With Scorsese, Hopper And Bertolucci, Venice Classics Is A Star Studded Affair

Abhishek Srivastava - 59 weeks ago

The lineup for Venice Film Festival 2019 has been headlined by films like Joker, Ad Astra, The Truth, The Laundromat and J’Accuse which would by vying for the Golden Lion – the highest prize given to a film at the film festival. But apart from its competition and out of competition segment, the film festival has also a unique section which has been screening restored film classics.

The lineup of restored classics at Venice Film Festival, this year, has films by Bernardo Bertolucci, Dennis Hopper and Martin Scorsese among others. Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York will have a restored 35 mm copy especially printed by MGM for the Venice Film Festival and will be presented by maverick producer Irvin Winkler.The practice that began in 2012 has only gained momentum since then and films like Red Beard, Some Like it Hot and They Live have been screened at the Lido in past as part of Venice Classics. The lineup of restored classics this year has films by Bernardo Bertolucci, Dennis Hopper and Martin Scorsese among others. Federico Fellini’s The White Sheik, which premiered at the same festival in 1952, will have a screening of its restored version keeping an eye on Fellini’s 100th birth anniversary next year. The festival will screen two restored films of Bertolucci, one of them being his debut film. Last but not the least, Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York will have a restored 35 mm copy especially printed by MGM for the Venice Film Festival and will be presented by maverick producer Irvin Wrinkler. The Film Hashery lists down the classics that will have their restored version screened at the festival. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (Director – Martin Scorsese) (1977)

Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York deals with the romance between a young singer and a saxophonist with an inflated ego. By this time, Martin Scorsese had established his credential as one of the most talented filmmakers in Hollywood. New York, New York was a follow up to his much acclaimed Taxi Driver. Even before New York, New York could hit theatres, his long time collaborator Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver, had predicted his downfall. In an interview he had mentioned after the success of Taxi Driver that so much of power will be bestowed upon Scorsese that he will be so cut off from reality that he will end up making a big flop. True to his prediction, New York, New York came a cropper at the box office. Scorsese had first read about New York, New York in Hollywood Reporter when he was busy making When Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. The piece he had read was more of a trade news which announced the purchase of a screenplay about a romance between two musicians by producer Irwin Winkler. The film featured Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli – daughter of Scorsese’s hero Vincent Minnelli. 

CRASH (Director - David Cronenberg) (1996)

Crash is a psychological horror film directed by horror maverick David Cronenberg and deals with a group of people who derive sexual pleasure from car crashes. The film generated controversy from the word go. The Daily Mail UK had launched an aggressive campaign for the ban of its release when it was scheduled to hit UK theatres in 1996. But the brilliance of Cronenberg came to the fore and the film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. Crash was an attempt by Cronenberg to get away from big budget set up and studio production. The film was made at a budget of $9 million in and around Toronto, using hardware, special effects and auxiliary lighting. 

THE RED SNOWBALL TREE (Director – Vasily Shukshin (1974)

The Red Snowball Tree is considered to be the most popular film of the 70s Soviet era. The film deals with the life of a thief who, after being set free from prison, tries to start his life afresh but past always catches up to him. The film was also part of German filmmaker Rainer Fassbinder’s top ten favourite films. The film had swept the Berlin International Film Festival when it managed to win three awards in 1975. Director Vasily Shukshin (who was also the lead actor in the film) died when he was busy editing the film. His popularity could be gauged from the fact that more than 150,000 fan letters were received by his family as commiseration. 

FRANCISCA (Director – Manoel de Oliveira (1981)

Portuguese film director Manoel de Oliveira’s Francisca dealt with the son of an English officer who allows himself to become a prisoner of love. The film was Portuguese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 55th Academy Awards. Oliveira wanted to make a film titled The Black and The Black in collaboration with playwright Vicente Sanches but after this failed to take off, he diverted his attention towards a recently published novel. He wrote the screenplay of Francisca in a week and decided that the movie could be filmed quickly with the crew he had gathered for The Black and the Black

OUT OF THE BLUE (Director – Dennis Hopper (1980)

Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue was a Palme d’Or nominee at Cannes Film Festival in 1980. It’s a film full of sex, violence and drug abuse with a young girl and her junkie mother at the core of the story. Dennis Hopper had initially signed on to play a supporting role in the film but after the original director walked off the project, he stepped in. Hopper transformed and changed most of the original script which dealt with a troubled teenager who runs away from home and is later saved by a shrink. It was Hopper who incorporated the element of Elvis Presley in the film. It was also to be the last of Hopper’s movies in which he enjoyed full creative freedom. 

DEATH OF A BUREAUCRAT (Director – Tomas Gutierrez Alea) (1966)

Death of a Bureaucrat is a Cuban film directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea and was a satire on red tape culture in a communist country. The film begins with the death of a model worker who is buried along with his labor card as a badge of honour. When his widow is told that his badge is required to claim benefits, things take a hilarious turn. Most consider this as a pre cursor to Monty Python films. The film also has visual quotes of Chaplin’s Modern Times, Laurel and Hardy’s Two Tars, Bergman’s Wild Strawberries and Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou. The success of Death of a Bureaucrat made Tomas a force to reckon with in the world of Cuban cinema. 

THE WHITE SHEIK (Director – Federico Fellini (1952)

Through this film Fellini, used the classical three act structure for the first time. The White Sheik deals with a pair of newlyweds while they are honeymooning in Rome. The film was premiered at the Venice Film Festival and met with a tepid response. Before the release of the film, Fellini had arranged a screening for Roberto Rossellini. In an earlier interview Fellini had labelled The White Sheik as a film ahead of its time. 

THE SPIDER’S STRATAGEM (Director – Bernardo Bertolucci (1970)

The Spider’s Stratagem is a political film by director Bernardo Bertolucci and deals with the son of an anti-fascist martyr who tries to find closure by returning to the place where his father was murdered. The happenings in the film take place in Parma – Bertolucci’s birthplace. Parma was also known as ‘Red Town’ because of its Communist leaning and thus the political nature of the film. Many consider The Spider’s Stratagem as the definitive European art film. 

THE GRIM REAPER (Director – Bernardo Bertolucci) (1962)

The Grim Reaper was screened at the Venice Film Festival in 1962 and was made in a very low budget. Bertolucci made the film when he was just 21 and had to labour hard on the sets to earn credibility with the crew. It was also his debut film and was based on a short story by Pier Paolo Pasolini.  When Pasolini saw the film at the film festival, he was bit surprised with multiple dolly shots and pan movements employed in the film. 

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (Director – Jack Arnold) (1957)

The Incredible Shrinking Man is one of the most famous films from the sci-fi titles that were made in 50s and was adapted from a novel penned by Richard Matheson. The film deals with an advertising man who becomes a reluctant hero in a hostile environment after a radioactive cloud infects him and diminishes him in size. The film was made at a budget of roughly $ 700,000. The cast of the film comprised largely of unknown actors.


New York, New York / Crash / Death of a Bureaucrat / The Spider’s Stratagem / The Grim Reaper / The Red Snowball Tree / Francisca / Out of the Blue / The White Sheik / Martin Scorsese / David Cronenberg / Federico Fellini / Bernardo Bertolucci

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

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