77th Venice Film Festival honors Tilda Swinton and Ann Hui

The 77th Venice Film Festival is in full swing since Sept 2 and runs through Sept 12. Venice went ahead and held the first physical as opposed to virtual film festival this year. The spring film festivals have been postponed because of covid but Venice took the Lion by the tail with celebrities walking the red carpet and being asked by photographers to wear their masks in their photos.

If you were not planning on visiting Venice anytime soon, a sober documentary screened on the first day is a testimony not only to the changes in this city since 25 February but how tourism in general keeps the city afloat and has been nearly emptied. Directed by Andrea Segre Molecole (Venetian Molecules) is also a tribute to his late father Elderico who died of a heart murmur, an avid super 8 filmmaker who shot Venice during his teens in the 1960's. He studied free radicals and his son shows this city held up by poles that has been subjected to the invisible world of molecules. We see the Venice before the massive tourist invasion and cruise ship destruction of recent, and life as it was in the 1960's. A local female gondeller and her relatives steer us around the city including a vist to "Ponta della Salute" - the "maregraphic zero" and benchmark to measure the water surrounding the city. Though the film pays homage to Camus' "The Stranger" and the alienation of a town that without tourists is now isolated, it is also a memory of how the 16th century bubonic plague devasted the city with 16K deaths. The iconic "Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute" along the Grande Canal was dedicated for the safety of the Venetians.

You have probably seen illustrations of the iconic beak masked character covered from head to toe that was the doctor of the time and did not heal as much as chase away bad spirits. A model of this doctor is in front of a shop in Venice called Macana, a company that did the masks for Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut(1999).

Just as the grainy remnant of his father's super 8 reels, Segre speaks about how the invisible molecules of Covid19 are altering human matter but his and his father's beloved Venice. This indeed was a moving first day film that has set the tone of the festival along with the mask-bearing celebrities and accredited patrons.

Ann Hui and Tilda Swinton received Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement. Upon receiving her reward Swinton said, "Cinema is my true happy place". "Wakanda Forever!" During the lockdown Swinton said she read read Michael Powell's biographies and spoke about the different epochs in the film industry that has survived so many changes, like silent film to sound, television, the Hollywood 10 trials and witch hunts, motion capture and streaming conglomerates screening bing watching pop culture films and series.

Anne Hui said “Thank you, Venice for giving me this encouragement at this difficult time. You do not know what encouragement you are giving to the people of Hong Kong too”.

Cate Blanchett is jury president and called the Venice fest "Ground Zero for creating a new festival and a new cinema in this challenging time. "It feels very collegiate, not territorial", she said. One strong contender for the Golden Lion which will be announced on Sept 12 is World to Come by Norwegian director Mona Fastvold starring Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby. Tallie (Kirby) is slowly being annihilated by her husband in New York in the rural 1850s. This world to come is a world where two women can live and love and not just in their imagination - Katherine Waterston as Abigail (Waterston) is a grieving mother who has lost her child and whose emotional core comes to life with Tallie. Producer of the film is she revealed that she usually writes movies for herself and her Fastvold’s creative partner Brady Corbet. She co wrote "Vox Lux,” “The Childhood of a Leader” both at previous Venice Film festivals.

Next week more from the Venice Film Festival.

© 2020 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/09/2020
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