Nearly always, under the pressure of questioning, Festival directors have to clutch at straws in order to identify the main theme justifying their selection criteria. This time, at the presentation of the 71st edition of the Venice Film Festival, the director, Alberto Barbera, did well to determine the themes within which most of the titles were grouped as being “literature” and “war”.
If we want to join in the game, from the titles in the program, we could hazard a guess at another, complementary, interpretation and find signs of a different way of thinking about cinema. Maybe the stars and film-makers (the “legends” at least) have been sacrificed, but this has been compensated by the strength of the topics confronted by the stories.
It seems that at this time of unprecedented economic crisis that (they say) is inevitably accompanied by a reduction in participation, cinema is able to offer answers to the questions people are asking, unlike most organs of information, at least in Italy, which are now reduced to megaphones of power.
But what reality will cinema bring to the Lido?
Italy is portrayed through “tough” episodes in the lives of intellectuals as they are called today, from Leopardi, as presented by Mario Martone in “Il giovane favoloso”, to the Pasolini of the movie of the same name directed by Abel Ferrara (both in compettion), to Aldo Nove, whose autobiographical novel “La vita oscena” has been brought to the screen by Renato De Maria (in the Orizzonti section).
Still remaining within the confines of our home-land, the other two movies in competition are based on novels: “Anime nere” (storia di ‘ndagheta) by Francesco Munzi, comes on the back of the novel of the same name by Gioacchino Criaco, whilst “Hungry hearts” (the difficult relationship between a mother and son) by Saverio Costanzo is based on “Bambino Indaco” by Marco Franoso.
Civil commitment returns with “Patria” by Felice Farina, looking at the history of Italy from the murder of Aldo Moro to the present day, and “La trattativa”, where Sabina Guzzanti proposes (out of competition) her interpretation of the relationship between the State and the Mafia.
The latter can be easily associated with “Belluscone, una storia siciliana” by Franco Maresco (Orizzonti), whereas the documentary by Tatti Sanguineti, “Giulio Andreotti, il cinema visto da vicino”, is dedicated to the relationship between former italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and cinema.
Out of competition, Davide Ferrario’s “La zuppa del demonio” uses material from the national business cinema archives of Ivrea to try and create a story about the utopia of progress that engulfed Italy between 1910 and 1975.
Also out of competition, Gabriele Salvatores has realized the Italian version of a social cinema project, the brainchild of Ridley Scott: in his “Italy in a Day” he has edited a selection of home videos all filmed by Italians on a set day of the year. Anyone who finds the Italian horizon too restricted can choose between the genocide of the Armenians in “The cut” by Fatih Akin, the use of drones in war zones in “A Good Kill” by Andrei Niccol and the devastating effects of the financialization of the real estate market in “99 Homes” by Ramin Bahrani (all three movies are in competition, as is the only documentary, “The Look of Silence” by Joshua Oppenheimer, about the massacre of Communists carried out by the Indonesian regime in 1965).
Also in competition: the First World War with “Nobi” by Shunia Tsukamoto, and the war in Algeria with “Loin des hommes” by David Holhoffen.
These are just some of the 55 movies selected out of the around 1600 viewed, that this year the public at the Lido can enjoy in even greater comfort. In fact the redevelopment of the movie theaters rages ahead: at this edition it is the turn of the Sala Darsena, which has been expanded from 1300 to 1409 seats and which, in the near future, will be connected to the Palazzo del Cinema.
In fact, this will lead to the creation of the Nuovo Palazzo del Cinema announced by the president of the Biennale, Paolo Baratta, with the same proud nonchalance with which, years ago, he announced another Palazzo del Cinema project that subsequently failed at a cost of around 30 million Euros and related damage to the environment.
Returning to the movies, whose journey at the Festival seems to be more linked to the themes than the star system (even though actors of the caliber of Al Pacino, Bill Murray, Catherine Deneuve, Willem Dafoe and Naomi Watts, to mention just a few, will be coming to Venice), it will be interesting to see, after Venice, how they will be treated by the Italian distribution system which appears to be increasingly unable to identify and satisfy the tastes of modern audiences.