By Alessandra Zoppi
Venice is among the most beautiful cities in the world, but its art, light, culture and architecture are what make it unique. Once a year during the Venice Film Festival, one of the sectors most important and coveted events, it shines brighter than ever.
The festival’s 74th iteration took place between August 30th and September 9th and was customarily centred around Venice’s Lido, the golden island, in the “Palazzo del Cinema”, with its unmistakeable 40s-style architecture, the nearby Casino and the striking Hotel Excelsior.
In the final day leading up to the grand opening, all eyes turn to the Danieli hotels breath-taking roof terrace for the Variety-hosted cocktail party, “Faces of a Woman #Faces4venice.” The event is held in the honour of Annette Bening, the first woman chairman of the jury, elegant and discreet, who, beginning tomorrow, will be obliged to shun the press until the final ballots are cast. After a few cocktails, accompanied by the evergreen music of DJ Joe T Vannelli, its time to get ready for the next day official opening ceremony.
The festivals first red carpet is both institutional and glamorous: authorities, producers and Matt Demon, lead role in the “out of competition” presentation “Downsizing,” by Alexander Payne, paraded into the main hall, where chairman Paolo Baratta and director Alberto Barbera officially inaugurate the 74th Venice Film Festival with Alessandro Borghi to host the opening ceremony. The young and dashing Italian actor, alongside his girlfriend Roberta, both in head-to-toe Gucci for the duration of the festival, is perfectly at ease in his new role.
The event picks up right from the beginning, with films being screened daily at every hour on the Lido, while in town Venetian palazzos, the citys most picturesque locations, open their doors to cocktail and dinner parties held to celebrate films and actors or launch new initiatives.
My journey begins at the Cipriani Granai, on the Giudecca island, where I attend a cocktail party thrown by Vanity Fair to celebrate legendary photographer David Montgomery’s first Italian retrospective. “So Wonderful” exhibition – 30 snapshots of renown individuals which rightfully entered our collective imagination. An interstitial exhibition between film, music, fashion, art and pop culture.
It’s time to get focused on films. Ai Wei Weis “Human Flow” is a long and touching world journey, from Afghanistan to Sicily’s coast, from Mexico to the United States documenting and telling the stories of all migratory flows while aiming to support their struggle and the refugees cause. Raw and beautiful images from an artist who never forgets to put himself at the forefront of all his messages.
The following evening, in Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore, Ermenegildo Zegna present their winter campaign, “Defining Moments”, shot by the late Franca Sozzani’s son, Francesco Carrozzini, and starring Robert De Niro and Benjamin Millepied; a thrilling celebration within the palazzos dazzling halls accompanied by an excellent menu and the music of Italian singer/author Alex Britti.
“Victoria & Abdul” is an enjoyable comedy from Stephen Frears, a slightly tweaked true story involving Queen Victoria (the exquisite Judi Dench) and her secretary Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Out of competition section.
My personal favourite would have to be “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”, a darkly comic drama from Martin McDonagh. An outstanding effort from the cast: Frances McDormand, for whom I would’ve wanted a prize, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. The film went on to win the prize for best screenplay
“Mother”, from Darren Aronofsky, was rather nightmarish than a masterpiece yet managed to partially redeem itself through its stellar cast. Jennifer Lawrence was breath-taking in an embroidered tulle dress by Giambattista Valli, Michelle Pfeiffer left a sparkling trail upon her passage, whereas Javier Bardem needs no further introduction.
“Ammore e Malavita”, a hidden gem from the Italian film sector, was a resounding success shot by the Manetti Bros. Incredibly funny and witty, a masterful musical which playfully mocks “La La Land” while clearly drawing from Neapolitan theatre by casting Claudia Gerini, Giampaolo Morelli and Serena Rossi.
In Venice Harry’s Bar is cinema within cinema: never quiet until the early hours, be it for lunch or dinner, work or leisure, rest assured everyone will be passing through at least on one occasion.
Another renown haunt is Da Ivo restaurant, George Clooney’s favourite (he’s in Venice presenting his film “Suburbicon.”) Another is one Michelin starred Caffe Quadri, the only restaurant in St. Marks Square, however, the Venetian summer requires one to search for solace in the cool breeze, caressing the many canals river, and what better place to enjoy the breeze than the waterfront terraces of the Gritti Palace, Bauer and Monaco & Grand Canal hotels?
Hidden from prying eyes, with a magnificent view of the Adriatic Sea, the roof terrace atop Lido’s Palazzo del Cinema is yet another spectacular spot for a glass of champagne in-between screenings. For actors, majors delegations and guests only. From there, after complimenting Alessandro Borghi on his seemingly effortless tenure as the festivals host, we head off to the final prize-giving ceremony and the 74th Venice Film
Festival’s closing ceremony.
Awaiting the jury’s final verdict is never a dull affair.
Leone d’Oro for best film:
“The Shape of Water” from Guillermo del Toro.
Coppa Volpi for best actress:
awarded to Charlotte Rampling
Golden Lions for Lifetime achievement
Jane Fonda and Robert Redford
My personal prize goes to the beautiful and tres-chic Anna Mouglalis, always wearing Chanel.
The night comes to a close with a happy ending dinner in the Salone degli Specchi (Mirror Hall) followed by a wild dancing party on the Excelsior’s beach.