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UK Critics Tout Natalie Portman For Oscar In Venice Opener ‘Black Swan’

The fest audience gave Darren Aronofsky’s latest a standing ovation as credits rolled. London newspaper critics are giving the psychosexual ballet thriller rave reviews. “Portman is astounding,” says the Times of London. “Awards are sure to follow.” The Independent agrees, calling Portman’s performance “searing” and the film “enthralling”. David Gritten in the Daily Telegraph says Portman’s performance as a ballet dancer losing her mind elevates her from leading actress to major star. “Every film festival benefits hugely from a strong opening film, and they don’t come much stronger than Black Swan,” he says.

Of course, Aronofsky won the Golden Lion in Venice for his last film The Wrestler in 2008. The Telegraph thinks he could win again this year with Black Swan. Aronofsky told a packed press conference that the more he looked into ballet, the more he started to see similarities with the world of wrestling. “They both have these performers who use their bodies in extremely physical ways,” he said.

Fox Searchlight releases Black Swan in the US on December 1. Senior Fox Searchlight executives strolled up the red carpet into the Opening Night gala screening. Black Swan was the first of three opening films and is competing with 22 others for this year’s Golden Lion. In total this year’s festival will screen 79 full-length world premieres from 34 countries. The 67th Venice film festival runs from 1 to 11 September.

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Venice Fest “No Longer Special” Say Critics

Newspaper critics are increasingly being put off by how expensive the Venice Film Festival, which begins tomorrow, has become. One critic from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf says that he can spend two weeks covering Toronto for the same cost of one week in Venice. This at a time when newspapers are reducing staff and slashing travel budgets. Increasingly, critics are covering either the first few days or the closing few days. The London Guardian is sending just two critics and a reporter to the festival. And those two critics who are leap-frogging each other.

Baz Bamigboye, show-business reporter for the Daily Mail, tells me: “My sense is that it’s no longer special. There are fewer important films and the place has become another junket nightmare.” Bamigboye isn’t going to Venice this year. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian agrees: “Venice is declining in importance.”

A deeper problem though is Hollywood stars staying away. It’s very expensive to get Hollywood A-listers to come out to Italy. And when they are there, they want to stay at one of the city’s big luxury hotels such as the Gritti Palace or the Danieli – both of which are some distance from the Lido, where the fest takes place. Even transporting Hollywood stars from their suites to the event becomes expensive. Distributors cannot justify dropping so much money this early in the awards season. Toronto is a great deal … Read More »

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