Venice 79, identities in crisis and questions about the future

This is not an easy edition of the Venice Film Festival. Let’s give a look at the synopsis of the film on competition. Exploded family picking up their pieces, challenged gender identities, an obese father who tries to regain the love of his teen daughter (The Whale by Darren Aronofsky) or an ex-wife that reappears with the troubled son to ruin the new life of her former husband. This happens in The Son by Florian Zeller, the author of The Father. The program of this year’s festival is full of real or virtual, living or dying, faltering or cathartic parents-sons relationship. It seems like the dramatic moment we are passing through is imposing to come back to our roots, questioning ourselves about blood and love ties, sink the scalpel in that lump of contradictions we call identity.

This is not a conciliatory editionAlberto Barbera has the great merit of having said clear and loud to the press, including Ciak, that in Italy, there’s an increasingly perverse relationship between production and consumer. Shortly: film production is increasing, but we watch fewer movies because many of them don’t worth the time spent watching them. Because it seems made only to cash the public money that supports Italian productions. It’s a vicious circle that great festivals must fight.

It’s not a celebrative Venice and neither folded on glorious past. Cinema was the art of the XX century, but this new millennium is different. These troubled families and sons symbolise a problematic legacy, a passing of the torch necessary but still confused. It’s what the four Netflix movies in competition (never that many) remind us. Even if it is difficult to link the adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise by Noah Baumbach, the tormented Marilyn by Andrew Dominik based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates (Blonde), the struggling journalist of Iñárritu (Bardo, falsa cronica de unas cuantas verdades) or Romain Gavras’s Athena that looks pretty close to Les misérables made by his mate Ladj Ly. We should add the cannibal lovers by Luca Guadagnino (Bones and All, Freemantle-MGM production that means Amazon). The (big) names of the director unite these different stories. Streaming platforms need the festival, we know it. Maybe festivals could ask for different visibility on the confusing menus of the platforms as well as a less evanescent theatrical release.

There’s a lot at stake for Italian cinema this year, if not everything, with five authors well assorted for age and temper. Master Gianni Amelio’s Il signore delle formiche looks good (about the Braibanti case, a historic Italian trial for plagiarism that took place during the ’60s and was also rediscovered through an excellent documentary by Carmen Giardina and Massimiliano Palmese). The much talented Susanna Nicchiarelli discovers the other half of San Francesco with ChiaraEmanuele Crialese, another great talent out of the radar for a while, backs to the ’70s with the semi-autobiographical L’immensità. Andrea Pallaoro (Monica) and Guadagnino confirm their international vocation (it would be nice if they worked in Italy every now and then).

Then maybe will win the great Iranian Jafar Panahi (No Bears), who’s currently in jail, the Senegalese Medea by Alice Diop (Saint Omer), or the post-family of the great Japanese Koji Fukada (Love Life), or the much-awaited The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh, the director of In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside, Missouri. It’s the beauty of Venice. The most important thing, as usual, is may the best win.

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