From August 28 to September 7, Venezia 76 is expected to carry out a truly difficult task at the Lido: to compete against itself following the success of the last edition with its trail of Oscars.
Alberto Barbera is not skimping on labels again this year while accentuating the traditional understatement.
After filing away the “trends”, the director prefers to talk about “recurring features”.
Although there are only two movies directed by women in competition (“The Perfect Candidate” by the Saudi Arabian Haifa Hal-Mansour and “Babyteeth” by the Australian Shannon Murphy), there is a recurrence of “a new sensitivity and special attention to the female universe which has rarely been seen in the past”.
The signs are already evident in the opening movie “La vérité” by Kore-Eda-Hirokazu with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche, and continue, still in competition, with “Ema” by the Chilean Pablo Larrain, who is once again attracted to the female universe after “Jackie”; out of competition with “Seberg”, the biopic about the icon of nouvelle vague directed by Benedict Andrews, and with “Unposted”, the documentary by Elisa Amoruso (in Sconfini) about the influencer, Chiara Ferragni.
Moreover, this year nearly all the jury presidents are women: Lucrecia Martel for Venezia 76, Susanna Nicchiarelli for Orizzonti- Horizons, Laurie Anderson for Venice Virtual Reality, and Costanza Quatriglio for Venezia Classici. The only exception is Emil Kusturika, president of Venezia Opera Prima Luigi De Laurentiis.
The other recurring feature highlighted by Barbera concerns “films that are dedicated to the meticulous and documented reconstruction of events from recent and past history”.
Towering above everything in this strand is “J’accuse” , the € 26 million epic movie about the Dreyfus affair directed by Roman Polanski, hailed by Barbera as “one of the last maestros of European cinema”, and “Wasp Network” starring Penelope Cruz and Gael Garcia Bernal, where Olivier Assayas reconstructs episodes of Castroist agents infiltrating the opponents of the Cuban regime in the ‘90s.
In the structuring proposed by Barbera there is a return to “reality cinema that instead of being tempted to escape into parallel or purely imaginary universes, chooses to tackle the problems of today without necessarily falling into the traps of a pure and simple chronicled narration”.
“The Laundromat” by Steven Soderbergh dives into the world of global finance with the reconstruction of the “Panama Papers” through the performances of Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and Sharon Stone, while “Adults in the Room” by Costa-Gavras is based on the book of the same name by Yanis Varoufakis about the Greek “rescue” of 2015.
Venezia 76 will be all this and many other movies (63 feature length films, 21 of which in competition, 17 out of competition, 19 in Orizzonti, 4 in Sconfini and 3 in Biennale College) which could decide its success.
Here, once again, Barbera chooses a low profile and defuses the traditional rivalry with Cannes because “it is the movies that choose the festivals and not the other way around”.
It is possible that this year the Lido will not be the antechamber of the Oscars, but it will certainly feature a parade of stars and filmmakers (there are 8 Oscar winning directors) where the Hollywood imprint remains visible.
Once again this year American friends are happy to come to the Lido and, unusually, the majors have also accepted the risks of the competition: Warner Bros with “The Joker”, the sworn enemy of Batman, directed by Todd Philips starring Joaquin Phoenix (the cast also includes Robert De Niro); 20th Century Fox with “Ad Astra” by James Gray, with astronaut Brad Pitt on a mission to the frontiers of the universe (also in the cast are Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland).
However the fast track assembled with the majors does not prevent Barbera from welcoming films whose priority is not the big screen: we have already mentioned “The Laundromat” which bears the Netflix label, as does “Marriage Story”, about a nightmare matrimonial ménage, directed by Noah Baumbach, starring Scarlett Johannson and, out of competition, “The King” by David Michôd and the Amazon movie “Seberg”.
Johnny Depp is in “Waiting for the Barbarians” by the Colombian, Ciro Guerra: an allegorical story that evokes “The Desert of the Tartars” by Dino Buzzati. Another “evocative” movie is “A Herdade”, a kind of Portuguese “1900” directed by Tiago Guedes.
Also worth mentioning among the big international names is Atom Egoyan who returns to Venice in competition (after “Remember” in 2015) with “Guest of Honor”: the “emotional chronology” of a complex father-daughter relationship.
What about the Italians?
Here Barbera has favored research and experimentation, entrusting the testimony of quality Italian pictures created for the general public to the out of competition section with the new movies by Gabriele Salvatores, “Tutto il mio folle amore”, and Francesca Archibugi, “Vivere”.
The competition will be opening the doors to Pietro Marcello, a filmmaker who is very popular with movie fans and is tackling Jack London’s masterpiece “Martin Eden” (starring Luca Marinelli), reinventing the novel and setting it in Italy.
There is a courageous undertaking by Mario Martone who is in competition for the second year running with “The Mayor of Rione Sanità”, a reworking of the stage play of the same name by Edoardo De Filippo.
Undoubtedly it was a brave decision to enroll among the competitors for the Golden Lion “The Mafia is no longer what it used to be” which marks the return to the Lido of the brilliant Franco Maresco (who won an award in Orizzonti in 2014 for “Belluscone”) and never reconciled with his Sicily.
Italians are also the protagonists of “that part of cinema called TV series”: special screenings for “The New Pope” (episodes 2 and 7) by Paolo Sorrentino, and “Zerozerozero” (episodes 1 and 2) by Stefano Sollima.
Closing out of competition is another Italian, Giuseppe Capotondi (“The Double Hour”) with the thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy” set on Lake Como, starring Donald Sutherland and Mick Jagger.
If he were to accompany the movie, Jagger would exalt the rock side of Venice 76 which features, on the runway, out of competition, Roger Waters, the legendary leader of Pink Floyd, with his concert movie “US + Them”.