The ongoing Venice Film Festival, true to what its director, Alberto Barbera, remarked in Rome some weeks ago, has its gruesomely ugly side all right. As ever, there are some movies which make us happy, the so-called feel-good ones. And there are others which get us puking, sometimes literally.
Here are two example of such dark and depressing work. Greek cinema can often be unpleasant to watch, battering our senses into shocked numbness. Director Alexandros Avranas does precisely this in his second film titled Miss Violence. I have been wondering why it is Miss, not Mr!
Miss Violence begins on the 11th birthday of a girl, who even as the family is celebrating the occasion, jumps from a balcony to her death. Oddly after this tragic fatality, the family of a father, mother, two daughters and the two children of one of them continues to live as if nothing has happened. The police and the social services are puzzled over what we can term a typical Greek tragedy.
As the plot begins to unravel, we see how terrible things really are in that household. The first indication comes when the director takes us to a gynaecologist’s chamber where the elder of the two daughters is found to be pregnant. But like in her earlier cases, the father is unknown her. Or so we are made understand. Miss Violence will reveal right at the end how dysfunctional and cruel the family really is, and Avranas offers what can but be a rather convenient close to this depressing tale.
Even more violent and distasteful is James Franco’s second literary adaptation.
Cormac McCarthy’s early novel, Child Of God, tells the tale of Lester Ballard, a Tennessee backwoodsman, who is rejected by society and is pushed into an almost bestial state. When he finds a young dead couple in a car, Ballard drags the woman out and takes the body to his shack where he has sex with her.
Emboldened by this and tempted into this state of necrophilia, Ballard also turns into a serial killer. Unwashed and unkempt, he is a terrible sight to watch. Dim witted but with a strong survival instinct, he carries a gun with him in a society where this culture is the cause of some absolutely unavoidable crimes.
Scott Haze is gutsy to play this nauseating role, and as Nick James, editor of Sight and Sound, quipped, "this is to say I can do this too".
I wonder, have always wondered, why anybody would want to pay for a ticket to watch something as obnoxious and foul as Miss Violence or Child of God.
The answer is not clear, though the filmmakers concerned could always tell me that cinema is not only about the beautiful and the pleasant side of society. It is also about the disagreeable, the most violent and the terribly queer.