Venice

Gravity premiered on August 28, opening the 70th edition of the Venice International Film Festival (out of competition).

The first reviews

  • Alfonso Cuaron’s white-knuckle space odyssey restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide. — Justin Chang (Variety)
    • “…it’s a haunting moment that firmly ties “Gravity,” for all its uncompromising realism, to the soul of classic Hollywood,” writes Chang, describing a particular scene; but I think it could probably apply to the whole movie.
  • George Clooney and Sandra Bullock star as astronauts in Alfonso Cuaron’s jaw-dropping space thriller. — Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter)
    • “And seeing is what it’s mostly about here, seeing space as if the film was actually shot there. It’s a wonderful cinematic jolt to watch this film for the first time, as it looks as if it had been filmed, as it were, on location. Given the brief running time, it will be tempting for many to return for second and third visits just to take it all in again, to absorb all Cuaron and his team of exemplary collaborators have done.” Yes.
  • The Venice film festival lands on its feet with a brilliant opening night thriller which sees Sandra Bullock and George Clooney flailing in space and director Alfonso Cuarón masterfully steering the ship. — Xan Brooks (The Guardian)
    • “Like Tarkovsky’s Solaris (later remade by Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh), the film thrums with an ongoing existential dread. And yet, tellingly, Cuaron’s film contains a top-note of compassion that strays at times towards outright sentimentality.” I noticed that not a few of the reviews were critical of this sentimentality, but I think it’s okay to be sentimental.
  • A thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts adrift in space will take your breath away — Robbie Collin (The Telegraph)
    • “But by the end, you realise you have mentally sketched in two commas to make sense of the film’s deep-down, soul-fattening theme. Yes: life, in space, is impossible. But mankind was not built for solitude, and in a wide, empty universe, the yearning for human-to-human contact is a force as powerful and inescapable as the one that keeps our feet bound to the planet.”
  • Sandra Bullock dances into great silence in Alfonso Cuarón’s astonishing ‘Gravity’ — Guy Lodge (HitFix)
    • “…story feels secondary to “Gravity” in the best possible way. Feeling is narrative here – physical feeling, psychological feeling, bruised and agitated either way – as the film ceases star-gazing (without dialling back on the gobsmacking pyrotechnics and deep-focus space vistas) to concentrate on the in-the-moment specifics of Ryan’s survival.”
  • Venice Review: Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’ Starring Sandra Bullock & George Clooney — Oliver Lyttelton (The Playlist)
    • “The film comes as close as most of us are likely to get to actually being in space (undoubtedly aided by the 3D: this is one film that’s really worth paying the extra bucks for to see in the format, whether the lens is capturing a tiny spinning speck in the distance or debris flying in your face). But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a mere rollercoaster ride—even if your instinct, as at a theme park, is to finish the experience and line up again for another go. “
  • Technically Gravity is a great success, and Cuaron pulls off all sorts of camera moves and beautifully orchestrated effects sequences that will leave audiences breathless. — Mark Adams (Screen Daily/International)
    • “Whether it be Sandra Bullock curled in a fetal position having fought her way into a space craft and divesting herself of her clunky space and relishing a moment of brief calm, or the look of joy on Clooney’s face as he stares down at Earth while amusing mission control with yet another rambling story, it is that balance between the human and the scientific that keeps the film grounded and always exciting.”
  • Gravity – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock float freely in this flawed deep space spectacle — Geoffrey MacNab (The Independent)
    • “Clooney’s constant wisecracking provides an earthy counterpoint to all the self-consciously sublime footage of space. Given that he is in his space suit and helmet in almost every shot in which he appears, it can’t be said that we see a great deal of him. The impressive Bullock is more visible. Like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley inAlien, her character is tough and self-reliant and challenges the gender stereotyping still often found in action movies.”
  • Dread and Awe in Space — Richard Corliss (TIME)
    • On the demise of film, and the rise of digital and 3D, “Cuar‪ón shows things that cannot be but, miraculously, are, in the fearful, beautiful reality of the space world above our world. If the film past is dead, Gravity shows us the glory of cinema’s future. It thrills on so many levels. And because Cuar‪ón is a movie visionary of the highest order, you truly can’t beat the view.”
  • A dispatch from the Venice Film Festival, where Alfonso Cuarón’s outer-space thriller starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock just premiered — John Frosch (The Atlantic)
    • “The casting of Bullock and Clooney is key to how effective the film is in jangling our nerves; their familiar movie-star faces (visible mostly from underneath their helmets), warm voices, and easy, teasing rapport soothe us in several of Gravity’s harrowing moments, and make things even more disconcerting when their mission devolves into pure terror.”
  • Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is Lightning From the Heavens — Stephanie Zacharek (The Village Voice)
    • Gravity is both lyrical and terrifying, and sometimes Cuarón even merges the two, sending us into free fall along with his characters. No space movie arises from a vacuum, and the obvious comparative pulse points for this one include The Right Stuffand Brian De Palma’s sorely underlovedMission to MarsThe Right Stuff isn’t so much about space as about the space program, but Cuarón–who co-wrote the script with Jonás Cuarón, his son–captures the mingling of duty and curiosity that motivates any human being who actually makes it into space. And Cuarón, just as De Palma was, is alive to the empty-full spectacle of space and to the workaday poetry of the words astronauts use to describe it.”
  • Pushing into the Little Known — Roderick Conway Morris (New York Times)
    • “The pyrotechnic effects in this movie could only have been achieved with the latest digital tools, but the Cuaróns’ film remains a story that is centered on character and human emotions. It also has memorable moments of poetry — a shimmering detached tear-drop traveling through space, for example — and humor.”
  • Gravity and Tracks Amaze — Filippo L’Astorina (The Upcoming)
    • Gravity is the closest thing to outer-space experience ever realised on the silver screen. It looks real, with attention to technical details that no one would normally think of: an exploding space station makes no sound at all. And that makes it even scarier.”
  • Director Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D space odyssey is visually spectacular despite a thin plot — Derek Malcolm (The Evening Standard)
    • “The film’s raison d’etre is its considerable technical prowess, enhanced by 3D but in a determinedly ungimmicky way. Here the work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is first class, so what you see is spectacular even if what you hear is less so.”
  • Venice takes off with ‘Gravity’ and gay romance — John Frosch (France24)
    • “‘Gravity’ was anticipated with fervor — not just as a starry, high-profile start to this festival, but also as the unofficial kick-off of the fall movie season, otherwise known in America as the Oscar race. And judging by the rapturous press reaction, the film will likely leap to the top of the list of titles aspiring to awards glory. “
  • Film4.com Deputy Editor Michael Leader reports on the Venice Film Festival’s opening film, Gravity… — Michael Leader (Film4)
    • “They’re a compelling pair – Kowalski the wisecracking veteran on course to break the world record for spacewalking, Stone the specialist scientist on her first mission – but as the catastrophe continues and each new misfortune befalls our heroes, Cuaron keeps a clear focus on their internal struggles as well as the ongoing conflict with the void. And just as the Apollo astronauts professed profound moments of self-realisation when looking back at the earth, Ryan and Kowalski must look inward in order to survive in this harshest of climates.”

And from the press conference (in Spanish)

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  • “What defines us is how we overcome these adversities, how we feel,” said Cuarón, in advance of the screening (EFE).
  • “I try to handle these situations well. I’ve failed many times but I try,” said Clooney (La Vanguardia).
  • “When I decided to tell the story set in space, space took on a metaphysical value,” said Cuarón (AFP)
  • “It made [the scientists] ask strange questions, about the behaviour of the body in space, and it helped me a lot,” said Bullock (Sexenio).
  • “George and I were rarely together, but when I could hear his voice I felt better. I was grateful for any human contact, even just a breath,” said Bullock about filming in isolation (AP).
  • “My brother had an astronaut friend call from space to advise me. For the rest of us, astronauts are like myths. They are actually normal people with an extraordinary passion for life and our planet, [but] speaking with them you feel so little,” said Bullock about getting advice from space (Vavel).

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