Clooney, Bullock space thriller opens Venice film fest
By Ella Ide, AFPVENICE--Hollywood high-rollers George Clooney and Sandra Bullock kicked off the Venice film festival on Wednesday with a harrowing space drama that opens a line-up flush with gloomy tales.
August 30, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
“Gravity,” a 3D sci-fi thriller, sees Clooney and Bullock as astronauts who are flung into deep space when a debris shower destroys their shuttle.
The stars sashayed down the red carpet to the song “Mambo Italiano” for the opening ceremony of the world's oldest film festival, drawing wild screams from adoring fans who held up signs reading “We love you!”
Bullock, who stunned in a red, strapless, floor-length gown with a slit up the middle of the skirt to show off towering black heels, took photographs with devotees while a broadly-smiling Clooney in black tie signed hundreds of autographs.
The American actress, who wore her dark locks up, had reportedly spent a few days in Clooney's villa in Lake Como before the festival.
Directed by Mexico's Alfonso Cuaron of “Children of Men” fame, “Gravity” induces anxiety, with terrifying shots from inside the astronauts' helmets as they spin wildly and lose all radio contact with Earth.
Cuaron has said he invented new filmmaking techniques to depict spacewalking — including shooting inside a giant cube to evoke constantly shifting light sources — and after months of delay and a huge budget, “Gravity” delivers a Hollywood punch.
Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first mission who relies on veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) to hold on to her sanity and try to survive despite her rapidly dropping oxygen levels.
“It was the craziest, most bizarre, challenging shoot I've ever done,” Bullock told journalists, explaining how she had called astronauts on the International Space Station to get tips on how bodies move differently in space.
Clooney, dashing in a light grey suit, quipped that he had “done yoga and drunk my way into the part” and said the biggest challenge was learning how to “move slowly to mimic body movement in space, while speaking quickly.”
Director Cuaron said they had called in “advisors, scientists and physicists to teach the cast how things would react in space. A lot of the shots required the actors to be isolated, it was a very abstract way for them to perform.”
A soundtrack dominated by Stone's racing heartbeat and the deafening silence of space is punctuated by jokes from Kowalsky: “Half of North America just lost its Facebook,” he cracks as debris takes out communication satellites.
While director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki produces stunning images which leave spectators gasping for air, the humor sometimes detracts from key scenes and there is little time before the accident for the characters to be developed in any real depth.
Festival director Alberto Barbera said he and other organizers had watched over 3,500 films before selecting the 53 which will be screened this edition.
Twenty films are up for the Lion this year.