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Venice Film Festival 2022: La Mostra Turns 90

“This year, great titles are expected to light up the Lido’s theaters.”

They say the Excelsior Hotel’s Darsena, the dock to which the stars arrive for the Venice Film Festival, is on the island of Lido. False. The Darsena is elsewhere. It is set in another time. Get on a boat, convince the unfortunate driver to give you a lift. It’s easier than it sounds. During the summer, Venetians would do just about anything to leave the canals behind and get lost in the lagoon. Follow the Grand Canal, speed into St Mark’s Basin and then whiz across that little piece of lagoon that separates Venice from its Lido. Once you have rounded the majestic bend that, aided by a few weeping willows, cuts the Excelsior’s canal in two, you will find yourself, suddenly and without warning, elsewhere. Some say you will end up in a Visconti film. Others, simply, in a dream.  

An end-of-summer dream that has lasted, unchanged, for 90 years. In the rest of the world, summer is a destination, the longed-for finish line of an endless winter marathon. In Venice, summer means waiting. From the moment the sun begins to warm up the waters of the lagoon, a long, corrosive countdown begins. To return, anxiously, elsewhere. 

From mid-July onwards, one may notice the first operators of the Venice Film Festival rushing around the Palazzo del Cinema, worrying about the event’s preparations. Now, towards the end of August, while most Italians reluctantly get themselves ready to go back to their AC-equipped offices, Venice quivers.  

On the horizon, the dawn of the Venice Film Festival–this year from August 31st to September 10th. 

“A dip and two films, a dip and three films: this is the rhythm of these days,” wrote film critic and member of the festival jury Mario Gromo about the festival’s first year. 

In 1932, businessman and politician Count Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata founded the then-called La Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica (The International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art), dedicated to the seventh art of the 18th Venice Biennale. Its home: the Excelsior Hotel, which Volpi had just bought. Invented to breath new life into the Lido, the island where Venetians and wealthy Europeans let summer days slip by al fresco, and to demonstrate to the world the artistic potential of the moving image, the film festival had the power to take the whole city elsewhere for the ten days that act as a hinge between summer and autumn. Between fantasy and reality. 

1932 Venice Film Festival Audience

9:15 p.m. on August 6th, 1932: the show begins. On the screen, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Rouben Mamoulian. Ninety years and 79 editions later, the show goes on. In the time between, the history of cinema has been made in the spaces between the sea, the golden sun and the St Mark’s Lion waving in the background. 

All the greatest names have appeared on the Lido’s screens. The Italians of the golden era, like Fellini, Visconti, Antonioni, Bertolucci and Pasolini (just to name a few) walked through the doors of the Palazzo del Cinema, where the festival took place from 1949 onwards. Yet an international heart has always beaten at the Lido. The history of French cinema, represented by the likes of Renoir, Bresson, Godard and Malle, was written between these walls. And the rest of the world did not hesitate to join in: Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, who first came to the Lido in 1948 as an unknown figure with Musik i mörker (Music in Darkness), came back in 1959 to present The Face (The Magician), and in 1962, Soviet Russian filmmaker Andrej Tarkovskj won the Golden Lion, the festival’s greatest award, with Ivan’s Childhood. 

In more recent years, Somewhere, directed by Sofia Coppola; Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan; Nomadland by Chloé Zhao and Madres paralelas by Pedro Almodóvar have been only a few of the titles make their world premieres on the Venice Film Festival’s screens, and international stars like Monica Bellucci, Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Catherine Deneuve, Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Colin Firth, Jane Birkin and countless others have graced its red carpet.  

This year, great titles are expected to light up the Lido’s theaters. Five Italian movies will be up for the Venice Film Festival’s competition: Il signore delle formiche (Lord of the Ants) by Gianni Amelio, starring Luigi Lo Cascio and Elio Germano; L’immensità (Immensity) by Emanuele Crialese with Penélope Cruz; Susanna Nicchiarelli’s Chiara; Bones and all by Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet; and Monica by Andrea Pallaoro with Trace Lysette and Patricia Clarkson. Milanese Carolina Cavalli will make her debut as writer-director with Amanda, starring Benedetta Porcaroli and screened as part of the “Horizon’s Extra” selection. Much awaited international productions include Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, with Florence Pugh and Harry Styles; Blonde, the latest movie on Marilyn Monroe, directed by Andrew Dominick and interpreted by Ana De Armas; and Todd Field’s Tàr, starring one of the festival’s recurring characters: Cate Blanchett. It seems like Venice is ready, once again, to be transported elsewhere.