With his dark comedy "A Sad Trumpet Ballad," screened Tuesday at the Venice film festival, Alex de la Iglesia said his aim was to "exorcise" the enduring pain of the Spanish Civil War.
The love story in a zany circus setting is "an exorcism of anguish through humour, irony and comedy mixed with the noir genre so everything can have a proper burial," said Iglesia, whose 1995 horror comedy "The Day of the Beast" won cult status in Spain.
"This is a love story, a crazy, ruthless, wild kind of love," Iglesia told a news conference.
In the love triangle pitting two disfigured clowns against each other over the affections of a blonde acrobat, "the anxiety and the search for revenge lead to the destruction of the object of love," Iglesia said.
"Our past is extremely sorrowful, involving all of us through our parents and grandparents," he said. "Torture, pain and sorrow are always present in our hearts in one way or another."
The 44-year-old director added: "The feeling I have about the past we share is a kind of hostility, aggressivity, the fact that we experienced violence, that we suffered this pain but aren't responsible for it."
Also Tuesday, US director and actor Vincent Gallo seemed more interested in a prize for eccentricity than the Mostra's coveted Golden Lion as his "Promises Written in Water" about a young woman with a terminal illness screened at the Lido.
Tuesday's scheduled news conference for the film was cancelled, and its entry in the festival catalogue was practically blank, reading simply: "The film is written, directed and produced by Vincent Gallo. No other information will be supplied."
Already on Monday, Gallo did not appear at the news conference for "Essential Killing" by Jerzy Skolimowski in which he stars as an American Taliban who escapes the US military in Poland.
Gallo figures in a third film this year, "The Agent", in the festival's Orizzonti sidebar.
The festival's other phantom participant is Joachim Phoenix, the actor-turned-rapper whose transition is the subject of his brother-in-law Casey Affleck's documentary "I'm Still Here".
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Phoenix did not turn up at the news conference, though he was seen signing autographs on his way into the Lido's Excelsior Hotel, the Mostra's celebrity nerve centre.
While the Americans were stirring controversy, Mario Martone unveiled "Noi Credevamo" (We Believed), a history lesson lasting nearly three and a half hours on the struggle for Italian unification.
Coming on the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification in 1860, the opus is "a tragic, cathartic film that I hope will do something for young people," Martone said, lamenting that the story of the Risorgimento (Resurgence) had been "embalmed."
On Wednesday, the festival will unveil "Black Venus" about a southern African slave of Dutch farmers who was exhibited as a freak show attraction in Europe in the early 19th century, forced to gyrate her large buttocks.
The much anticipated film is by Tunisian-born Abdellatif Kechiche, whose "The Secret of the Grain" won the special jury prize here in 2007.
Also on the programme are "Attenberg" by Greece's Athina Rachel Tsangari and, out of competition, Ben Affleck's "The Town".
The festival, now in its 67th edition, runs through Saturday.
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