Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A World of Enchantment at T Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice

Grand Canal from the Rooftop Terrace of T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
(Venice, Italy)  A great deal of my life in Venice has been spent living on the Grand Canal right at the Rialto Bridge, so the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, at the foot of the bridge, has been a major part of my personal landscape. It was my post office, where I waited in line to buy stamps, mail packages and pay my bills. It was enjoyable because many of my neighbors had to wait in the same lines, so going to the post office was like a social event.

T Fondaco dei Tedeschi - Photo: DFS
The Fondaco dei Tedeschi was originally constructed in 1228 as the headquarters and restricted living quarters for the German merchants in Venice, which was then the center of the world's trade. It was destroyed by fire, rebuilt in 1505 and 1508, and functioned as a palace, warehouse and market. Then, under Napoleon, it transformed into a customs house, and morphed into a post office under Mussolini.

Rialto Bridge currently being restored by Renzo Rosso from water entrance of DFS
Just about 17 years ago, on October 1, 1999, I moved into my apartment at San Polo 622 with a balcony that overlooked the Grand Canal, and a full-frontal view of the Rialto Bridge. As time went on, and unregulated tourism became more rampant, I witnessed various forces battle for control of Rialto area.

Aerial view Fondaco dei Tedeschi - Photo: Archdaily
In 2008, the post office sold the Fondaco dei Tedeschi to the powerful Benetton family of Treviso, who hired Rem Koolhaas, the renowned Dutch architect, and his firm, OMA, to transform the beloved structure into a shopping and cultural center. The next player in the picture was the DFS Group, the Hong Kong luxury travel retailer, a subsidiary of LVMH, the French multinational luxury goods conglomerate, headquartered in Paris.

The reconstruction took place behind covered scaffolding, closed to the public. Venetians are always suspicious of change, and braced for the worse.

Thursday night Gala at T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
We have finally arrived in the year 2016. After a VIP bash on Thursday night, the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi once again opened to the public on Saturday, October 1st, and I am thrilled to report that it is teeming with excitement, magic and joy. The restoration of the structure itself is simply spectacular. When it was a post office, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi felt stark and Mussolini-like; now it feels bright and vibrant, like an elegant, exotic bazaar.

T Fondaco dei Tedeschi - Photo: Cat Bauer
Philippe Schaus, the Chairman & CEO of DFS was aware that they "were the guardian of something close to people's hearts," and took that responsibility seriously. According to The Moodie Davitt Report, Schaus said they had three major responsibilities:

1. To make sure that the architecture was consistent with its history.

2. To create something which adds value to Venice and elevates the profile of the city -- to add a dimension so people can stay in Venice longer, and don't need to go to Milan or Rome for shopping.

3. To bring a level of service to the building which that the customers of DFS have come to expect. They created 500 jobs, and had to decide how to fill them -- should they hire people away from other retailers, or train employees from scratch? 

Silva Shehata & Missoni scarves exclusive for the Fondaco
To me, the hiring was the most exciting element of the project -- DFS decided to recruit young people and give about half of them their very first job opportunity. According to the Nuova Venezia, over 400 people have been specially trained to work in the structure; half are in their first job; 80% have been given a permanent contract; and over 70% are women.

I spent several hours in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi on Saturday interviewing dozens of employees, and I have never met a group of people who were so excited and grateful for their jobs. It seemed like most nationalities, languages and skin colors were represented, from every continent in the world (maybe not Antarctica:-). Most of the employees I spoke to were from Venice or the Veneto. Even if they had been born in China, Brazil, India, Africa, Southern Italy or beyond, they had either stayed on after attending university here, or had arrived as children with their families.

The employees were professional, enthusiastic and courteous -- and remember, I was talking to them on their very first day on the job. A 25-year-old woman in the shoe department lowered her voice and said, "I want to tell you something. I have never had a job before in my life. We have created a entire world inside the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, filled with people from all over the globe. I see this not as just a job, but an opportunity for a career."

A tall, 23-year-old man, brimming with confidence, told me that he had been born in the Ospedale Civile, Venice's ancient hospital. This was not his first job, but it was the platform from which he wanted to launch the rest of his life. He said he wanted to be a manager, and, judging by his demeanor, he has a good chance of achieving his goal. Another young man told me that he was not sure, exactly, what he wanted to do with his life, but he was positive he wanted "to be in this world, the world of fashion."

Fiori from Venice & Giulia from Jesolo in cosmetics
What was personally rewarding was that I encountered people I know in everyday Venetian life, almost unrecognizable in their newly-styled look.

Up in cosmetics, a young Venetian woman smiled at me: "But I know you already. You go to my gym!"

Over men's fashions, a young Russian student told me, "But I know you already! From the library at the university."

As I was wafting through the perfume section, another young woman asked me if I wanted to try a scent.

"What is it?"

"The Merchant of Venice."

I paused, then grinned: "I know the owner of your company, Marco Vidal. You are in good hands. He is passionate about his product and about Venice."

Chinese-French DJ MIMI XU at opening gala T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
It was like a marvelous mini Venetian empire, filled with an international buzz, with a strong presence of the Far East. T Fondaco dei Tedeschi combines history, culture, luxury and local products under one roof, products that give back to the Venetian community. On the ground floor there are select wines and food, along with a splash of products created by local artisans and businesses.

For example, the Ceccato family has been around for four generations. The Venetian clothing brand, Emilio Ceccato, is the official supplier of gondoliers' uniforms, which you can buy yourselves -- that is a real Venetian souvenir. A percentage of each purchase goes directly into supporting the gondoliers of Venice, helping to keep the ancient profession alive. I was at the very first presentation of the official logo a couple years ago, and I was there when the gondoliers got their very first check, which I wrote about here:

News from Rialto - Gondoliers of Venice Go Global

Escalator at T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
Philippe Starck, the legendary French designer who lives on the Venetian island of Burano, together with Massimiliano Alajmo, the legendary 3-star Michelin chef, and his legendary brother and partner, Raffaele -- they are responsible for the current Ristorante Quadri in Piazza San Marco -- have created a café/restaurant called "Amo," which means "I love" in Italian. The café part of Amo will open on October 15, and the restaurant part sometime in the near future. 

TIP: As soon as you enter the Fondaco, stop at the front desk and ask if you need a ticket to visit the rooftop terrace with a spectacular panoramic view of Venice. Due to space and safety, only a limited number of people are allowed up on the terrace at one time. They are still experimenting with the best way to control the line, so be warned that there could be a wait at the top anywhere from five to thirty minutes, or you might get lucky and score a singular view of Venice.

Once on the top floor, you will enter a contemporary cultural venue and meeting place, which kicked off with "Under Water," a video installation by the Italian artist, Fabrizio Plessi, a familiar face around Venice.

Ancient well in former medieval courtyard
The biggest complaints I've heard is that the ancient well that was in the center of the Fondaco was moved off-center, and that the floor is too contemporary and slick. I've also read some negative comments on the Internet. All I can say is that after living in Venice for nearly two decades, where gossip is an artful weapon, the only way to draw a correct conclusion is to witness something with your own eyes and ears, and form your own opinion.

OMA, the architectural firm founded by Rem Koolhaas, has created a page on its website filled with a description of the project, articles about the gala opening, images from social media and more, so click over there if you would like more information.

Cat Bauer on rooftop terrace of T Fondaco dei Tedeschi gala
Cat Bauer on terrace of T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
To me, the T Fondaco dei Tedeschi has pumped fresh blood into Rialto, the heart of Venice itself, a zone that was in desperate need for a transfusion.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, September 26, 2016

For Those Who Read - Mind-blowing Chanel & Cini Exhibitions in Venice

Magic Ingredients that make a Book - Mindful Hands at Cini Foundation

(Venice, Italy) As an author, I am in awe of the written word. The mysterious way words pour out of one's mind and onto the page is, to me, a little miracle, originating from somewhere above. And then to have those words bound together to create a tangible book is like giving birth to an entire world. Contained between the covers of a book is a universe of possibilities.

Just as astonishing is the ability of human beings to read. The transformative act of reading books is like projecting private movies inside our minds, each one of us adding our own unique elements. We use our powerful imaginations to lift the words off the page and formulate new ideas, create characters and pull concepts out of the shadows. A book is a window into the cosmos.

Chanel - Ritz in Paris, 1937 - Photo: Jean Moral/Brigitte Moral
Fashion icon Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (August 19, 1883 - January 10, 1971) was a voracious reader, and The Woman Who Reads exhibition from Culture Chanel has whisked elements from her library in Paris here to the Ca' Pesaro palazzo, Venice's museum for modern art.

The Woman Who Reads - Chanel
Books became Gabrielle Chanel's best friends when she was dumped in a convent along with two sisters at the formative age of 12 by her father, an itinerant peddler, after her mother, a laundress, had died. The nuns at the orphanage taught her to sew, but when Gabrielle came of age she became a seamstress who moonlighted as a cafe entertainer, earning her nickname by singing a tune about a lost dog named "Coco." She was a hit with the aristocracy, who took her under their wing.

Chanel created many myths and legends about her past, so the details are foggy -- except for the details of her birth, which were recorded, so we do know that she was a Leo with a Capricorn ascendant and a Pisces moon. If you want more juicy details about how a poor orphan morphed into a wealthy fashion icon, here is an excerpt from "The Secret Life of Coco Chanel" by Justine Picardie, published by The Telegraph back in 2010.

The Woman Who Reads - Chanel
Throughout her life, Chanel palled around with a Who's Who of artists, writers and musicians, and had affairs with prominent men, but her greatest love was Boy Chapel, who introduced her to Eastern philosophy and helped get Chanel's business off the ground. A philanderer who ended up marrying an aristocrat while maintaining his affair with Chanel, Boy Chapel crashed his car and died on December 21, 1919. Chanel was devastated, and proclaimed: "Either I die as well or finish what we started." The exhibition hints that the relationship continued beyond the grave.
The Woman Who Reads - Chanel
"In her apartment at 31 rue Cambon, the book shelves square up to the Coromandel lacquer panels. The comforting presence of the writings would accompany her and inspire the construction of her own pieces.
From the solitude of her years in the orphanage of Aubazine until the end of her life, books and their authors guided Gabrielle Chanel’s path. They nourished her imagination and responded to her mystical quest for the invisible, and showed her how, over time, her own view of the world might be set in place.
This dialogue through the ages, from antiquity to her contemporaries, is underlined in particular by the works of Homer, Plato, Virgil, Sophocles, Lucretius, Dante, Montaigne, Cervantes, Madame de Sévigné, Stéphane Mallarmé, and resonates with the writers she knew and admired like Pierre Reverdy, Max Jacob and Jean Cocteau. This diversity allowed her to find in her own vocabulary - that of fashion - a modernity that defied its own temporality and projected itself far beyond it.
In Venice, one of Gabrielle Chanel’s main sources of inspiration, the public will discover these works for the very first time."

The Woman Who Reads - Chanel
Filled with Chanel's fashions, books, handwritten notes, statues, designs, paintings by the likes of Picasso and much, much more, The Woman Who Reads is like visiting the inside of Gabrielle Chanel's mind, and brings new depth to the woman who "wrote with fabric." Chanel No. 5 morphs from perfume to magic potion; the little black dress is a foundation no woman should be without.

Chanel carried a handwritten note inside her wallet, an excerpt from "The Sentimental Initiation” by Joséphin Péladan:

The life we lead always amounts to so little, the life we dream of, that's the great existence because it will continue beyond death.
The Woman Who Reads (La Donna Che Legge) will run through January 8, 2017. You will be lost without the catalogue, so bring your reading glasses for the tiny script, and definitely get the headset (included in the ticket price).

Mindful Hands - Cini Foundation
Meanwhile, over at the Giorgio Cini Foundation on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, there is another amazing book-related exhibition going on, Mindful Hands. Masterpieces of Illumination from the Fondazione Giorgio Cini.

During the Mediaeval and Renaissance times, illuminated manuscripts were handwritten, hand-painted, and hand-bound, using a potpourri of natural ingredients. Silver and gold, peacock feathers, eggs, and precious stones like lapis lazuli were some of the components of the magical concoctions. Initials, borders and miniature illustrations supplemented religious text; as time went on secular topics were also illuminated. There was some serious alchemy going on.

During the Napoleonic suppressions in 1792, 1798 and 1810, many books and illuminated manuscripts that had been safeguarded in convents, monasteries, confraternities and professional societies began to circulate on the market. Beautiful illuminated pages were sliced right out of their books and put onto the antiques market.

The letter "C" - Mindful Hands
For the first time in over 35 years, a large part of the collection of Mediaeval and Renaissance miniatures acquired by Vittorio Cini back in 1930-40 is on display, and it is really something to see. The exhibition is deliberately staged to appeal to the general public, which is not that easy to do when displaying pages cut out of books. But the layout is fascinating, and it is so beautifully lit that it is like stepping into a Wonderland. I literally gasped when I entered the central room with its twinkling lights illuminating the illumination.

"Q" on loan from the Benedictines
The show opens with a rare reunion between a book and a long lost page. The Benedictine Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore loaned their enormous book quintessentially named "Q," to the exhibition. Q is an Antiphonal for the Common Office of the Saints, or, more simply, a book with sung parts of the liturgy, a really big choirbook so all the monks could see to sing along. Q is displayed next to a page that had been sliced out of that same choirbook in the past, and is now part of the Cini collection. So the lonely page is finally back with the rest of its family.

Upstairs is equally amazing. There is a riveting video, Cuttings, that documents the production of a parchment sheet, down to the lamb; how the pigments and colors are made from an assortment of precious stones and other elements; and how the whole thing is bound together.

Facsimile Book of Hours - Mindful Hands - Cini Foundation
A small Book of Hours, or Offiziolo, is one of the most sensational parts of the exhibition. Commissioned in the late 15th century by Federico il Moro, the Duke of Milan, to be presented to Charles VIII, the King of France, a Book of Hours was sort of like a prayer for the day. There is a little facsimile that you can actually touch and flip through the pages, while the original remains inside a glass case. Month by month blow-ups are decked upon a wall.

Original Book of Hours
Mindful Hands. Masterpieces of Illumination from the Fondazione Giorgio Cini runs through January 8, 2017, just like Culture Chanel. The Woman Who Reads. Is it a coincidence that both exhibitions concerning books are showing at the same time? If you are interested in knowledge, they are both so refined and delicious, it is worth a trip to Venice to give your mind a sweet treat.

Warning: NOT FOR THE SLEEPY. To truly enjoy the exhibitions, it is required that you make the effort to think.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

21 Quickie Reviews from the Venice Film Festival

Press Room at the Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) The Venice Film Festival had excellent energy this year. The great line-up and new, bright-red Sala Giardino theater contributed to the positive vibes. I also think the President of the Jury influences the festival, and this year it was Englishman Sam Mendes, famous for American Beauty, and the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, who held the reins.

From an American point of view, a couple of interesting folks also on the jury were the avant-garde Renaissance woman, Laurie Anderson, who among her many claims to fame, was NASA's first artist-in-residence (!), and Josh Oppenheimer, best known for his documentaries The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. The jury was cool.

The Woman Who Left
The Golden Lion, the top prize, went to the nearly four-hour Filipino film, The Woman Who Left, directed by Lav Diaz, which I did not see. Here is the review from the Financial Times.

Go to Biennale for a complete list of all the awards.

In addition to stars, my ratings suggest the venue where you should see the film: Multiplex, Arthouse, Drive-in, Stream-it, or Someplace for Free.

Here are the 21 films I managed to see (whew), in the order in which I saw them:

Emma Stone & Damien Chazelle
1. *****La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling - if you've read my previous post, you will know that I fell in love with La La Land (as did Tom  Hanks), and predict it will win some major Academy Awards, including best picture. Read the review from Deadline Hollywood. Emma Stone won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX with someone you love, and then BUY it to watch time and again.

Michael Fassbender & Alicia Vikander
2. ***The Light Between Oceans, directed by Derek Cianfrance, starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. Terrific performances and heartbreaking story about what constitutes motherly love. Read the review at The Independent. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX or STREAM-IT.

Jeremy Renner & Amy Adams
3. ****Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Amy Adams is an expert linguist called in by the military to try to communicate with aliens who have landed on Earth. Read the review at Indie Wire. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX or STREAM-IT.

Les Beaux Jour d'Aranjuez
4. *Les Beaux Jour d'Aranjuez, directed by Wim Wenders, starring Reda Kateb and Sophie Semin. Usually I love Wim Wenders, but I was so bored that I walked out when Nick Cave put yet another song on the jukebox. Based on a theater piece by Peter Handke, it's one long conversation about life and love shot unnecessarily in 3D. At the screening I saw, the movie accidentally started with French dialogue and Italian subtitles, and I thought I would concentrate to see how good my language skills were, which made it kind of interesting. Then Sam Mendes, President of the Jury, got up and briefly left the theater, apparently to tell them to switch the subtitles over to English, which they did. Too bad! It was better when I couldn't understand exactly what they said. Watch it at a friend's house for FREE while smoking marijuana

5.***American Anarchist, directed by Charlie Siskel. A documentary about the late William Powell, who wrote The Anarchist's Cookbook, and who died suddenly two months ago on July 11, 2016 of a heart attack without seeing the film. After Siskel grilled Powell about accepting responsibility for all the terrorism inspired by the book, I wondered if Siskel had examined his own conscience about Powell's sudden death. It took a while, but finally Variety wrote a stern review with which I agree. Watch it at an ARTHOUSE or STREAM-IT

6. ****The Bleeder, directed by Phillipe Falardeau, starring Liev Schreiber, who also produced (it's his project), and Schreiber's, real-life wife, Naomi Watts. The Bleeder is a true story based on the life of boxer Chuck Wepner, who inspired Sly Stallone to write Rocky. Here is the Variety review. Since I grew up in New Jersey about the same 70s time period, I thought the film was a lot of fun, and think you should have a light night out and watch it at a MULTIPLEX, go to the DRIVE-IN or definitely STREAM-IT.

Aaron Taylor Johnson, Tom Ford, Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal 
7. *****Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize, which Ford accepted in Italian. I think fashion designer Tom Ford is one of the coolest people on the planet, and my estimation of him has only gotten higher after screening his second film. Set in the world of fashion that Ford knows so well, Amy Adams reads a violent novel written by her ex-husband, which comes to life on the screen. Michael Shannon is fantastic, as always, as a hardened Texas cop. Here is the Guardian review. I hope this film also gets nominated for lots of Oscars. Watch it at a MULTIPLEX or definitely STREAM-IT 

Kasper Collin
8. ****I Called Him Morgan, directed by Kasper Collin. A documentary about the life of the brilliant jazz trumpet player, Lee Morgan, who died too young after his common-law wife, Helen, shot him during a blizzard in New York in 1972. Here is the review from The Guardian. See it at an ARTHOUSE or definitely STREAM-IT; if you love jazz, then BUY it.

The Young Pope
9. *****The Young Pope, directed by Paolo Sorrentino. We screened the first two episodes of a 10-part TV series about the first American Pope played by Jude Law, who smokes, schemes, and drinks Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast, wears designer-pope outfits, and insists that Sister Mary, who raised him, played by Diane Keaton, be his right-hand nun in the Vatican. Here is the review from Deadline Hollywood. It airs starting October 21, 2016 in Europe on SKY and in early 2017 in the States on HBO. I haven't watched a regular television show in almost 20 years, but I will SUBSCRIBE.

Mel Gibson-  Venice Film Festival
10. ****Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, starring Andrew Garfield. A true story about Desmond Doss, the first conscientious-object to receive the medal of honor. To me, anyone who thinks that war is glamorous should watch this film, which feels only a breath away from actually being there. Here is the review from the Guardian. After each screening, there are usually TV journalists waiting outside the exit to interview the journalists inside who have just watched the film. I was stopped, I think, by RAI, the national broadcasting network in Italy, and asked my opinion. I was so shaken that I said, "I will speak in English. I do not like violent films. They make me physically nauseous. But this was a good film. Mel got his point across." See it at a MULTIPLEX to feel the full impact of war

11. **Safari, directed by Ulrich Seidl. A documentary about ordinary folks going on holiday in Africa to kill some of the world's most beautiful animals. I walked out. Here is the review from The Hollywood Reporter. STREAM-IT, if you must.

Suki Waterhouse and Ana Lily Amirpour at Venice Film Festival
12. ***The Bad Batch, directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, starring Suki Waterhouse. This should have been a campy, dark-funny film about cannibals living in a wasteland outside US territory, dumped there because there's no place for them in society. Instead, it was too long, and took itself too seriously. Amirpour won the Special Jury Prize; to me, it was because the jury recognized Amirpour's genuine talent. She should lighten up; she got defensive during the press conference when a journalist called her on the violence. Here is the review from JoBlo. Perfect for a DRIVE-IN or STREAM-IT

Dark Night
13. *Dark Night, by Tim Sutton.This film got a lot of praise at the Sundance Festival, but I left. Maybe if I had been living in the States during the shootings in Aurora at "The Dark Knight Rises," I could have related more to the film, but without that prefabricated emotional terror installed, I had trouble connecting. Here is a review from Roger Ebert. STREAM-IT

Voyage of Time
14. ****Voyage of Time, by Terrence Malik. I was really looking forward to this film, and that is often a mistake because your hopes get so high. The images are beautiful, but the voice-over by Cate Blanchett was so... syrupy, and the words so on-the-nose, I almost fell asleep. I would like to see the shorter IMAX version with voice-overs by Brad Pitt. Here is the Variety review. See it at IMAX

Natalie Portman on the Red Carpet at Venice Film Festival
15. ****Jackie, directed by Paoblo Larraì, and starring Natalie Portman is a portrait of the First Lady holding herself and the United States of America together in the days after John Kennedy was assassinated, which I wrote about here (when I just googled my own post, I was amazed to discover how many other writers had used the same headline: Natalie Portman Channels Jackie Kennedy; I thought I was being so clever). Here is the review from IndieWire. See it at a MULTIPLEX or STREAM-IT.

Colm Meany & Timothy Spall in The Journey
 16. ***The Journey, directed by Nick Hamm, starring Colm Meany and Timothy Spall. I had no expectations whatsoever about this film, and was pleasantly surprised. Here is what I told the BBC: "I really enjoyed it. I am an American, and had no idea about that part of history, but I was once married to a first-generation Irishman. Sometime back in the late 80s/early 90s, we drove into Belfast by accident. It was pretty scary. The film shows that if those two can have a conversation, anybody can. It was an entertaining history lesson." Here is the review from Variety, subtitled: IRA v Unionist: Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall play clashing Northern Irish leaders in a juicy bit of backseat political theater. STREAM-IT

Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp at Venice Film Festival
17. **Planetarium, directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, starring Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as two psychic American sisters seance-ing their way around Europe, Paris in particular, just before WWII. I was curious to see Johnny Depp's 17-year-old daughter, who was lovely to look at and has some riveting qualities, but the movie itself was dull. Here is the review from The Playlist. STREAM-IT

Our War crew
18. *Our War, directed by Bruno Chiaravalloti, Benedeta Argentieri and Claudio Jampaglia. A documentary about a former US Marine, an unemployed Italian and a Swedish guard who volunteer to fight the Islamic State. I left about a third of the way through, and cannot find it reviewed in English, so I don't think you will have much of a chance of seeing it, but if you do, watch it for FREE

Rem Koolhaas
19. ****Rem, directed by Tomas Koolhaas, is a biopic and act of love by the son of "the world's most talked-about architect," which I wrote about here. I have always found the minds of architects fascinating -- they are artists who create structures for human beings, so they must be practical as well as imaginative. Rem is a glimpse into the mind of one of the most intense, renowned architects on the planet, who likes to swim. Here is the review from The Hollywood Reporter. See it at an ARTHOUSE or STREAM IT

Antoine Fuqua, Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington at Venice Film Festival
20. ***The Magnificent Seven, directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring one gal (Haley Bennett) and a whole bunch of guys, including Denzel Washington. Here is the review from Forbes. A typical Hollywood blockbuster with an ethnic cast, it was slick and entertaining, and worth making a trip to the MULTIPLEX or definitely STREAM-IT. Not worth the extra price of an IMAX
Julia Vysotskaya and Christian Clauß in Paradise

21. *****Paradise, directed by Andrei Konchalavsky, starring Julia Vysotskaya and Christian Clauß. When the winners were announced in the press room, I had to make a quick decision: stay for the press conference, or see one of the Silver Lion winners; everything, astonishingly, was scheduled at the same time. I bolted to see Paradise, and I'm glad I did. Because I am American, I have had a lifetime of propaganda about Russia and the Soviet Union -- two different entities -- shoved into my ears. Not just another-Holocaust-film, it leaves one hoping there really is a Paradise after all the Hell on Earth. Here is the Variety review. This film was so riveting, elegant and poignant... I am very happy that it won, and I hope everyone goes to see it WHEREVER THEY CAN.

Here is a moving summary of how it feels to leave the Venice Film Festival written by E. Nina Rothe for the Huffington Post:

I felt a pang of anxiety as I left Venice this morning, in the midst of the boats’ rush hour traffic. It was a strange feeling, like knowing that this kind of event, this combination of great films, magnificent interviews and wonderful meetings will never happen again.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fab Friday in Venice - Venini, Movie Star Lounge, Koolhaas and more!

Paolo Venini and his Furnace
(Venice, Italy) Friday kicked off with the press conference for the excellent exhibition Paolo Venini and His Furnace curated by Murano-glass-family-titan, Marino Barovier, over at Le Stanze del Vetro on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Paolo Venini (1895-1959) gave up his career as a lawyer in Milan after becoming fascinated by the Venetian world of glassmaking. Through triumphs and tribulations with different partners, the entrepreneur succeeded in having the Venini name associated with some of the most beautiful glass the island of Murano has produced, collaborating with top artists, and even designing pieces himself. The exhibition focuses on the company's glass production that was shaped by specific choices made by Paolo Venini, and runs from September 11, 2016 to January 8, 2017. Free entrance.

I want one!
Next I was whisked to the Venice Movie Star Lounge out on the Lido, where I met the Immagicgroup, a pack of cool, clever marketers who genuinely enjoy what they do -- they captured my heart immediately when I saw that Jaguar, my favorite car, was one of their sponsors. The atmosphere in the garden of the Movie Star Lounge was gracious and serene, and I just fell in love with the whole package.

Chiara Pizzinato Atelier at the Venice Movie Star Lounge
No country on the planet does design and beauty better than Italy. The bella figura is in their DNA. A couple months ago, the Venice Movie Star Lounge was an abandoned greenhouse. During the Venice Film Festival, it transformed into a hidden nest where the stars could meet, relax, have conferences, do their hair and make-up, hold interviews -- all the things movie stars and the people around them need to do while promoting their films -- located just a few minutes, yet a world away from the madness of red carpet.

The Immagicgroup also have Movie Star Lounges at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals. Tastefully sprinkled throughout the lounge were a small handful of select Italian products. I thought, what better way to introduce the best of Italy to the world than by putting the goodies in the hands of film people!

Chiara Pizzinato Atelier, Malverdi Fiori & Eventi and My Wedding Bandoulière
When clever people give me gifts, I am happy to tell everybody how lovely they are, so thank you to Chiara Pizzinato for the elegant handmade purse created with Bevilacqua fabric, to Malverdi Fiori & Eventi for the bewitching fragrance, and to the ladies at My Wedding Bandoulière, a book bubbling with insider tips on how to get married Venetian Style (the copy I was given is in Italian which, shamefully, even 18 years of living here, I cannot read well enough to give my opinion) -- especially Elisabeth Rainer who coaxed me to the Movie Star Lounge in the first place.

Tomas Koolhaas at the Venice Film Festival
I segued over to the film festival (by Jaguar:-) for the official screening of REM, a biopic and act of love about the renowned architect, Rem Koolhaas, created by his son, Tomas Koolhaas. I have been fortunate enough to hear Rem Koolhaas speak on several occasions, and think he is an intense, enlightened being, who started life as a journalist and makes such statements as "I hate being an architect. I actually hate architects."

Fortunately for humanity, Rem Koolhaas continues to build distinctive structures all over the earth, and the film takes us on a journey to many of them. Tomas does a terrific job at giving us a peek into his father's world, capturing his dynamic personality, formidable strength, and also some vulnerabilities -- in fact, I doubt anyone but Tomas could have made the movie at all. He filmed, directed, produced, and edited it, and partially crowdfunded it with a Kickstarter campaign.

Rem Koolhaas

From the Guardian review by Oliver Wainwright entitled, Rem Review - Jet-setting Portrait of World's Most Talked-About Architect:

Pieced together from conversations on the road, Rem’s gravelly voiceover forms a continuous monologue. We are treated to his musings on everything from the nature of time to the joys of swimming, with each section introduced by a momentous title quote, like the sayings of the Buddha. The seductive camerawork shows Koolhaas in action in exotic locations, framed against near constant sunsets with a generous dose of lens flare and the warm glow of an Instagram filter. Most scenes are shot from behind, making the back of Rem’s head the star of the film – a product of necessity that turned into an fitting stylistic choice. “Rem doesn’t wait for you,” says Tomas Koolhaas. “I was literally running after him, then I realised it was an interesting viewpoint, a way of seeing what he’s seeing.”

The Magnificent Seven
Next up was a typical Hollywood blockbuster, the remake of The Magnificent Seven, which Variety termed, "The Adequate Seven." I quite agree.

I preferred Tomas Koolhaas' REM.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog
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