VENICE – Our man on the Lido is risking life and limb to give you the goings on at the world’s oldest film festival. Be grateful dammit.

Jesus Christ, I’ve seen so many films. And they’re all without exception set in the theatre.

So first there was Birdman, washed up actor puts on a play while fighting his own delusional insanity. Then there was She’s Funny that Way which was exceptional in having Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson appear together for the first time in a comedy. And it was funny! And then there’ my old friend Barry Levinson’s The Humbling, a Philip Roth adaptation that sees Al Pacino as a a stage actor who’s going through what Birdman was going through but without the special effects.

Of course other countries make films as well, I’ve recently discovered, and they don’t give so much of a shit about the theatre. Thank God. Ulrich Seidl – Austria’s answer to Johnny Knoxville – was here with In The Basement which revealed what Austrians get up to in their basements, Joseph Fritzl aside. A number of grotesques are paraded before us for our amusement – neo-Nazis, sado-masochists and just saddos – and we get to see what the expression ‘blue balls’ really means. An Italian film Black Souls reminds us that in Italy you don’t only have the Comorra or the Mafia you also have the ‘Ndranghetta! But it’s an original take so if you get a chance and you don’t mind reading at the cinema knock yourself out.

There was also a film from somewhere called Croatia! You can’t make this up. Right Spritz is calling – it’s a soft drink much like ginger beer. Catch you later.


Blow winds and crack your cheeks

Arrested Development and Identity Thief ‘star’ Jason Bateman has signed on to Ulrich Siedl’s four hour King Lear. ‘It’ll be a change of pace for me, some might even say a stretch, but I’m a really big fan of Shakespeare and books generally,’ said the Juno actor. ‘I admire Ulrich’s work and I think it will be a good combination.’

Ulrich Seidl has just finished his Paradise trilogy, the final section of which Paradise: Hope is currently in competition at the Berlin Film Festival. Although well known in art house circles, for mainstream audiences he is less recognisable. The Austrian film maker has been described as ‘Michael Haneke with jokes’, but that description came from fellow Austrian Michael Haneke. Seidl said of his new project:

King Lear is the most depressing of Shakespeare’s tragedies and it is something that I’ve wanted to handle for a long time. Jason is a perfect choice for the role, because in Shakespeare’s play Lear is actually the fool of the piece and Jason is an excellent fool. 

Filming begins in August and Jason Bateman has already begun to grow his beard.