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The 'New' Venice Film Festival

The 61st Venice International Film Festival has long been an “A” festival of world renown. This year an anti-globalization manifestation on the first day raised the question of how Venice may more and more be bowing to Hollywood glamour and celebrities by staging world premieres to market films outside the US. Many of these films do better in the global box office as proof. The manifestation was designed to blow the horn about the presence of Hollywood movie headliners with top stars as major muscles at Venice event. The Manchurian Candidate - United International Pictures, Man on Fire, 20th Century Fox and two films produced by Steven Spielberg’s company Dreamworks - The Terminal and Collateral were shown in the first three days. Two major animated films debut at the 61st festival: Shark Tale will be projected at Piazza San Marco on the final day and Howl’s Moving Castle was selected for the official competition.

There is curiously something added to films in and out of competition that make them look like they --- could be Italian. When Steven Spielberg’s A.I. was shown in 2001 - a Pinocchio spinoff, the story begins with the tale of a flood of the future where places like Venice are swept away. In Collateral, someone has an Italian handbag. Someone named Guiliano produced the film. At the press conference for The Manchurian Candidate (remake of the film starring Frank Sinatra, produced by Tina Sinatra. Meryl Streep was asked if she had bought an Italian handbag. “Yes”, she coyly gleamed in a measure of good humor! “I did”, and held it up for all the press to see. The Merchant of Venice was filmed in Venice starring Al Pacino! In Five x 2, in competition for the Golden Lion, the lead character has been in Sicily. Her husband reads a children’s story called “Lola and the Lion”. In Marzieh Meshkini's Stray Dogs also in competition, young children go to see The Bicycle Thief, to learn how to steal. From the Horizon section, Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci for his film Vital about a medical student that dissects cadavers. Spike Lee’s film She Hate Me stars Monica Bellucci with stereotypical references to Italian Americans such as Copppola’s The Godfather.

Italy's Prime minister, Silvio Berlosconi is trying to increase the reputation of the Venice event. Outside the Sala Grande where gala black tie openings are held every night huge posters of new films line the streets on the Lido— at this festival 21 American features. There are more security guards than ever. The stars don’t walk up the red carpet anymore – they are driven. The new festival director Marco Mueller experienced from Locarno and Rotterdam is a valuable asset to the present festival. He exudes an understanding of film—especially avantgarde and Asian film. But he also knows that celebrities attract—especially American celebrities. At the major US films, the theaters are completely packed as well as the accompanying press conferences. At others like digital cinema events the interest is sparse. Venice is a still a cutting edge festival for innovative film with style –a sophisticated sense for politics and art. As its face changes hopefully its stature will remain as a world class arena of high class cinema.

Moira Sullivan


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