Poverty and recession infuse Venice movies

Sun Sep 1, 2013 2:43am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Nicolas Cage reinhabits a low-life version of his "Leaving Las Vegas" alcoholic in the Southern gothic "Joe" screened on Friday at the Venice Film Festival while a German film explores the dark issue of wife beating in the latest competition offerings.

Poverty, and the effects of the 2008 economic crash on people and society, as well as the film industry, were emerging themes at this year's festival, which opened on Wednesday and will conclude on September 7 with the awarding of the Golden Lion trophy for best film.

On Wednesday, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron said his big-budget space disaster drama "Gravity", the festival opener, had almost been derailed by the crash.

Director Paul Schrader, who wrote "Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull" and other big hits of the 1970s and '80s, said on Friday that economics had pretty much transformed the industry.

"The film business is undergoing a systematic change - not systematic, systemic change. Everything we know in this from the past doesn't apply," Schrader, who made the latest Lindsay Lohan movie "Canyons" on a low budget, told a news conference.

In "Joe", directed by David Gordon Green and based on a novel of the same name by Larry Brown, Cage plays a hot-headed, bourbon-swigging southerner who befriends a young boy who comes from a violent background.

Poverty oozes out of almost every scene, from the battered GMC truck Joe drives to pick up black workers he employs to poison a forest for clearance, to his neighbors in tumbledown shacks who eat wild animals they find by the side of the road.

"I was very careful in the selection of the movie ... I hadn't worked for one year and then I found this script," Cage said at a news conference with his co-actors and the director.   Continued...

Actress Judi Dench poses during a photocall for the movie "Philomena", directed by Stephen Frears, during the 70th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 31, 2013. The movie debuts at the festival. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi