It is difficult, at this 62nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival, to find signs of Italy: with just one movie in competition, even if it is by a true maestro of Italian cinema like Marco Bellocchio “” the auspiciously titled “Vincere” [To Win] – and nothing else in the main fringe sections, it is a stark contrast to the last edition (the year of “Gomorra” and “Divo”, as well as the movies by Munzi and Giordana).
However, taking another look, it is possible to discover something else: that Italian cinema at Cannes 2009 has been taken over by women. The first sign is the picture of Monica Vitti on the official Festival poster in a scene from “L’avventura” di Antonioni.
Then the fact that Asia Argento is representing Italy on the jury.
The procession of Italian women continues with Monica Bellucci who stars, alongside Sophie Marceau in “Ne retournè pas” by young French director Marina De Van, partly filmed in Lecce with the support of the Apulia Film Commission (“Midnight Screenings”).
The young female producer, Giorgia Priolo, has also been chosen by European Film Promotion to participate in “Producers on the move” and, sifting through the fringe events, we find the only Italian name in the “Quinzaine des Réalisateurs” section is Tizza Covi from Alto Adige, who made the Austrian movie “La Pivellina” alongside Rainer Frimmel.
The leading character in “Vincere” is another woman – Ilda Dalser, Mussolini’s secret wife.
“I had never heard this story before”, says Bellocchio. “I discovered it while watching a documentary on TV a few years ago: “Il Segreto di Mussolini” by Fabrizio Laurenti and Gianfranco Norelli.
I thought that this Ida Dalser, who had a child by Mussolini that he initially recognized and subsequently disowned, was an extraordinary woman.
A woman who kept shouting her truth right up to the very end, despite the fact that the regime tried to destroy all traces of her.
Mussolini’s secret wife and child were a scandal that had to be covered up and their very existence wiped out, not just physically – they were both locked up in an asylum where they later died.
However, if you visit Dalser’s native Trentino, it is incredible how the collective memory has kept alive the story of this tragedy which has been omitted from the official history books.
Two novels have been written on the subject (“La moglie di Mussolini” by Marco Zeni and “Il figlio segreto del duce” by Alfredo Pieroni) filled with documentation and personal accounts such as, for example, the numerous letters Dalser wrote to the highest authorities, including the Pope (and, naturally, Mussolini), begging to be recognized as Mussolini’s legitimate wife and the mother of his firstborn son, as well as some of the letters the Duce sent in reply”.
“I had no interest in emphasizing and denouncing the infamy of the Fascist regime,” explains the director, “I was just profoundly struck by this woman and her absolute refusal to compromise in any way”.
Ida Dalser is played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno, whilst Filippo Timi plays the part of Mussolini and his son.
The movie, written by Bellocchio himself with Daniela Caselli, will be released in Italy concomitantly with the Cannes premiere, and distributed by 01.
It is an Italian-French coproduction by Rai Cinema, Offside and Celluloid Dreams.
After the women we turn to the maestros of the past: Antonioni, Visconti, Leone and Germi, who monopolize the “Cinema Classic” section with their restored works (“L’avventura”, “Senso”, “Giù la testa”, and a documentary by Mario Bondi, “Pietro Germi, il bravo, il bello, il cattivo”).