direttore Paolo Di Maira

VENICE 74./Surprises and Promises

Left to right: Julianne Moore as Margaret and Matt Damon as Gardner in SUBURBICON, from Paramount Pictures and Black Bear Pictures.

The old lady has caught everybody off guard and for her sixty-fourth edition has invented a place where cinema explores new languages: this is Venice Virtual Reality, the new section dedicated to virtual cinema.
“We did not imagine” says the Festival director Alberto Barbera, “that we would receive over one hundred proposals of shorts, features and installations (interactive and not)”.

Prudently Barbera does not see VR as the future of cinema but considers it “something else and different, destined to coexist with it in dedicated spaces”; the justification for the choice is based on the fact that “lots of contemporary artists and filmmakers are experimenting with the creative and expressive potential of this new language”.

Different method of consumption – revolving chairs, special eyewear, stand up positions, interactive modalities (it is necessary to pre-book) – different venue: the island of Lazzaretto Vecchio opposite the Lido where, in ancient times, the goods for the Serenissima were stored awaiting customs clearance, that has been adapted for this new use by the Biennale in collaboration with the Venice museum complex. In the selection are 22 works with a running time that varies between 5 and 55 minutes.

The filmmakers, from all over the world, are mainly American, like Laurie Anderson who, together with Huang Hsin-Chien, realized “La camera insabbiata”, a “vive stand up” animation. There is also an Italian in competition (the only one): Enrico Rosati with “Gomorra VR – We Own the Streets” (VR Theater).

The jolt provided by “Venice Virtual Reality” does not, however, take Venice 74 away from the paths that it has already started: there is a lot of Italian cinema and a lot of US cinema. The feeling between the Festival and the majors is getting stronger, the latter are now used to choosing the Lido for opening the Oscar season: undoubtedly among the many movies in the various sections some will continue the race towards the Academy Awards, as has happened in past years.

This year this mutual attraction has generated the selection of the six titles in competition: “Suburbicon” by Gorge Clooney with Matt Damon, the latter also stars in the opening movie “Downsizing” by Alexander Payne.
These are followed by “Mother!” by Darren Aronofsky, with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, “The shape of Water” by Guillermo del Toro, “First Reformed” by Paul Schrader and “Ex Libris, the New York Public Library” by Frederick Wiseman.

The Career Achievement Lions are also American, awarded to personalities who have made cinema history – Jane Fonda and Robert Redford (“The Electric Horseman”, the 1979 film in which they starred, directed by Sidney Pollack, will be screened in their honor), who will be accompanying “Our Souls in the Night”, a film out of competition in which they are directed by Ritesh Batra.

The film is produced by Netflix; unlike the Cannes Festival, Venice welcomes the OTT company with open arms and is hosting another two of its titles, also out of competition: the series “Suburra”, made in Italy, and the American “Wormwood” by Errol Morris.
There is a lot of Italian cinema this year with Barbera exalting its rediscovered vitality after the reservations expressed in past years.
There are four films in competition, all very different from each other: from “The Leisure Seeker” by Paolo Virzì, a road movie filmed in the USA starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, to “Hannah”, a film by Andrea Pallaoro built around the interpretation of Charlotte Rampling; from “Una famiglia” by Sebastiano Riso starring Micaela Ramazzotti and Patrick Bruel which revolves around the subject of wombs for rent, to the Neapolitan musical “Ammore e Malavita” by the Manetti Bros.

As Barbera puts it, “there is arthouse cinema and cinema that is trying to establish a dialogue with the public”.
Taking into account all the sections at the Festival, there are around thirty Italian titles on the bill: a high number because “the quality is high”, reasons the Festival director.

In what has been defined as the nouvelle vague of Italian cinema, the editorial policy of Rai Cinema, which this year is present at the Lido with 22 titles, plays an important role.
The CEO Paolo Del Brocco is satisfied and praises the selection criteria for this “mold- breaking” 74th edition explaining that: “our choices give space to innovative projects that tend to better satisfy some market requirements.

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