Venice Day Four Mood: Festival & Netflix Riding High

Venice is killing it.

It’s extremely rare to have such positive critical consensus about so many big movies in the first few days of a festival.

First Man, Roma, The Favourite and A Star Is Born have all gone gangbusters while the Coen’s Buster Scruggs has been widely praised. The festival is pretty much five from five on its biggest movies so far and the buzz has been palpable with so many stars in attendance. Spirits haven’t been dampened by a tremendous downpour last night and the resulting tech hitch at the Star Is Born premiere.

Even the Orson Welles movie The Other Side Of The Wind, which could easily have bombed, has intrigued most. Many have issues with the film but almost all say it still captivates in its way.

I sat down with one of Italy’s leading producers yesterday afternoon who claimed, “Venice really is number one now. It has come such a long way in the last four-five years.”

While he may be slightly biased, his take was an interesting one, “As the business of film and international sales declines, so Cannes comes down a little, especially with their exclusion of Netflix. TV has now become cultural as well as a business proposition.” This is part of the reason Netflix is able to make hay on the Lido. The streaming giant is now cornering high culture at the same time it drives bingeable series and new models.

“The fact there are companies that are financing and making movies outside the mainstream is very important,” said Joel Coen yesterday in reference to Netflix’s investment in festival-type movies. “It’s what keeps the art form alive.”

Part of what’s so interesting about Netflix today is that it is the mainstream and it is still willing to get behind movies like Scruggs, a good-looking off-beat anthology western, Roma, a $10M+ black and white foreign-language art-house film, and Welles’ unfinished and challenging Wind.

Another of its early Venice’s successes is Italian-language police brutality drama On My Skin (whose day-and-date release caused a stir pre-festival), which debuted Thursday. The powerful film has also had strong write-ups. Later in the week comes Paul Greengrass thriller 22 July.

“I feel like half the movies I’ve seen have been Netflix films,” an enthusiastic cinema school student told me as we queued for a slice of pizza in between screenings.

That’s not far off. Four of the most talked-about so far. It’s not a coincidence many have played in the festival’s first few days when most media are at the festival and the buzz is loudest.

It’ll get rockier for the festival — the anticipated Suspiria and big-canvas Mike Leigh pic Peterloo are expected to divide opinion to a greater extent today (both are with Amazon) — but so far, so very good in terms of hit rate.

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