922, had acquired two watercolors by Picacsso and an oil by C茅zanne.

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Piet Mondrian
N. VI / Composizione n. 11, 1920
Tate, Liverpool 漏 Tate, London 2013 
漏 2013 o 2014 Mondrian / Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International Washington, D.C.
"Open to the public free of charge from 8 am to 10 pm every weekday and on Saturdays until 5 pm, and steeped in the informal, comfortable atmosphere of a college study hall, the Gallery of Living Art served contemporary American artists as鈥攊n Gallatin's own words鈥攁 "laboratory" for "exploration and experimentation" and a forum for intellectual exchange. 

Its greatest contribution lay in spurring the development of the New York School. Hans Hofmann often brought his classes to the Gallery for firsthand discussions in front of the pictures. Other frequent visitors included Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, David Smith, Robert Motherwell, Adolf Gottlieb, and Elaine and Willem de Kooning, all of whom have testified to the Gallery's vital role in introducing them to the vocabulary of Cubism and biomorphic abstraction."

During the curator Anna Vallye's presentation of L茅ger, Gabriella Belli, the director of the Museo Civici, reminded us that Futurism was taking place at the same time in Italy as Cubism was in France. To me, it would have enhanced the exhibition if a sample of Futuristic work had been included, especially since Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto was published in France only weeks after its initial publication in Milan on February 5, 1909, a day after L茅ger's twenty-eighth birthday. The second Industrial Revolution was a phenomenon throughout the Western world.
Giacomo Ballo - Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocit脿 astratta + rumore), 1913鈥14. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553.31 漏 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

"Futurism is an avant-garde movement founded in Milan in 1909 by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Marinetti launched the movement in his Futurist Manifesto, which he published for the first time on 5 February 1909 in La gazzetta dell'Emilia, an article then reproduced in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909. He was soon joined by the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carr脿, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini and the composer Luigi Russolo."

L茅ger. A vision of the contemporary city 1910-1930 is divided into five sections: The Metropolis Before the Great War, The Painter of the City, Advertising, The Performing Arts, and Space. L茅ger not only produced paintings, he also explored almost every field of artistic endeavor, from advertising and cinema to graphic design and theater. He worked on paintings, murals, tapestries, mosaics, sculpture and ceramic; he collaborated on sets and costumes for theatrical shows. In 1924 he produced an avant-garde 16 minute film called "Ballet m茅canique," which is presently looping inside the Correr.

L'Inhumaine 1924 poster by Georges Bourgeois - Parigi, Collection Cin茅math猫que Fran莽aise
One of the coolest things L茅ger collaborated on was the set for the 1924 experimental silent film L'Inhumaine directed by Marcel L'Herbier, who wanted to use the film to synthesize all the creative arts into one medium. The plot line involves a scientist resurrecting his dead beloved; L茅ger designed the laboratory. A bit of trivia:

"One evening of location shooting became famous (4 October 1923). For the scene of Claire Lescot's concert L'Herbier hired the Th茅芒tre des Champs-脡lys茅es and invited over 2000 people from the film world and fashionable society to attend in evening dress and to play the part of an unruly audience. 

Ten cameras were deployed around the theatre to record their reactions to the concert. This included the American pianist George Antheil performing some of his own dissonant compositions which created a suitably confrontational mood, and when Georgette Leblanc appeared on stage the audience responded with the required tumult of whistles, applause and protests, as well as some scuffles. 

The audience is said to have included Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, L茅on Blum, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and the Prince of Monaco."

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Fernand L茅ger 
Progetto di sipario per Skating Rink, 1922
Dansmuseet Stockholm 漏 Dansmuseet 鈥 Mus茅e Rolf de Mar茅 Stockholm 
漏 Fernand L茅ger by SIAE 2014
Ah, those were the days! After the Great War was over, before the stock market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression and the dark, dark days of World War II. The exhibition stops at the year 1930, but L茅ger would spend the Second World War teaching at Yale and producing a number of huge mural paintings. L茅ger died on August 7, 1955 in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

In 2008, Study for the Woman in Blue, a four feet tall Cubist canvas was sold by Sotheby's for $39.2 million, beating the French painter's previous record of $22.4 million set five years before. Last year, pop star Madonna sold her L茅ger, Trois Femmes 脿 la Table Rouge, for $7.2 million to benefit her charity, the Ray of Light Foundation.

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Didier Barra 
Veduta di Napoli a volo d'uccello, 1647
Napoli, Certosa e Museo Nazionale di San Martino
Also at the Correr during the L茅ger exhibition, up on the second floor, is another show about cities entitled The image of the European city from Renaissance to Enlightenment, curated by Cesare de Seta.  Starting in Italy, "the visitor will go on a chronological virtual tour of towns that have been completely transformed or which largely no longer exist," but have been preserved on canvas.

After the press presentation, a seagull kindly posed in a window with view of the front of the Museo Correr. In the background, the scene is of several workers taking down the scaffolding for the obtrusive advertising billboard that has been hanging on the front of the Correr Museum for years.

I checked again today, and it's really gone. The stage is going up for Carnival...  Life goes on.

LEGER. 1910-1930 La visione della citt脿 contemporanea
Museo Correr
February 8 to June 2, 2014
Curated by Anna Vallye with the scientific direction of Gabriella Belli and Timothy Rub, director of the PMA in Philadelphia and exhibition project by Daniela Ferretti

L'immagine della citt脿 europea dal Rinascimento al Secolo dei Lumi
Museo Correr
February 8 to May 18, 2014 

Scientific coordination Gabriella Belli
Curated by Cesare De Seta
Layout by Daniela Ferretti

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 

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12. 70th Venice Film Festival Wrap-up

Maserati at the Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) SACRO GRA (Italy, France), a documentary by Gianfranco Rosi, won the Golden Lion for Best Film last night at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. It's been 15 years since an Italian film won the top prize, and the first time ever for a documentary.

Bernardo Bertolucci, the President of the jury, quipped that there had been some discussion about whether to give the Volpi Cup for Best Actor to Donald Rumsfeld for his performance in the documentary THE UNKNOWN KNOWN. Instead, that prize went to Themis Panou for MISS VIOLENCE, a Greek film, which also won the Silver Lion for Best Director for Alexandros Avranas. It was unusual for a film to win more than one prize -- in fact, everyone is always arguing about it. But last year THE MASTER (USA) won the Silver for Paul Thomas Anderson and Best Actor(s) for Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, so, perhaps, it is a new trend.

I hadn't seen either winning film, so I went to the screenings after the awards. SACRO GRA is about the real life characters that live around Rome's Ring Road highway. I would have given it three stars, not the top prize. MISS VIOLENCE starts with a girl committing suicide by jumping off the balcony on her 11th birthday, and then slowly peels away the layers of dysfunction in which the other members of family have wrapped themselves. It was skillfully insidious. 



Maserati was the main sponsor of the festival this year, and it was a thrill to see all the Quattroporte (Four Door) luxury sedans lined up outside the Excelsior Hotel, ready to whisk the celebrities off to the Red Carpet. The engines sounded like lions purring. It's been a while since a car turned me on, but this one has got it all: style, class, elegance, beauty and it's sexy.

"Maserati begins its relationship with the 70th Venice Film Festival as main sponsor of the event, cementing the relationship between the prestigious film festival and the Fiat Group." 

Excelsior Hotel Terrace 1932

The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival on the planet, created by Count Giuseppi Volpi in 1932. In the archives area are all sorts of nifty news clips such as Winston Churchill taking a dip in the sea, Marilyn Monroe arriving on the Lido, George Cukor and other classics. This year, the press got to see some vintage clips before the screenings, much to everyone's delight.


Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) caused a pedestrian traffic girl-jam when he showed up at Coin Department Store in Venice to promote Kill Your Darlings, a movie about Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation.

The Guardian: "Kill Your Darlings... is the real deal, a genuine attempt to source the beginning of America's first true literary counterculture of the 20th century."


****GRAVITY by Alfonso Cuaron (USA) - There is nothing like starting off a film festival with a good old fashioned Hollywood blockbuster set in outer space. 

***WOLKFSKINDER (WOLF CHILDREN) by Rick Ostermann (Germany) Proving that no one group of people have a monopoly on suffering, after World War II had ended, Russian soldiers hunted down and murdered German children orphaned by the war just because they were German. A little-known piece of history finally gets explored. (Part of Orrizzonti competition.)

***1/2 JOE by David Gordon Green (USA) - Prediction: Nicholas Cage will be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. Last night, Tye Sheridan did win the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress. The two of them had great chemistry.

From the Hollywood Reporter: "Powered by raw yet expertly measured performances from Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan as an ex-con fumbling for atonement and a luckless boy reaching out for a father figure, respectively, the film captures both the grit and the compassion for its characters鈥 pain that are hallmarks of the writing of novelist Larry Brown."

** The Canyons by Paul Schrader (USA) - I wrote a post about it HERE.

**Night Moves by Kelly Reichardt (USA) - I never got emotionally involved in this story about three radical environmentalists who blow up a damn to make their point. 

From Variety: "...this tale of three environmental activists planning a dangerous act of eco-terrorism has a quietly gripping first hour that builds to a suspenseful peak, then yields faintly diminishing returns thereafter as the doubts and implications set in."

****1/2 Philomena by Stephen Frears (UK) - I loved it; I thought it should have won the Golden Lion; I wrote about it HERE. It did win Best Screenplay here in Venice.

**Child of God by James Franco (USA) - I'm sorry, but, to me, there is nothing interesting about watching a serial killer defecate in the woods unless he does it differently from the rest of us.

From Variety: "Descending into the cavernous lower depths of human depravity inhabited by Lester Ballard, modern literature鈥檚 most famous necrophile, Franco has emerged with an extremely faithful, suitably raw but still relatively hemmed-in adaptation that compares favorably with his earlier films, yet falls short of achieving a truly galvanizing portrait of social and sexual deviance."

***1/2 Parkland by Peter Landesman (USA) It is always difficult to watch John Kennedy get assassinated. The State of Texas does not come off well in this version.

From The Guardian: "...if the film finally doesn't tell us anything we did not already know, the approach makes a worn-out old tragedy feel supple and urgent."

***The Armstrong Lie by Alex Gibney (USA) - I wrote about it HERE.

The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam
***The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam (UK; USA) Wacky, wonderful and worth-seeing, it seemed to really appeal to 21-year-old guys. From The Guardian: "...the film has a ragged charm, a Tiggerish bounce, and a certain sweet melancholy that bubbles up near the end. It is a wilfully iconoclastic film from a wilfully iconoclastic man. And it shows, for better or worse, that Gilliam is still in the game and eyeing the prize, despite his spectacularly ill-starred recent career."

**1/2 Locke by Steven Knight (UK) Interesting because it's in real time, but since the only action is a man driving while talking on the phone, it belongs on television -- or in the theater. Only Tom Hardy's performance makes it worth watching. 

From The Guardian: " Locke is played by Tom Hardy, who affects a rich Welsh delivery that I could listen to all day. After sitting through the entirety of this bold, well-acted yet ultimately exasperating movie, I almost feel I have."

**Disney Mickey Mouse "O Sole Minnie" by Paul Rudish (USA) Venice looked more like Las Vegas, Mickey wasn't charming and Minnie had no motivation.

****The Unknown Known by Errol Morris (USA) - I thought it was brilliant. I wrote about it HERE.

**1/2 Harlock: Space Pirate [3D] by Shinji Aramaki (Japan) Great for tweenage boys. 

From Variety: "...this is a glorious marshaling of state-of-the-art technical expertise that boasts topnotch stereoscopy, but the portentous script is too nerdy to cross over to the mainstream" 

*Under The Skin by Jonathan Glazer (UK) - I have not so disliked a movie in many years. Except for Scarlett Johansson's body, it was utterly boring.

From The Independent: "Even Scarlett Johansson can't save Jonathan Glazer's laughably bad alien hitchhiker movie" 

***1/2 Une Promesse (A Promise) by Patrice Leconte (France, Belgium) Restrained performances and a romantic script make this a French film worth seeing -- especially because it's in English and it stars Alan Rickman. Nobody else seemed to like it but me -- and the New York Times: "It is a pity that this artfully directed and subtly acted drama is not eligible for these awards, for which it would have been a worthy candidate." (Ha! I just read the entire article and mumbled to myself: "I have the same taste as this writer" -- and then saw it was Roderick Conway Morris, who is based here in Venice and whom I've know for years.)

Another p.o.v., from Variety: "Led by a trio of lackluster performances from Alan Rickman, Rebecca Hall and 鈥淕ame of Thrones鈥 thesp Richard Madden, this awkward, passionless drama conveys neither the sensuality nor the drawn-out sense of longing required by its period tale of a young secretary who falls in love with his employer鈥檚 wife."

***1/2 Walesa. Man of Hope by Andrzej Wajda (Poland) An enjoyable history lesson about Lech Walesa, one of the world's most dynamic and unlikely leaders -- proof that even an electrician can become the president of a country. 

***1/2 Amazonia [3D] by Thierry Ragobert (France, Brazil) - if a monkey could win best actor, it should go to this adorable creature who plays a domesticated capuchin monkey that lands in the Amazon rain forest after a plane crash. The film will leave you wondering how they ever shot it.

From Variety: "Kids and adults mature enough to handle mild animal peril will be duly enchanted by this universally distributable picture."

The Ukraine is Not a Brothel Photocall
 ***Ukraine is Not a Brothel by Kitty Green Australian filmmaker Kitty Green followed Femen, the radical Ukrainian "feminists" who bared their breasts to protest a patriarchal society, and discovered there was a man behind the scenes. 

Venezia Salva by Serena Nono (Venice) - is a film with non-professional actors who are guests in one of Venice's homeless shelters. Loosely based on Simone Weil's unfinished play, "Venice Saved," Serena takes us behind the facades of Venice as only a local girl can. I wrote about the filming of the story last year HERE


Ciao from Venezia,

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13. The ARMSTRONG Lie and the RUMSFELD Lies - Venice Film Festival

The Armstrong Lie by Alex Gibney
(Venice, Italy) Yesterday, I saw The ARMSTRONG Lie, Alex Gibney's documentary about Lance Armstrong, and started writing this post. Then I saw The UNKNOWN KNOWN, Errol Morris' documentary about Donald Rumsfeld. Armstrong and Rumsfeld have so much in common, it was riveting to watch. They are not only trying to manipulate everyone around them, THEY ARE LYING TO THEMSELVES and don't seem to have the slightest clue they are doing it. Both are arrogant, both are bullies, and both keep trying to rewrite their own narratives. Just the fact that both were willing to go on camera and allow the world to see their profound character flaws illustrates how deeply in denial they continue to live.

Now, of course, human beings must live in denial because we are all going to die, and if we really thought about that, we would all just jump in the lagoon. But these two public figures (and there are many, many lesser creatures I have encountered who are of a similar ilk) take Livin' da Lie to new heights. These two want to ramrod their lies on the rest of the world.

The Unknown Known by Errol Morris
But what really struck me is that neither of them would have been able to get away with the immensity of their lies if they didn't have enormous, powerful organizations behind them, and a whole bunch of people who profited from their lies. Both men are the public faces of organized crime.

And now both men are the subject of documentaries by Academy Award-winning filmmakers.

 "I didn't live a lot of lies, but I lived one big one." In 2008, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney set out to make a documentary about Lance Armstrong's comeback to the world of competitive cycling.

Personally, the sport held no interest for me, but in May of 2009, the Giro d'Italia was held in Venice -- out here on the Lido where I sit right now, typing, as a matter of fact. A fellow I was dating was one of the timekeepers, so I came out to the race. The entire scene was surreal. Much of the crowd was made up of off-duty American military, who were peeved that they were not allowed behind the scenes. As the day went on, I found myself standing directly behind Lance Armstrong. I wrote about the experience here:

Lance Armstrong in Venice

Alex Gibney
Gibney said he made two films -- the one about Armstrong's comeback that was never released, and this one. The original agreement was that he would have unprecedented access to Lance -- who would take a cut of the movie's "back end" in exchange -- as Armstrong set out to prove that he was still the best cyclist in the world.

Gibney said he had heard and seen so much that the only way to get the information across was to put himself in the story, and that so much was Lance Armstrong "lying to my face." He said he was naive, but not stupid, and knew about the doping charges, but really believed that Armstrong was clean in 2009. Gibney said that when you're close to someone, you start to root for them, and he was rooting for Armstrong in 2009. When he found out the truth, there was a disappointment, and "I was pissed off."

 From Variety:

鈥淭his is not a story about doping; it鈥檚 a story about power,鈥 one interviewee shrewdly notes, and 鈥淭he Armstrong Lie鈥 zeroes in on the cynical realities of a sport where victory falls to those with the best medical and financial resources, and where the lure of sponsorships, massive publicity and millions of dollars in cancer-fighting research can encourage even the head of the Intl. Cycling Union to look the other way. The film also taps into the warped mentality of a professional sport where everyone of consequence is assumed to be doping under a code of collective silence, making it easy enough for a cheater to convince himself he isn鈥檛 gaining an unfair advantage so much as staying competitive.

After the movie, I asked Gibney if Lance Armstrong still gets a cut of the film's back end. Gibney nodded. "He does."

The Unknown Known
Watching Donald Rumsfeld's mind work was like taking a trip through the Looking Glass. In fact, Danny Elfman wrote the score for The Unknown Known, which made listening to Rummie even more rabbit-holey. Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris focuses on Rumsfeld's "snowflakes," what Rummie calls the tens of thousands of "white paper" memos he wrote throughout his career.

Rumsfeld, Ford, Cheney
As the film went on, I realized that Rumsfeld and his big-business buddies have been influencing the United States government most of my life. At the age of 30, he was elected to Congress in 1962, and hand-picked by Richard Nixon for a Cabinet-level position at age 37. When he was Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969-70, he brought the 28-year-old Dick Cheney on board. Among his other positions, he was Secretary of Defense under both Ford and George W. Bush. The documentary makes it clear how Rumsfeld controlled the Ford White House, and had presidential ambitions himself.

And for nearly 50 years, Rumsfeld wrote thousands and thousands of memos -- snowflakes -- and whipped them off to everybody -- his staff, his colleagues, even the president. When he was forced out of the government in 2006, he wrote a snowflake for everyone -- including those who may never have gotten a memo before -- informing them that the blizzard had stopped. Morris uses these memos to delve into Rumsfeld's mind. When asked if he had been manipulated by Rumsfeld, Morris said that the documentary was a portrait of a person, and he much preferred to let Rumsfeld contradict himself, which he does endlessly. He becomes lost in a sea of words. "I do not think that Rumsfeld has been left off the hook."

The snowflakes are freaky, as is Rumsfeld's obsession with the dictionary definition of words, his dictionary of preference being the Pentagon Dictionary, not Websters. (Why does it not surprise me to learn that the Pentagon has its own dictionary?) To make the case to invade Iraq, Rumsfeld says, "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

According to Rumsfeld, Pearl Harbor was a "failure of imagination." He seems to believe that the USA has an obligation to imagine every insane thing that every nut job on the planet can imagine, and then act to prevent it. You imagine the worst, and treat it as if it's really going to happen.

Errol Morris
Morris says that what he found fascinating about Rumsfeld was his use of philosophy, and his obsession with words. Not just the way he manipulates other people, but also manipulates himself.  During the press conference, Morris agreed that many politicians say one thing one day and something different the next, but he found Rumsfeld unique: "Within seconds he can say the exact opposite of what he just said. I found it strange."

The film opens with Rumsfeld reading a memo:

"There are known knowns.

There are known unknowns.

There are unknown unknowns.

But there are also unknown knowns -- that is to say, things that you think you know that it turns out you did not."

By the end of the film, Rumsfeld will declare that the memo is backwards, and that the real definition of unknown knowns is: "things that you possibly may know that you don't know you know."

I thought the film was genius. Because it is not only a glimpse into the mind of Donald Rumsfeld, it is a glimpse into the scary apparatus of the United States of America itself.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 Comments on The ARMSTRONG Lie and the RUMSFELD Lies - Venice Film Festival, last added: 9/4/2013
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14. PHILOMENA - A Fabulous Surprise

Judi Dench & Steve Coogan in PHILOMENA
(Venice, Italy) There are few things more delightful than watching a film with no expectations, and slowly realizing that you are witnessing a cinematic triumph. When a theater full of jaded journalists weep together, laugh together, applaud together; when an entire theater shares a deeply moving human experience, you know you've got a hit.

PHILOMENA is the real name of a real Irishwoman, Philomena Lee (played to perfection by Judi Dench), an unwed mother whose son, Antony, was sold by Catholic nuns to wealthy Americans back in the 1950s, a secret she kept from even her own daughter until what would have been Antony's 50th birthday. It is the story of Philomena's quest to find Antony with the help of real-life journalist, Martin Sixsmith, played by Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

From Indiewire:

If you were seeking a guaranteed recipe for box-office success, casting Judi Dench as a sweet little old Irish lady trying to track down the son she was forced into giving up for adoption decades earlier sounds like the winning ingredient. Add in Steve Coogan as an acerbic British journalist enlisted in her search, helping to steer the story away from the swamp of sentiment, and the fact that it's based on a true story, and you have Stephen Frears' triumphant, warm-hearted crowd-pleaser "Philomena". The Weinstein Company will undoubtedly feel they have a potential hit on their hands with the emotive, funny "Philomena", and Coogan, Frears and, in particular, Dench all look destined for oodles of awards-season love.

Judi Dench & Steve Coogan
What a bunch of wise old pros. Could the Brits actually be waking up, ready to take the lead? Stephen Frears, the director, Judi Dench, the actress, Steve Coogan, the actor and co-writer, and Jeff Pope, co-writer, were all here in Venice. Judi Dench had met Philomena, who is now 80-years-old, several times and said they shared a similar sense of humor -- which is important because what really makes the movie work is Philomena's amusing observations of life. Wondering what her son might look like now, she says: "What if he's obese? A lot of Americans are."

From The Guardian:

As for Dench, she's purely wonderful. Surely nobody else could have taken Philomena's rambling pre莽is of a romantic novel and turned it into such a masterpiece of comic timing - a spluttering, absurdist pastoral that's all the more impressive for being delivered at speed while travelling backwards through the airport aboard an electric cart.

Throughout the press conference, Stephen Frears expressed his desire that the Pope see the film. "He seems rather a good bloke, the Pope."

Pope Francis' Twitter Selfie
PHILOMENA. Coming soon to a theater near you.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 Comments on PHILOMENA - A Fabulous Surprise, last added: 9/4/2013
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15. Yes, I Saw THE CANYONS - Lindsay Lohan No Show

Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons
(Venice, Italy) Lindsay Lohan didn't show up for the press conference of The Canyons, which was a disappointment because she was the best thing in the film. At the opening of the press conference, Paul Schrader declared: "Today I am a free man. For the last 16 months I've been hostage, by own choosing, to a very talented but unpredictable actress. She was supposed to be here today, she said she would be, but she is not."

To me, from the audience point of view, what was wrong with The Canyons was not Lindsay Lohan, but the rest of the cast, James Deen in particular -- not to mention the script. I once saw a tee-shirt that I loved: A D.J. IS NOT A ROCK STAR. Well, a porn star is not a movie star, either. James Deen seems to be a nice enough guy, but he can't hold the screen. Brett Easton Ellis took the credit for the casting, saying that he insisted that James Deen get the lead, which is also what the film is about -- an actor who gets the lead in a low-budget film at someone's insistence. 

Schrader said that he and Ellis were "not on the same page, but we're in the same book." AMERICAN GIGOLO meets LESS THAN ZERO, they are a generation apart. Ellis said he wrote the script specifically for Schrader and that it was a "cold, dead film about cold, dead people," which might not float everyone's boat, but "we are fascinated by that." He sounded a bit peeved that critics these days demand a more humanistic view of the world.

(Personally, I find cold, dead people utterly boring. I much prefer warm, living people who are creative, not destructive. All you have to do to break a glass is drop it. To create a glass requires a hell of a lot more work.)

James Deen was almost sweet in his naivete about Hollywood: "People have issues with honesty. They have a different form of thinking. Not everybody is Brett and Paul. There are a lot of horrible people."

Lindsay Lohan & James Deen

The Canyons really is not as bad as everyone is making it out to be. The budget was $150,000-$200,000, and it shows. It was set in Los Angeles, and it is always fun to watch my old town in the movies, seeing what has changed, and what remains the same. 

The sex scene was not pornographic; in fact, I thought it was one of the best scenes in the movie. During a foursome, Tara, (Lohan) deftly conquers the power from Christian (Deen). She, not he, takes over the orchestration of the scene, much to the bewilderment of Christian, who usually gets off on being in control. His loss of power was one of the few genuine reactions by Deen, who seemed right at home among the naked writhing bodies -- it was his comfort zone, and he came alive. For a brief moment, you could glimpse what Brett Easton Ellis saw -- but for only a fleeting moment. 
James Deen

From The Guardian:

Would it be redundant to mention that the acting is awful? These people are unconvincing as people, and that may well be the point. Ellis's dialogue is so stilted and overwritten that it reduces the performers to gabbling wrecks, rushing headlong at their lines with an air of wild-eyed desperation. All of which is of a piece, but that doesn't make it good. Near the end of the film, sleazy Christian takes a drive into town for a meeting with the director Gus Van Sant, who apparently moonlights as a sensitive shrink. The two men sit inside a quiet, book-lined study as Christian outlines his various issues. "We're all actors, aren't we?" he asks the director. But Van Sant won't be drawn. He responds with a frown and his silence speaks volumes.

Meanwhile, Lohan's people have issued statements that 鈥淪aturday Night Live has approached Lindsay to host the show again, and they were talking about the season opener,鈥漚nd 鈥淟indsay is doing really, really well. She is going to business meetings and she鈥檚 been on time for every single one of them. This is the best I鈥檝e seen her in years.鈥

What a crew. 

Brett Easton Ellis, James Deen, Paul Schrader, Tenille Houston (not Lohan)
Like the sad foursome in the film, Lohan, Schrader, Ellis and Deen hit rock bottom together in The Canyons, a mechanical group orgy without hope or soul. Hopefully, their individual talents are strong enough to allow them to find genuine passion once again.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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Sandra Bullock & George Clooney on Red Carpet - Venice Film Festival
 (Venice, Italy) [UPDATED 8-30-13] Prediction: GRAVITY will be a blockbuster.

Seriously. I have not been on a roller coaster ride like that for years. Visually, the film is mind-blowing. See it in 3D, or even better, in IMAX, and you will be in outer space. There are a couple of scenes when the dialogue is a little too on-the-nose, but that's a minor quibble. From Variety:

As scripted by [Alfonso] Cuaron and his son Jonas, this tale of one woman鈥檚 grim expedition into the unknown is a nerve-shredding suspenser, a daring study in extreme isolation, and one of the most sophisticated and enveloping visions of space travel yet realized onscreen. It falls among that increasingly rare breed of popular entertainments capable of prompting genuine 鈥淗ow did they do that?鈥 reactions from even the most jaded viewers, even as its central premise is so simple and immediately gripping that one might just as readily ask, 鈥淲hy didn鈥檛 anyone do it sooner?鈥

Heyman, Bullock, A. Cuaron, Clooney, J. Cuaron  Photo: La Biennale
The core team was here in Venice: The stars, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock; the director, Alfonso Cuaron, and his son, Jonas, who share writing credit, and the producer, David Heyman, who produced all eight HARRY POTTER films.

During the press conference, Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron spoke about the script. Jonas had written it  years ago; then the financial crisis hit, and the film fell apart. He wanted to place two characters in a hostile environment in order to overcome adversities. And there is no better metaphor for adversity than floating, untethered, through space. What defines us is the after-effect that adversity has on us. How do we handle adversity? He wanted a stripped-down narrative and to rely on the development of the characters so that it would not only be a movie that grabbed you on the edge of your seat for 90 minutes, but at the same time juggle with something bigger.

GRAVITY is inspired by the Kesler Syndrome. From Wikipedia:

The Kessler syndrome, proposed by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade 鈥 each collision generating space debris which increases the likelihood of further collisions. One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space exploration, and even the use of satellites, infeasible for many generations.

In other words, there is so much stuff floating around up there -- satellites, telescopes, space stations and whatnot -- that if something goes wrong with one object, the whole thing could go down.

Bullock and Clooney both looked great, especially super-toned Bullock, who is 49-years-old (and is a Leo, born one day before and a few years after me:). They were asked if they did special training.

CLOONEY: Sandy had a trainer. I drank my way through.

Photo: La Biennale
 BULLOCK: (Joking) I drank my way through, too.

When I heard the words "wire systems," I knew I needed a lot of training. I wanted my character to look a certain way... not "androgynous," but to remove the feminine, maternal aspects. I wanted my body to be a machine. It was a lot of training, but it was worth it. I'm not great at anything, but I'm good at lots of little things, and this role allowed me to use those things. I was a dancer, and a gymnast, and my parents were opera singers. The soundtrack helped me get the emotions.

 Someone said they wanted to ask Clooney two questions:

QUESTION #1 - Why did you make this movie?

CLOONEY: I liked the character. If you're lucky enough in this business to get to make choices, then it comes down to three things: the script, the director, and the other actors. You can't make a good film out of bad script, but you can make a bad film out of a good script. I have a lot of respect for Alfonso, and I have been friends with Sandy for many years.

QUESTION #2 - Do you think Barack Obama should send troops to Syria?

CLOONEY: And here I thought the second question would be what I thought about Ben Affleck playing Batman!

Needless to say, Clooney did not answer the second question.

Bullock said that she had the opportunity to speak with the astronauts on the International Space Station, and that the cell phone signal works great to space. She said she was most impressed with the reason they are up there: because they care deeply about life, and our life.

Someone said that they had heard that George Clooney had gotten a satellite, and now that he was here in person, he wanted to know if it was true or just gossip.

CLOONEY: Yes, I have one, and I am watching you.

I have a satellite to keep an eye on the atrocities in Sudan and South Sudan. And it seems to be working. Now they only do things at night or under cloud cover. Next, it will be infrared. Whatever it takes. ...And we are watching you.

Paolo Baratta, Pres. of La Biennale, Sandra Bullock, Giorgione Orsoni, Mayor of Venice, Alberto Barbera, Dir. of Cinema
 More reviews:

The Guardian:

The Venice film festival lands on its feet with a brilliant opening night thriller which sees Sandra Bullock and George Clooney flailing in space and director Alfonso Cuar贸n masterfully steering the ship

The Hollywood Reporter:

At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise. Not at all a science fiction film in the conventional sense, Alfonso Cuaron's first feature in seven years has no aliens, space ship battles or dystopian societies, just the intimate spectacle of a man and a woman trying to cope in the most hostile possible environment across a very tight 90 minutes. World premiered at the Venice Film Festival, with Telluride showings following quickly on its heels, this Warner Bros. release is smart but not arty, dramatically straightforward but so dazzlingly told as to make it a benchmark in its field. Graced by exemplary 3D work and bound to look great in IMAX, the film seems set to soar commercially around the world. 

The Independent

A decade after collaborating on Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (2003), Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and British producer David Heyman have combined forces again on Gravity, a 3D survival thriller set in deepest, darkest space. The new film (which opens the Venice Film Festival) is a visual triumph even if its storytelling is less than sure-footed.

GRAVITY opens on October 4, 2013, and will be released in 3D, 2D and IMAX, and is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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17. Up, Up and Away! There Goes Mary... August 15, 2013

Santa Maria Assunta (Interior) - Torcello
(Venice, Italy) It seems that every year August 15th is a glorious day here in Venice, both in terms of the weather and in spirit. Yesterday the temperature dropped, and we had strong winds and rain, as if the heavens themselves were sweeping the earth fresh and new for today, Assumption Day, the day that Mary Went Up to Heaven. Today it is sunny and warm, but not too hot, with plenty of pleasant, polite people, but not too crowded. Today Venice is just right.

If you are a long-time reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know I have written about this day several times before.

Tower of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta as seen from Venice lagoon
Here is an excerpt from 2011, a year I wrote an extremely long post:

"The influence of the divine female energy upon Italy -- Venice in particular -- cannot be underestimated. Before Venice came into power, another island in the lagoon, the island of Torcello, was settled first. 

After the fall of the western Roman Empire, a wondrous city grew up on Torcello, which was a distant outpost of the Byzantine Empire, trading with Constantinople. One of the most important things to know about Venice is that it did not exist when the empire was based in Rome. It came into existence when the Roman empire was based in Constantinople and called the Byzantium Empire. We can imagine that some clever, enlightened people, free from the direct rule of an empire, built up Torcello before the emperor in Constantinople figured out what was going on. About the same time, the story goes, authorities from Padua founded Venice proper at Rialto on Friday, March 25, 421 at twelve-o'clock noon. Eventually these islands in the Venetian lagoon would become what we now know as Venice. 

Torcello - Santa Maria Assunta
There are all sorts of stories and myths about how Venice was created. I like to believe that she -- because everyone agrees that Venice is female -- was born from divine female energy, just as a divine Mary gave birth to the Son of God. To this day on the island of Torcello, there is a church called the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Cathedral of the Assumption of St. Mary that was first founded in 639. Instead of Christ over the altar, we have Mary. 

The late Pope John Paul came from Venice and startled the world when he proclaimed that 'He (God) is our father; even more, he is our mother.' This celebration of divine female energy is something else that sets the European culture apart."

To read the entire post, click here:

The Assumption of Mary - The Divine Female

Today was a true La Serenissima day. Happy Ferragosto!

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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18. American Films at the Venice Film Festival 2013

(Venice, Italy) The Academy Award-winning director, William Friedkin, best known for directing The French Connection and The Exorcist, will be honored with Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 70th Venice International Film Festival. Friedkin said that The Sorcerer (1977) was his favorite film, and believes that it didn't do as well as it should have at the box office because it was competing against Star Wars. Well, soon we will get the chance to see it here at the Venice Film Festival because it's getting another breath of life 36 years later.

Many people have asked about the screening schedule for the public for the 70th Venice International Film Festival. It is now up on the La Biennale website.

Every so often my German-American brain tries to organize things in a different way than the byzantine method used here in Venice. So, in addition to the previous post in which I listed all the American films competing in the festival, I am now going to list the additional American films showing at the festival, by category. It was quite a project, and I hope I got them all. If any film catches your eye, go to the La Biennale website and flip through the screening schedule until you find the day it is playing. If the film was a joint US production together with another country, I listed it, as did with the previous post about the films in competition that you can read here:

 OUTERSPACE EXPLOSION! What's Playing on the Lido - 70th Venice Film Festival 2013

Important works by directors already established in previous editions of the Festival

Usa, 91'
George Clooney, Sandra Bullock

Italy, Usa, 80'
Gail Zappa, Moon Zappa, Diva Zappa, Dweezil Zappa, Mathilda Doucette, Megan Zappa, Massimo Bassoli, Steve Vai, Tanino Liberatore, Thomas Nordegg
The docu is dedicated to Frank Zappa and his concert at the Stadio della Favorita in Palermo in July of 82, which was interrupted after only twenty minutes due to clashes between the police and the public.

Usa, 122'
Lance Armstrong

From the NY Times: "Sony Pictures Classics said in a news release that Mr. Gibney spent four years following Mr. Armstrong, starting in 2009,  as he returned from retirement and unsuccessfully pursued another Tour de France title. 鈥淯nexpectedly,鈥 the release said, 鈥淕ibney was also there in 2012 when Armstrong admitted to doping, following a federal criminal investigation, public accusations of doping by his ex-teammates and an investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.鈥 The film project that 鈥渂egan as the chronicle of a comeback became an examination into the anatomy of a lie.鈥"

Usa, 4'

We can only imagine what this short short is about:)

Usa, 99'
Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk, Gus Van Sant 

Now we will see what all the fuss is about. From The Guardian: Bret Easton Ellis has told The Hollywood Reporter he was left "confused" by the level of hatred unleashed by critics of The Canyons, the Lindsay Lohan-starring "modern day film noir" he wrote for director Paul Schrader. Schrader's film, which also features porn star James Deen in a leading role, was turned down by both Sundance and SXSW film festivals and widely rubbished by reviewers upon its eventual low-key release in one New York cinema and via on-demand.

Usa, 244'

The acclaimed documentary filmmaker is still going strong at age 83. This time his eye is on the Berkeley Campus.

 The new trends in world cinema

USA, 98'
Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, James Franco, Val Kilmer, Keegan Allen, Nat Wolff, Colleen Camp 

Granddaughter of Francis Ford and niece of Sofia, Gia Coppola gives it a shot.

USA, 7'
Orto Ignatiussen, Lajla Lange, Maligiaq Fredeik, Lange Siegstad, Sandra Bullock (voice) 

USA, Italy, 98'
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Br铆an F. O'Byrne  

USA, 95'
Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones 

From The Horror Society: From acclaimed writer/director Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) and horror master Eli Roth, The Sacrament follows two Vice media correspondents as they set out to document their friend鈥檚 search to find his missing sister. They travel outside of the United States to an undisclosed location where they are welcomed into the world of 鈥淓den Parish,鈥 a self-sustained rural utopia with nearly 200 members. At the center of this small, religious, socialist community is a mysterious leader known only as 鈥淔ather.鈥 As their friend reunites with his sister, it becomes apparent to the newcomers that this paradise may not be as it seems.

 A selection of restored classic films and documentaries on cinema

Belgium, Usa, 65' 

From Criterion: "Under Chantal Akerman鈥檚 watchful eye, a cheap Manhattan hotel glows with mystery and unexpected beauty, its corridors, elevators, rooms, windows, and occasional occupants framed like Edward Hopper tableaux."

Usa, 75'
Richard Brewster, Winifred Cushing, Jay Williams 

Little Fugitive won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1953.
From Wikipedia: "Little Fugitive is a 1953 film written and directed by Raymond Abrashkin (as "Ray Ashley"), Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, that tells the story of a child alone in Coney Island. It stars Richie Andrusco in the title role, and Richard Brewster as his brother Lennie. Little Fugitive influenced the French New Wave and is considered by modern day critics to be a landmark film because of its naturalistic style and groundbreaking use of nonprofessional actors in lead roles. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story and screened at Venice film festival where it was awarded with the silver lion. In 1997, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"."

Usa, 97'
Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature

From Wikipedia: "My Darling Clementine is a 1946 Western movie directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp during the Gunfight at the OK Corral. The ensemble cast also features Linda Darnell, Victor Mature, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt and Ward Bond."

Usa, 121'
Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal

From Wikipedia: "The director William Friedkin considers Sorcerer his favourite, most personal and the most difficult film he has ever made. He thought at the time that it would become his legacy. After a lengthy lawsuit filed against Paramount and Universal Studios, Friedkin is supervising a digital restoration of Sorcerer, with the new print set to be premiered at the 70th Venice International Film Festival on August 29, 2013 (Friedkin's birthday, coincidentally). Home video releases are also in the works."

Usa, 80'

I was perplexed as to why this 2013 documentary that Samantha Fuller made to honor her filmmaker father, Sam Fuller, is listed under "classics;" perhaps it's because the clips are from Sam Fuller's flicks? 

From IMDb: Friends and admirers of iconoclastic film director Sam Fuller read from his memoirs in this unconventional documentary directed by Fuller's only child, Samantha.

Usa, 59'
Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong

Ah, they don't make 'em like they used to. From IMDb: "An insane hunter arranges for a ship to be wrecked on an island where he can indulge in some sort of hunting and killing of the passengers."

Usa, 120'
Chet Baker, Carol Baker, Vera Baker 
From Wikipedia: "A group of Baker fans, ranging from ex-associates to ex-wives and children, talk about the man. Weber鈥檚 film traces the man鈥檚 career from the 1950s, playing with jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, and Russ Freeman, to the 1980s, when his heroin addiction and domestic indifference kept him in Europe. By juxtaposing these two decades, Weber presents a sharp contrast between the younger, handsome Baker 鈥 the statuesque idol who resembled a mix of James Dean and Jack Kerouac 鈥 to what he became, 鈥渁 seamy looking drugstore cowboy-cum-derelict,鈥 as J. Hoberman put it in his Village Voice review."

Usa, 30'

Usa, 94'
John Derek, Elaine Stewart, Amanda Blake

Trivia from Wikipedia: "Playboy Playmates and pin-up models were cast in the female roles. Amanda Blake, 1955-1974 "Miss Kitty Russell" on Gunsmoke. Paul Picerni, 1959-1963 "Federal Agent Lee Hobson" on The Untouchables."

The 70th Venice International Film Festival, organized by La Biennale di Venezia,and  directed by Alberto Barbera, will run on Venice Lido from 28th August to 7th September 2013.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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19. OUTERSPACE EXPLOSION! What's Playing on the Lido - 70th Venice Film Festival 2013

GRAVITY - Sandra Bullock & George Clooney
(Venice, Italy) Whenever George Clooney arrives in Venice his wattage lights up the entire town, which is why it's excellent news that Alfonso Cuaron鈥檚 long-awaited  Gravity will open the 70th edition of the Venice International Film Festival. Also starring another Hollywood-great, Sandra Bullock, the human stars are adrift amongst the celestial stars after a space explosion -- in 3D! Could there be a more awesome film to kick off the festival?!

The entire Venice Film Festival line-up was announced last week in Rome, the USA showing a strong presence with 18 feature films in the official selection, seven in competition. If you are a long-time reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know that I love Hollywood (after having lived there for many years), and am an unabashed flag-waving American patriot when it comes to American films on the Lido. In addition, I think George Clooney is a very wise man, in addition to being gorgeous, charming and witty, so I am very much looking forward to this year's festival.

I've read different numbers about how many US films are in competition, and the discrepancy seems to be if you include Terry Gilliam's The Zero Theorem and Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin, which are joint UK, USA productions. I say, let's include 'em because those are two very cool Brits. Terry Gilliam has always been one of my favorites, and the plot of The Zero Theorem sounds right up his alley. Whenever life becomes too ridiculous, we must be thankful that Terry Gilliam is still on the planet to set things straight. From Wikipedia:

Qohen Leth is an eccentric and reclusive computer genius who lives in an Orwellian corporate world and suffers from existential angst. Under the instruction of a shadowy figure known only as "Management", Qohen works to solve the "Zero Theorem" 鈥 a mathematical formula which will finally determine whether life has any meaning. Qohen's work in the burnt-out chapel that serves as his home is interrupted by visits from Bainsley, a seductive woman, and Bob, the teenage son of Management.

Under the Skin directed by Jonathan Glazer is based on the sci-fi novel by Michael Faber where human beings are an extraterrestrial delicacy. Yum! Scarlet Johansson stars. From Wikipedia:

The protagonist is Isserley, an extraterrestrial sent to Earth by a rich corporation on her planet to pick up unwary hitchhikers. She drugs them and delivers them to her compatriots, who mutilate and fatten her victims so that they can be turned into meat鈥攈uman ("vodsel") flesh is a delicacy on the aliens' barren homeworld. The novel is darkly satirical. It touches on political themes around big business, intensive farming, and environmental decay; and reflects on more personal questions of sexual identity, humanity, snobbery, and mercy.

 The five USA films are:

1. Child of God directed by James Franco, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy:

Set in mountainous Sevier County, Tennessee, in the 1960s, Child of God tells the story of Lester Ballard, a dispossessed, violent man whom the narrator describes as "a child of God much like yourself perhaps." Ballard's life is a disastrous attempt to exist outside the social order. Successively deprived of parents and homes and with few other ties, Ballard descends literally and figuratively to the level of a cave dweller as he falls deeper into crime and degradation.

2. Joe, directed by David Gordon Green and starring Nicolas Cage, based on the novel by Larry Brown. From the Hollywood Reporter:

Joe tells the story of an ex-con who becomes the unlikeliest of role models to 15-year-old Gary Jones, the oldest child of a homeless family ruled by a drunk, worthless father. Together they try to find a path to redemption and the hope for a better life in the rugged, dirty world of small town Mississippi.

3. Parkland directed by Peter Landesman. From Wikipedia:

Parkland is an upcoming drama film directed by Peter Landesman, and produced by Guy East, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Nigel Sinclair. It will star Zac Efron, Tom Welling, James Badge Dale, Paul Giamatti, Jacki Weaver, Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden and Bitsie Tulloch. It will follow the events that occurred at Parkland Memorial Hospital after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. It is scheduled to be shown in the main competition section of the 70th Venice International Film Festival and at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

4. The Unknown Known, directed by Academy-Award winner Errol Morris, a documentary about Donald Rumsfeld.

The Unknown Known (also known as The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld) is an upcoming American documentary film directed by Errol Morris. It has been selected to be screened in the main competition section at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.

5. Night Moves by Kelly Reichardt. From Wikipedia:

Deadline.com described the film as about "three radical environmentalists who come together to execute the most spectacular direct action event of their lives: the explosion of a hydroelectric dam.

Sounds like an intriguing bunch of entries from the States, especially because the President of this year's jury is the world famous Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci, who directed one of my favorite films of all times, Last Tango in Paris.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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20. Fireworks in Venice - Redentore 2013

Redentore - Photo - Il Gazzettino
(Venice, Italy) Today is the third Sunday in July, which can only mean one thing: the Festa del Redentore, or the Feast of the Redeemer, when Venice celebrates its redemption from the plague. The celebration has been going on for 436 years, starting back in 1577.

In terms of history, Venice was going through some intense times. In August 1571, they lost their wealthy colony, Famagusta, on Cyprus to the Ottoman Turks, who brutally tortured and flayed alive Marcantonio Bragadin, the Venetian Captain of the Kingdom of Cyprus -- today his skin is here in Venice in the Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. This sparked the famous Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571 when Pope Pius V sent the Holy League to rescue the Venetian colony from the Turks. The Christians won, preventing the Ottoman Empire from expanding further along the European side of the Mediterranean, but Venice did lose Cyprus. 

Church of the Redentore
Then between 1575 and 1577, Venice was ravaged by the plague, which wiped out nearly 50,000 people, almost a third of the population. The Venetians became convinced it was divine punishment for their sins. Desperate, powerless to stop it, in the midst of the desolation, on September 4, 1576, the Venetian Senate voted to ask the Redeemer, or the Redentore, for help, vowing to build a magnificent temple in thanksgiving. They commissioned the great architect, Andrea Palladio, to design the church, and on May 3, 1577 the Patriarch of Venice laid the cornerstone. And it worked! Just two months later, on July 13, 1577, the plague was declared officially over. After it was consecrated in 1592, the Church of Redentore was placed in the charge of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Every year the Doge, the Patriarch and the Senate walked across a pontoon bridge to attend Mass on the third Sunday in July, grateful for all the good they had received.

Hello Venezia
Now, 436 years later, the same celebration continues. Venice continues to sin, and needs yearly redemption as much as ever. Venice no longer has a Doge and a Senate, but we have a mayor, and the Patriarch and the Capuchins are still around. The evening before the third Sunday in July, the Venetians throw an enormous party, with people from all over the Veneto arriving in their boats to watch a stupendous fireworks display. The fondamenta on the Giudecca is lined with tables heaped with traditional food. Terraces and balconies are filled with revelers; Piazzo San Marco is jammed with tourists to watch the show.

This year, according to Il Gazzettino, the local paper, more than 120,000 people viewed the fireworks in more than 2,000 boats, which, in addition to the typical Venetian boats, included "speed boats, yachts and super-yachts" prompting Mayor Giorgio Orsoni to declare that "false friends" of Venice would have the world believe that Venice was dying, when, in fact, the city was alive and enthusiastic.

Hello Venezia
Venice has been through many tough times throughout history, but somehow manages to keep on keeping on. Just that Venice exists is impossible, a city with streets of water, a labyrinth to be navigated, filled with heavenly architecture and precious art. More than four centuries ago, when human beings were powerless to stop it, the Redeemer saved the population from the deadly plague. In remembrance, the Festa del Redentore celebrates the ongoing life of Venice, and the Church of Redentore stands as an awesome monument of thanksgiving.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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21. EARTHQUAKE - Ai Weiwei in Venice

"Accusers" from Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. (2011-2013)
(Venice, Italy) Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist, was deeply affected by the Great Sichuan Earthquake that occurred on May 12, 2008, killing nearly 70,000 people. More than 5,000 of the dead were schoolchildren who died as a result of the shoddy construction of their classrooms -- part of China's economic boom. Back then, Ai Weiwei strongly criticized the Chinese government for not providing an official tally of the names and numbers of the dead schoolchildren, and set about gathering his own record.

This is from Art Asia Pacific Magazine way back in July/August 2009, detailing the censorship and harassment of Ai Weiwei and his mother -- in fact, the harassment of anyone who stuck their nose into the details of the earthquake:

Ai & the Dead Schoolchildren
The Chinese government rarely makes concessions to its citizens, especially when it involves allegations of governmental mismanagement and the actions of artist Ai Weiwei. However, the government鈥檚 unexpected announcement on May 5 that 5,335 students died in last year鈥檚 Sichuan earthquake appears to have been in response to efforts by Ai Weiwei and other Chinese activists to call the government into account for the deaths. This was the first official figure released in what has become a politically sensitive issue following accusations from parents that substandard construction caused the collapse of more than 7,000 classrooms in the region. ...

... Ai鈥檚 76-year-old mother recently became a target of police attention as well. On May 26, four plainclothes policemen entered her home in eastern Beijing and interrogated her about Ai鈥檚 residence near the airport. She then phoned her son, who was attending a reception at the American Embassy for United States congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. After receiving her call, Ai rushed home. When the officers in his mother鈥檚 house refused to present identification, Ai dialed the emergency number 110. Additional police officers soon arrived and all parties went to the local police station to file a report, a copy of which was never provided to the artist. ...

...On the morning of May 26, a post on Ai鈥檚 blog called for volunteers with engineering and technical expertise to aid in a 鈥渃onstruction standards investigation,鈥 a future Sichuan earthquake-related initiative. The post suggests that the privately conducted, state-sponsored investigations have been deeply flawed. Volunteers are asked to contact FAKE Design Studio to assist with their ongoing inquiry into the collapsed schools鈥 structural integrity.

Click to read the entire 2009 Art Asia Pacific Magazine article by Katherine Grube, which was written four years ago:  

Ai Weiwei Challenges China鈥檚 Government Over Earthquake

Ai Weiwei STRAIGHT (2008-2012)
Fast-forward to the Venice Biennale in 2013 where Ai Weiwei has two collateral events that together make up an installation entitled DISPOSITION (in addition to his BANG, the German contribution in the French Pavilion). One event is called STRAIGHT over at the new Zuecca Project Space on Giudecca close to the Zitelle vaporetto stop, and was directly inspired by the earthquake. Ai Weiwei and his team have straightened by hand 150 tons of crumpled, bent steel rebar that was recovered from the collapsed classrooms and brought it here to Venice. The space is filled with undulating rebar that once supported the classrooms. It is a moving memorial to the dead schoolchildren, made even more poignant when we remember that Ai Weiwei was arrested on April 2, 2011 at the Beijing airport as he was about to board a flight for Hong Kong. The labor continued while Ai Weiwei was incarcerated, the workers hammering out by hand every single rebar, straightening the twisted steel into something soulful. A video at the installation details the saga, including the citizen's investigation into the faulty construction.

Ai Weiwei STRAIGHT (2008-2012)
The second part of DISPOSITION is called S.A.C.R.E.D. and is at the Church of Sant' Antonin. The pews have been taken out of the church, replaced by six black, weighty two-and-a-half-ton iron boxes. Inside each box is a different scene of Ai's forced captivity after he was taken into custody on April 2, 2011 by the Chinese authorities. We, the viewers, stand on a step and peer inside the box, observing Ai Weiwei under surveillance. The six dioramas are:


S.A.C.R.E.D. by Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei was not here in Venice for his openings because the Chinese government has taken his passport away, so his 82-year-old mother, Gao Ying, came instead. (Perhaps the American Edward Snowden, who is also without a passport, should consider changing careers while he's at the airport in Russia -- he could create a magnificent art project inspired by his exile.) I thought how fortunate Ai Weiwei was to have a mother who supported him in his struggles against a corrupt government instead of a mother like my own, the soon-to-be-80-year-old Dorothy Wydock, who actively works with corrupt officials inside the United States government to destroy her own daughter.


Ai Weiwei's mother Gao Ying, turned up to the opening of his new exhibit in Venice, this morning. Gao, who's in her early eighties attended in lieu of her son who the Chinese authorities refuse to allow to travel. She has been one of her son's most vocal supporters and has accused officials of hounding her son, describing their approach as "creepy, crooked and evil".

Ai Weiwei's mother Gao Ying views her son's artwork S.A.C.R.E.D - photo by Marguerite Horner
One of the definitions of "disposition" is c (1) : transfer to the care or possession of another (2) : the power of such transferal. Speaking as someone who was not only without my US passport for nearly four years, who the United States government tried to illegally rendition right out of Italy, who was under surveillance, and who was forcibly hospitalized against my will, I found Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. deeply moving. It is as if certain people who work for the government -- no matter what nation, no matter what system  -- have lost their humanity and are fascinated to the point of obsession about the behavior of those who have maintained their ability to empathize. Hence, the constant surveillance, cyber and otherwise. Those who have lost their humanity observe real human beings like they are watching animals in a zoo.

In Ai Weiwei's case, there were two government workers who had him under constant observation, up close and personal, even in the toilet, even while he slept, for 81 days. What kind of people would perform such a job? Since I actually know several of the people involved in my own case, I can state that there is something seriously lacking in their core -- perhaps governments deliberately screen out people capable of compassion. Perhaps human beings like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning slip through the cracks because of their youth, high intelligence and cyber skills -- skills that require a soul, like artists -- skills the governments cannot imagine nor ever reproduce. 

"Doubt" from Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. (2011-2013)
According to the May 28, 2013 The Independent, Ai sneaked the art work out of China:

Dissident artist Ai Weiwei has secretly spent 18 months creating six sculptures of the 81 days he spent in detention in China for 鈥渢ax evasion鈥 in 2011 and has shipped them out of the country. The six works, entitled S.A.C.R.E.D, have gone on display at the Venice Biennale. Ai Weiwei has declined to say how he managed to sneak the artwork out of China. Six shoulder-high iron boxes went on display in the nave of Venice鈥檚 Church of Saint鈥橝ntonin today. Within each box is a viewing slit revealing scenes of the artist held in detention by Chinese officials.

"Entropy" (Sleep) from Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. (2011-2013)
Ai Weiwei spent 81 days in confinement, under constant observation by the Chinese government for "tax evasion." Bradley Manning spent 1,101 days in confinement, under constant observation by the United States government, and is now on trial, charged with 21 crimes, including aiding the enemy, espionage, stealing government property, and 鈥渨anton publication,鈥 which, according to the Daily Beast, "could leave the 25-year-old facing life plus 149 years in a military prison if convicted."  As I write this, Edward Snowden is still stuck at the airport in Moscow. (Now I understand why the US State Department's presence here in Venice is at the Marco Polo airport:) Is one government better or worse than the other? I will confess that I really believed that the United States was of a higher caliber, and that I am shocked, to this day, to know by direct, personal experience that we are not.

"Supper" from Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. (2011-2013)
 Former two-time Senator Gordon Humphrey recently voiced his support for Edward Snowden:
...Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out.
Gordon Humphrey
 "Growing arrogance." "Menacing nature."  Those are very strong words, and from my own personal experience with the US government, I completely concur. China also used a word that I liked: "sanctimonious."

China鈥檚 state newspaper, The People鈥檚 Daily, wrote: 鈥淭he United States has gone from a model of human rights to an eavesdropper on personal privacy, the manipulator of the centralized power over the international internet, and the mad invader of other countries鈥 networks.  . .  The world will remember Edward Snowden. It was his fearlessness that tore off Washington鈥檚 sanctimonious mask.鈥

"Ritual" from Ai Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D (2011-2013)

What the United States of America did to me, one of its own citizens, is an outrage. The actual individuals who broke the law are no better than common thugs. That they hide behind a "sanctimonious mask" in an attempt to disguise their criminal behavior thoroughly disgusts me. As I wrote in my September 5, 2012 letter to Kyle R. Scott, the U.S. Consul General in Milan, I expect nine million euros and apology to correct the situation. An excerpt:

"Because of my good character and hard work, I have earned access to people and venues denied to many foreigners. The United States of America should be honored to have an American such as myself represent our country abroad. Instead, you have attempted to assassinate my character, illegally rendition me back to the USA and have me institutionalized. You have stolen years from my life, not to mention the physical, emotional and mental damage that you intentionally inflicted. You have interfered in the lives of innocent civilians both here in Italy and in the USA. You have spent a fortune in time, energy and money trying to destroy me. It is an outrage. By such behavior, it is clear that your intentions here in Italy are far from honorable. The United States has no right to criticize one single country on this planet until you clean up this mess. Nine million euros and an apology is a bargain."

"Cleansing" from S.A.C.R.E.D. by Ai Weiwei (2011-2013)
A. Daniel Weygandt, the former US Consul General in Milan, once gave me a great compliment. He said,  "Cat, you'll never be a diplomatic, but you sure look good."

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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22. Venice Gets a New Theater - Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi

Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi - Photo Artribune
(Venice, Italy) Imagine walking along the street and seeing a door that you have never seen before. Imagine going through that door and finding yourself inside a fabulous, magical space. And then imagine that inside that space, behind another door, is a theater, and there is a haunting movie looping that you can watch for free.

Palazzo Grassi Teatrino
Thanks to Fran莽ois Pinault, the French billionaire and art collector, that fantasy is a reality. After thirty years of neglect, Teatrino, the theater next to Palazzo Grassi, has been spectacularly restored by Tadao Ando, the renowned self-taught Japanese architect. From Wikipedia:

"The simplicity of his architecture emphasizes the concept of sensation and physical experiences, mainly influenced by the Japanese culture. The religious term Zen, focuses on the concept of simplicity and concentrates on inner feeling rather than outward appearance. Zen influences vividly show in Ando鈥檚 work and became its distinguishing mark."

Palazzo Grassi Teatrino
The Teatrino does feel very Zen, and that's a great thing. The theater was once a Romantic garden, then an outdoor open theater, then a closed theater, then abandoned in 1983. Now it's an 225 seat auditorium that can be used for theatrical performances and screenings, and a foyer that can be used for parties and exhibitions. It reminded me of a mini Directors Guild Theater in Los Angeles, and I can imagine all sorts of very cool happenings taking place at Teatrino.

Palazzo Grassi Teatrino
So, what movie was looping when I arrived? Marilyn, a 23 minute piece by Philippe Parreno, which I found absolutely riveting. From the handout:

"Marilyn (2012) is a work focused on the idea of celebrating a dead person, of portraying a ghost. It is a fictitious evocation of Marilyn Monroe, the icon of popular culture, and is set in the suite of the Waldorf Astoria in New York, where the actress lived in the 1950s. The three algorithms that are used in biometrics to identify an individual, and which respectively correspond to the voice, the handwriting, and iris recognition, reproduce Marilyn's presence. The camera sees with her eyes, a computer reconstructs her voice to describe what the eyes see, and a robot writes with her calligraphy what the voice says. Through the use of a mathematical equation and robotics, the work produces a figure that is almost human -- in the words of the artist "an embodied image." Philippe Parreno has exceptionally agreed to present this work in a screening room, even though it is usually displayed in a proper exhibition space, in the conditions of appearing and disappearing that the work requires."

Photo - The Art Newspaper
When the camera dollies back at the end, showing you what is really going on behind the scenes, the effect is stunning. Parreno said he found it interesting that a little [mathematical] equation could recreate something resembling a human, something quasi-human.

If you are in Venice this week, you can see Marilyn tomorrow, and then again next Sunday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. On Wednesday and Friday The Sorks: A Concert for Creatures by Loris Gr茅aud is playing (22 minutes), and on Thursday and Saturday it's 1395 Days Without Red (43 minutes) by Anri Sala, the artist who represents France at this year's Biennale. The films close on Sunday, July 14th, but there will be more films, and jazz, and conferences and classical music at Teatrino -- Circuito Off, the Venice International Short Film Festival will take place there on August 28 through August 31, and that is an excellent venue for it. Click here to view the calendar.

Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi - FB
I love Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi. The building itself is a work of art.

Information: www.palazzograssi.it

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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23. A Vision in Crystal - Swarovski's PERSPECTIVES by John Pawson

Perspectives by John Pawson for Swarovski - Photo: Pedro Barrail
(Venice, Italy) Perhaps it's only natural that Swarovski, the world's leading crystal manufacturer, has an illuminated eye into the future. Inspired by one of the greatest architects of the past -- Andrea Palladio, who designed the 16th-century Church of San Giorgio Maggiore -- the largest Swarovski lens ever created  is at the center of Perspectives, a work of art by the minimalist architect John Pawson, running as a collateral event of the Biennale International Art Festival through November 24, 2013.

The installation is simply beautiful, one of the most beautiful man-made objects I have ever seen. The lens, a 40cm wide concave Swarovski crystal meniscus made from optical quality glass, is centered on top of a mirrored stainless-steel hemisphere that John Pawson himself says "almost looks like liquid mercury." Perspectives is positioned directly below the cupola, magnifying Palladio's concentric circles on the ceiling,  creating a dramatic optical experience.

The Swarovski Foundation Photo: Gilbert McCarragher
From Wikipedia:

The first church on the island was built about 790, and in 982, the island was given to the Benedictine order by the Doge Tribuno Memmo. The Benedictines founded a monastery there, but in 1223, all the buildings on the island were destroyed by an earthquake.

The church and monastery were rebuilt after the earthquake. The church, which had a nave with side chapels, was not in the same position as the present church, but farther back at the side of a small campo or square. There were cloisters in front of it, which were demolished in 1516. The monks were considering the rebuilding of the church from 1521.

Palladio arrived in Venice in 1560, when the refectory of the monastery was being rebuilt. He made great improvements to this and in 1565, was asked to prepare a model for a new church.
The model was completed and approved in 1566 and the foundation stone was laid in the presence of the Pope in the same year. The work was not finished before the death of Palladio in 1580, but the body of the church was complete by 1575, except for the choir behind the altar and the facade.
Perspectives by John Pawson for Swarovski Photo: Gilbert McCarragher
The newly-established Swarovski Foundation is another exciting example of how the world of fashion and luxury entwines nicely with the world of art and culture. Daniel Swarovski founded the company in 1895 in the magical alpine land of Wattens, Tyrol in Austria. Today, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the foundation is Nadja Swarovski, Daniel's great-great-grandaughter, a real dynamo.

From an April 25, 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal by Alexa Brazilian entitled A Day in the Life of Nadja Swarovski:

Photo: Louise Enh枚rning
LIKE THE PRECISION-CUT CRYSTAL her great-great grandfather developed in 1895鈥攗sed in everything from bird-watching binoculars to couture dresses鈥擭adja Swarovski is seemingly everywhere these days. In any given week you'll find her jetting from London, where she lives with her husband and three young children, to meetings in Beijing, Paris, Los Angeles, New York or her native Wattens, in Tyrol, Austria, where the company is headquartered. Standing just under 6 feet tall, with a physique that defies her 42 years, she speaks five languages and is impervious to jet lag. Go to the WSJ to continue reading.

The first project the foundation has decided to take on is the restoration of poor Saint George standing on the dome of the church, who's missing an arm, among other indignities caused by over-affectionate birds. The project is due to be completed on April 23, 2014, Saint George's Day.

Swarovski Perspectives
 From the Swarovski Foundation's website:

"Swarovski's visionary founder Daniel Swarovski, who established the business in Wattens, Austria, in 1895, demonstrated a strong humanitarian instinct, ensuring that his business cared for its people and the local community. Since then, five generations of the Swarovski family have reinforced Daniel Swarovski's commitment to charitable giving, both within the community and in the wider realms of the environment, health, arts and culture. The Swarovski Foundation has been created to build on this heritage and it will support charitable projects under three main pillars: Fostering Culture and Creativity, Promoting Well-being and Human Rights, and Conserving Natural Resources." 

Hooking up with minimalist architect John Pawson to achieve these goals was a brilliant idea. The crystal lens and its hemisphere are magnificent in its simplicity; the Japanese element of Pawson's background feels perfectly at home in the majestic Palladian church.

John Pawson was born in 1949 in Halifax, Yorkshire. After a period in the family textile business he left for Japan, spending several years teaching English at the business university of Nagoya.
Towards the end of his time there he moved to Tokyo, where he visited the studio of Japanese architect and designer Shiro Kuramata. Following his return to England, he enrolled at the Architecture Association in London, leaving to establish his own practice in 1981.

Please enjoy this short clip of John Pawson giving his perspective on Perspectives:

Perspectives is an excellent example of how a company can create a positive, nurturing relationship with the fragile Venetian infrastructure. All the players involved, from Swarovski, to Pawson, to the monks of San Giorgio, reflect the highest qualities of humanity. By such behavior, the Swarovski brand associates its name with harmony, elegance and respect, setting a shining example for all businesses who wish to operate in Venice and her lagoon. Viewing Palladio's ceiling through the Swarovski crystal lens of Perspectives is like having a glimpse into the world of angels.

Nadja Swarovski views the statue of San Giorgio
in collaboration with Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore
Perspectives is shown as a collateral even of the 55th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia until November 24, 2013

Monday 鈥 Saturday: 8.30am 鈥 6.30pm
Sunday: 8.30am 鈥 10.30am 12.30pm 鈥 6.30pm

Click for information on visiting Swarovski's Perspectives

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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24. Cat Bauer's Insider Picks - FACES MAGAZINE, Switzerland - June issue

(Venice, Italy) FACES Magazin, a very cool "highly reputed Swiss lifestyle magazine based in Zurich" does a topic every month called "Short Trip," where they present a different city from an insider's point of view. The month of June features Venice -- or Venedig, since the magazine is in German -- and the Venice insider is Cat Bauer, a name that also happens to be German:)

They sent over pdf files of the cover and the article, but I cannot figure out how to import them into the blog, and I can't read it anyway because it's in German. But, of course, I didn't write in German, I wrote in English, which FACES translated. The piece is also up on their website, and they've got some really great images. Here's the first paragraph:

Venedig ist romantisch, aber nicht kitschig, geheimnisvoll und mysteri枚s, eine Stadt voller Geister der Vergangenheit, die einem an jeder Ecke Geheimnisse ins Ohr fl眉stern, sofern man denn auch h枚ren mag. Zeit spielt hier keine Rolle, vom Wetter ganz zu schweigen 鈥 man ist hart im Nehmen, muss man wohl, in einer Stadt, die unaufh枚rlich sinkt. Hier genie脽t man das Leben, das Essen, die Kultur, schaut nicht nach vorn, sondern lebt den Moment. Cat Bauer wechselte vor 15 Jahren den Kontinent und zog aus den USA nach Italien. Von Venedig kam sie nicht mehr weg, deshalb verr盲t sie uns hier die Gr眉nde f眉rs Kommen und Bleiben.

Palazzina G

And here is what I wrote in English:

FACES 鈥 Short Trip

FACES 鈥淪hort Trip鈥 is a one page topic in FACES Magazine. Each month we present a city for a Short Trip. A local recommends his favorite/coolest places of the city.

1. Venice is ...
(2-3 phrases to characterize the city and what you like about it)

Venice is a city inhabited by ghosts of the past who still whisper secrets into the ears of those who know how to listen.

Venice is beautiful, magical and mysterious, an eternal temptress skilled in the art of seduction.

Venice is a town where the contemporary merges with the past, an ancient city that is young at heart.

2. What are the city鈥檚 best hotels?
Palazzina G - uber hip; designed by Philippe Starck; Johnny Depp stayed there when he was filming 鈥淭he Tourist.鈥
Ramo Grassi,
Sestriere San Marco 3247,
30124 Venezia
Tel. +39 041 5284644
Fax. +39 041 2410575

Gritti Palace
Gritti Palace Hotel - just got a 34 million euro facelift; where Ernest Hemingway stayed
Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, 2467 路 30124 Venice, Italy
路 Phone:
+39 041 794611
路 Fax:
+39 041 5200942
路 In Italy, call: +800-325-45454

Why Book with

Ostello Venezia - Venice Hostel - located on the Island of Giudecca, for the backpack crowd - Reopening in May after a fresh restoration
Fondamenta Zitelle 86
Isola della Giudecca
30133 Venezia
Tel. +39 342 5767349
Fax. +39 041 5235689

3. Which are your favorite restaurants? And what do you like to order?
(3-4 restaurants 鈥 can be different things, not only dinner 鈥 best breakfast, terrace, fast food, cafes, etc.)

A Beccafico
Campo Santo Stefano
San Marco 2801
+39 041 527 879
I love the fish at this restaurant. They always make me a dish of barely-cooked tuna with sesame seeds. I dine outside under the umbrellas in the square even if it鈥檚 raining.

Go for the all-you-can-eat buffet from 5:30 to 7:30 and grab a spritz or a prosecco. Hang out in the little square in front of the restaurant with an awesome view of the Grand Canal. Also some excellent local music throughout the night.  I order whatever the fresh fish is.

L鈥檕mbra del Leone
Ca' Giustinian, San Marco 1364/A
30124 Venice

The cafeteria at La Biennale headquarters inside Ca鈥 Giustinian is a great place to grab a lunch or have an evening drink. There鈥檚 outdoor seating right on the Grand Canal. 

Bar Rialto da Lollo
 Bar Rialto da Lollo
San Polo 57
(under the Sottoportici degli Oresi at the Rialto Bridge)
Tel: 041 520 0106
The best panini(sandwiches) in Venice are at this little bar. I go for the codfish and artichoke panino.

4. Best fashion shops
(Boutique, shoe store, secondhand, anything fashion.)

My favorite jewelry shop; imports from the East and local artisans:
Gems of Venice
Ruga Rialto
San Polo 1044
Tel: 041 522 5148

Hip clothes and handbags. Bright, vivid and colorful:
Arnoldo & Battois
Calle dei Fuseri 4271
San Marco
+39 348 3122559
Arnoldo & Battois
Campo San Maurizio 2671
San Marco
+39 348 4123797

Cool clothes and jewelry:
Dorsoduro, Rio Ter脿 Canal 3111
+39 041 5201731

5. Best non fashion shops?
(Some special stores 鈥 art, living, design, deco, baby stuff, anything cool and special)

My favorite local wine shop:
El Vin Del Paron
San Polo 59
(under the Sottoportici degli Oresi at the Rialto Bridge)
No phone
No website
No Facebook

My favorite place to buy a gift for your pet:
San Polo 826
Calle del Bo鈥
Tel: 041/5200889

My favorite designer eyeglasses; family owned and handmade:
Ottica Vascellari
Ruga Rialto 1030
S.Polo 30125 VENEZIA

6. Where are the best parties?

The best parties are inside private palaces. Try to score an invite during the Venice Biennale International Contemporary Art Festival, especially during the opening days. There are always great parties in all sorts of fascinating venues throughout the city. 


7. The ultimate Venice experience?
(A must do 鈥 something you can experience nowhere better)

There is no other place in the world where you can take a ride on a gondola, a sleek, silent ancient method of transportation. My favorite time to go is at sunset.

8. Which are the city鈥檚 best areas?
(for shopping, bars, day life, nightlife.)

There are a bunch of bars over at the foot of the Rialto Bridge on the San Polo side, and a huge open space where they converge in Campo San Giacometto, a nightly open-air party. My favorite bar is:

Muro Meeting Bar
Campo bella Vienna, Rialto
San Polo 222
+39 041 24 12 339

High fashion shopping on XXII Marzo. Day life is just wandering around and getting lost; buy 鈥淪ecret Venice鈥 by Thomas Jonglez and Paola Zoffoli and follow their instructions. At night, head over to Campo Santa Margherita where the university crowd hangs out.

9. What鈥檚 the latest Place to be鈥?
(What鈥檚 new and hip, the longest line outside, you can hardly get in?)

It might sound strange, but the longest line to get in is at Saint Mark鈥檚 Basilica, the main cathedral in Piazza San Marco. It鈥檚 always packed.

It depends on the band, but sometimes it鈥檚 hard to get into Paradiso Perduto:
Osteria 鈥淚l Paradiso Perduto鈥
Cannaregio, Fondamenta della Misericordia, 2540
30100 Venezia
e-mail: osteriaparadisoperduto@gmail.com
Per prenotazioni: tel. +39 041 720581

Your name: Cat Bauer
Your job: Writer
You love 鈥. Creativity, imagination and harmony
You hate 鈥. Lies, envy and jealousy

You鈥檙e originally from鈥 the United States
Have been living in Venice since鈥1998

When you would move away someday, then to鈥 Somewhere over the rainbow
What does Venice have that other cities don鈥檛? Streets made of water

Ciao from Venezia,

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25. Yoko Ono Dreams in Venice - June 10, 2013

Yoko Ono at Palazzo Badoer
(Venice, Italy) Yoko Ono turned 80-years-old on February 18, 2013, which makes her seven months older than my mother. Here is how Wikipedia describes Yoko:

Yoko Ono (born February 18, 1933) is a Japanese artist and peace activist, known for her work in avant-garde art, music and filmmaking and for her marriage to John Lennon (1969鈥1980). Ono brought feminism to the forefront in her music. She is also known for her philanthropic contributions to arts, peace and AIDS outreach programs. Lennon called her "the most famous unknown artist in the world."

If you ask me what one of Yoko's greatest contributions has been, it would be the influence she had on John Lennon with respect to women. By demanding that one of the most powerful, individualistic men on earth -- and a rock star, at that -- create an equal partnership with a individualistic Japanese woman, well, that was a rare occurrence at a time when wives her age were still ironing their husband's handkerchiefs and sending them off to win some bread. Yoko changed John Lennon's attitude towards women, and by doing that, helped to pioneer a new era in women's rights.

Photo: Rolling Stone - Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage
Yoko Ono attends the opening of a David Croland exhibit  
at Artworks Gallery in New York City  
on November 13th, 1973
Yoko spoke at Palazzo Badoer yesterday, June 10, 2013. The invitation says I was invited by Fondazione Bonnotto, Universit脿 Iuav di Venezia and Fuoribiennale to attend "a special lecture by Yoko Ono at 5pm, the opening of I'll be back at 6:30pm and A DREAM hour with Yoko Ono by Gianni Emilio Simonetti from 7pm." Yoko did, indeed, speak, and I did listen, so I will summarize what she said:

"Venice is a place that when I come here I always learn something. It's incredible. Incredible. You are standing in a difficult situation, in front of the sea. Maybe you enjoy the challenge. Maybe your ancestors enjoyed the challenge. I always get inspired when I come here. We have similar ways of working.

I allow people to work on my work. You allow the whole world to come here to participate. If you don't open yourself up you start to shrivel. People go to all the big countries. This is a very small island. The town is artistically perfect.

I would understand if you didn't let people come in here -- Don't touch! We want to preserve! -- You are trusting people not to destroy it. I do my art work in the same way. I do my project and call it unfinished, then ask people to add themselves to my work.

In the beginning, I was just a normal artist, wanting to protect my work. Then I thought, what if I ask people to add themselves to my work? Oh! I don't like that feeling! It was an artistic revolution, so I thought I must do it. 

My artwork is a form of giving. 

Yoko Ono at the 
Museum of Contemporary Art 
of the U of S茫o Paulo, 
Brazil in 2007
I am getting so many more people to add to it, it was getting so powerful. I never imaged it would be so powerful. 

There are so many things I am understanding now that I've turned eighty. Don't be frightened to add years to yourself. There are so many things you didn't know.

Word is how we express ourselves. Word is very powerful. When you say "I love you" to someone, you say "I love you" to the whole world.

When you say, "I hate you," things will shrivel up. 

When the whole world was hating me, sending me letters, I survived because I was in love with life. 

When I was a young girl in elementary school, I saw a picture of an old Japanese warrior praying to the New Moon -- in the West you pray to the Full Moon, but in the East we pray to the New Moon... The old warrior said, give me Seven Troubles and Eight Sufferings so I can be a strong person and help the world. I said, my God, he's so courageous, I want to be like him. Then I forgot about it.

As I got older, my life was full of troubles. When my husband, John, passed away, I thought: I'm doing something wrong. I thought I was doing everything right. Then I remembered what I asked when I was a young girl. I thought: I have to change. 

There is a word in Japanese that is in between lucky and happy. So I asked for Seven Lucky/Happy things and Eight Treasures. 

I thought maybe you could use that in your life, too. 

On behalf of all the foreign people, thank you for allowing us to show our work here. Your generosity is starting to make a dialogue, and it is a very healthy dialogue. So many countries are doing Biennales. But this was the first. It started here."

Someone then asked Yoko what her dream was.

"My dream is to have the world become better and better for all of us."

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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