Postcard from Venice: George Clooney, Plus Lightning. Which Is More Spectacular?
Greetings from Venice, and from the 68th Venice Film Festival! I arrived here too late to catch the press screening of the festival's opening film, George Clooney's The Ides of March, which I've been looking forward to for months. That will have to wait until Toronto, next week. But I did happen to catch two spectacular visions my first night here: First a red-carpet sighting of George Clooney, cheered on by a noisy gang of delighted Italian fans, and a lightning storm over the lagoon, sans rain, unlike any I've ever seen.
As fabulous as George Clooney is, I was even more awestruck by the lightning storm, so majestic and benign after last week's earthquake-hurricane combo in New York. I noticed it as I was walking along the pathway along the lagoon just after nightfall, toward my hotel: Sometimes the lightning streaks manifested themselves as casual, impressionistic squiggles; other times, all I could see was a flash of backlighting behind soft gray clouds. Apparently, these types of storms aren't uncommon here, but I've never seen one like it, and I sat on a set of stone steps and watched for a good half-hour. Perhaps it was a harbinger of great moviegoing in the coming week.
And then there was Clooney, strolling the red carpet outside the festival complex's Palazzo del Cinema at twilight, just before his movie's world premiere. I love Clooney as an actor, and so far, it's been fun to watch his evolution as a director. But I think I love him best as a movie star, considering we have so few of them these days. I'm not talking about mere celebrities, but human beings with real star power, an aura of casual charm and glamour that glows around them both on and off the screen.
Clooney has that in spades, and he's the best of all possible red-carpet personalities because he always looks happy to be there. You could call that glad-handing, or you could call it simple graciousness: I do wonder why so many male actors shamble down the red carpet glowering, as if they'd rather be anywhere else in the world -- they're just too cool for this particular aspect of their job, I suppose.
That's not to say that Paul Giamatti, one of Clooney's co-stars in The Ides of March, who also appeared on the red carpet tonight, looked particularly dour: In fact, he looked reasonably happy and very well-groomed, especially compared with one of the movie's other stars, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who looked vaguely miserable and badly groomed. (I love Hoffman as an actor. But why do I always want to fix his shirt collar? Or buy him an iron? Or hand him a tube of Head'n'Shoulders?) Also present were the always-adorable Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, who looked so regal and mature that for a split-second I wondered if she hadn't body-snatched Kristin Scott Thomas. Ryan Gosling, another of the movie's stars, was sadly absent, probably because he's too busy promoting the other 332 movies he's starring in this fall. Cindy Crawford, wearing a red one-shoulder thingie, was also on-hand, perhaps just because. But when it comes to red-carpet glamor, sometimes that's reason enough.
But none could compare to Clooney. He strolls that carpet looking partly as if he owns it, partly as if he might trip on it any minute -- he's both a crown prince and a cutup, and particularly here in Italy, where he lives part-time, people seem to love him. He laughs, he pulls funny faces, he stops to sign autographs, he looks awesome in a tux: There's very little here not to love, as far as movie personalities go. As he made his way across the carpet, which took about 20 minutes in Clooney-time, the giant loudspeakers facing the Palazzo played one of his aunt Rosemary's hits, "Mambo Italiano," which features the memorable lyric, "Go go go, you mixed-up Siciliano." It's about as authentically Italian as The Olive Garden, but it's good-natured and silly, much like Clooney's public persona itself. As they don't say here in Italy: Botch-a-me, I'll-botcha you and ev'rything goes crazy.
Read more of Stephanie Zacharek's Venice Film Festival coverage here