Venice Film Festival opens with Italian film premiere, leads with plea to save cinemas
Every invention in this world has been decried. When the steam engine came, people called it a monster, a huge one belching black smoke. The very devil, they thought. When the telly appeared, the theatres shivered in fright. The Big Screen feared that the small screen would swallow it! This has been imaginatively captured in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But over the years, the big brother learnt to co-exist with the little brother. People did not stop going to the cinema. Did they?
Similarly, the past five years or so have seen theatres shudder at the way streaming platforms have been coming along. Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar and Disney as well as homegrown Zee5 and the like have made huge inroads into the entertainment industry. And with home screens now getting bigger and better, theatres are having a hard time. The current coronavirus pandemic with people being forced to stay indoors encouraged streaming platforms in a huge way.
Two years ago, French producers, distributors and exhibitors cried hoarse when the Cannes Film Festival wanted to screen original movies made by Netflix and Amazon. They ruled that the festival films must be shown in theatres before they can be screened online. Being a powerful lobby, they won, and Cannes lost. Cannes’ loss became Venice’s gain, when the Lido Festival programmed some lovely titles, like Roma, which went on to shine at the Oscars.
This year, the 77th Venice Film Festival began on Wednesday evening (September 2) – in a physical form despite the pandemic still raging – with a passionate cry to stop the death of “movie going experience in the face of a perceived threat by streaming giants”.
Although the opening movie – Daniele Luchetti’s marriage drama, The Ties (the first Italian title to open the Festival since 2009) – was well received, inspite of the cumbersome temperature checks, compulsory face masks both inside the halls and outside and physically distanced seating arrangements.
But the opening ceremony just before the Italian film was shown had speaker after speaker, including the directors of top seven European film festivals (Cannes’ Thierry Fremaux was also there) declaring their full support for the big screen.
“Today, film theatres are opening their doors again, though, like festivals, with a degree of uncertainty and anxiety,” their joint statement said. “But they are also doing so with hope and conviction, because they know that now, more than ever before, no one can live without cinema...No one can live without movies seen in a theatre, on a big screen, with an audience, with all the chatter and the silence.”
“We wish to firmly repeat this tonight: we must take care of our movie theatres. And all together, they and we, the theatre and the festivals, commit to taking care of the films, the artists, the professionals, the critics, of all those who bring cinema into existence,” the statement added.
Earlier, the President of the main Competition jury, Cate Blanchett, voiced similar sentiments at a media conference. “Although people have been sustained by the streaming giants there is a vital component that’s been missing. And that’s here tonight: it’s strangers gathered in the dark in anticipation of a collective experience,” she said.
Tilda Swinton, who was honoured with a Golden Lion for Career Achievement during the opening ceremony also felt the same:“to be in a room with living creatures and a big screen,” and to see a movie in Venice, is pure joy.”
The inaugural work, The Ties (Lacci in Italian, and which specifically translates as Shoelaces), got the pride of place in a Venice’s opening slot after 11 years – years when Italian cinema never secured this, the slot invariably going to American and European cinema (Gravity, The Truth, First Man, Downsizing).
Set in Naples, The Ties has been adapted from a novel by one of the screenwriters, Domenico Starnone. Veteran Luchetti directs an all-star cast with Alba Rohrwacher and Laura Morante to bring to life a narrative about adultery and regret. Taking place in the 1980s, the movie painful depicts the feelings of a betrayed wife, whose husband of 12 years confesses to sleeping with a younger woman.
Rohrwacher plays the wronged woman who is devastated and hugely concerned how the affair will affect her two young children. But the husband is callous about all this, but later regretting how horrible he had been. Not a very novel theme, but in extraordinary times like these, Venice struggling to counter the absence of big studio films from Hollywood, would have had little to choose from.
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