Venezia 2019 ****

It’s something of a cliché to say that the backdrop can feel like a character in an evocative film; Rodrigo Guerrero’s Argentinian/French co-production makes extensive use of a wintry Venetian location that gives it a unique, haunting quality. Paula Lussi plays Sofia, a woman with a secret; part of the power of Venezia is that the audience only gradually uncover the details of what that secret is. She wanders the narrow streets, has language difficulties with local shop-keepers, a painful encounter with a local lothario. Some of the people she meets are sympathetic, and she manages to strike up a few bonds. But when she blurts out her story, it’s not believed; her fragile relationships are not ready for the weight of tragedy. The city of Venice has become something of a tourist trap, but Venezia returns it to the more spiritual and sinister realm of Don’t Look Now; some casual throw-away shots provide a useful index to Sofia’s feeling of alienation, and the way the dialogue switches between languages emphasises the communication issues. Venezia is a short story, heart-rending and effective in engaging the emotions; it’s prime assets are Venice itself, the bleak yet luminous photography of Gustavo Tejeda, Guerrero’s humanity and sensitivity, and Lussi’s arresting performance. At 74 minutes, it’s a snapshot of being alone in a foreign country which also carries a subtle political weight in 2019, and marks an effective third film from Guerrero.


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