Venice FF: Brady Corbet's Vox Lux explores pop culture in age of terrorism

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"The only thing that matters is having an angle," she confides cynically to her teenage daughter, also played by Raffey Cassidy, with whom she has a dysfunctional relationship.

Celeste's transformation from obscure small-town American girl to global star, played in her adult version by Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, is marked at every turning point by a terrorist attack -- a school shooting, 9/11, and a slaughter of tourists on a beach.

Vox Lux is narrated by iconic American actor Willem Dafoe and features original songs by nine-time Grammy nominee Sia.

The movie jumps forward to when adult Celeste is about to launch her new album, called Vox Lux: she has achieved global stardom and is venerated by millions of fans, but she has also degenerated into a shallow, self-centered woman with a drug problem and a tendency to run her mouth in front of reporters.

Shot in 35mm, the movie tells the story of Celeste, a talented schoolgirl played by British teenage actress Raffey Cassidy, who gets spotted by a record industry manager -- played by two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law -- who grooms her into a worldwide pop sensation.

Actress Stacy Martin, Natalie Portman, Raffey Cassidy and director Brady Corbet (from L to R) attend the premiere of the film "Vox Lux" at the 75th Venice International Film Festival in Venice, Italy, on Sept. 4, 2018. (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting)

VENICE, Italy, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- Brady Corbet's Vox Lux, a dark exploration of pop culture in the age of terrorism, premiered in competition on Tuesday at the Venice Film Festival.

Cassidy turns in a nuanced performance as an emerging talent struggling for self-assertion, her pale oval face floating like a noir version of a Botticelli Madonna in a muted, wintry palette created by British DP Lol Crawley and set to an eerie, elemental soundtrack composed by avant-garde musician Scott Walker.

Celeste "is as much a victim as she is a leader of the era," said Corbet, who at age 60 has acted in a number of movies and won the Best Director and Best Debut Film prizes at the Venice Film Festival for his 2015 breakout directorial debut, The Childhood of a Leader.

"I don't want people to think too much -- I just want them to feel good," young Celeste confides to her first lover, a rock musician, about why she makes pop music.

"The movie is a portrait of and a reflection on our society and the intersection of pop culture and violence, and the spectacle that equates between the two," said Portman, while Corbet defined its theme as "the pageantry of evil" in the 21st century.

The Venice Film Festival, now in its 75th edition, ends on Sept. 8.