Sunday, 2 September
Venice is a unique city and anyone who has been there understands that this isn’t patriotism talking. Every time the train travels down via Libertà (the only stretch of land that reaches the station) and I see this gem suspended above the water from afar, I always end up struck by the awe of it all. Especially if, like on this particular occasion, I’m arriving in Venice at dusk. I’m here for the Venice Film Festival, one of the most artistic but fashionable events worldwide that fills the lagoon with VIPs, film lovers, fans and press every year.
Even my “house” is in the perfect location this time: I take waterbus no. 2 to the San Marco (Vallaresso) stop. My hotel for the next few days will be Luna Hotel Baglioni, just a few steps from the splendid Venetian piazza. I have a first (amazing!) meal in the city here (at Ristorante Canova, the winner of the Fogher d’Oro and the Gambero Rosso). Then I decide to reward myself with a stroll through the most beautiful square in the world. The moon is full and the famous orchestra at Caffè Florian is playing my favorite tango: Por una cabeza by Carlos Gardel. The evening could not be more perfect.
Monday 3 September
My first day at Lido. Mission: Films! This year, for the entire festival, a special water shuttle (line 20) has been set up to run from some of the most popular points in the city right to Palazzo del Cinema.
It’s cloudy today but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be running from one room to another and I won’t have much time to spend outside. Rule Number One: always wear comfortable shoes. Better leave those stilettos to the people walking the red carpet. Rule Number Two: to speed things up, I suggest preparing a schedule of films to see the evening before. Which for us, the “press,” means literally playing with the overlaps between films, press releases and photo calls that, naturally, all take place in different spots that aren’t necessarily close together.
I have just enough time to pick up my accreditations and start my film marathon. Some personal advice: avoid, if you can, the “box office” films (because you’ll see them at the movies) in favor of more niche directors and films (that sometimes never make it to the movies). There are often some great surprises. Like the one I saw today by Roberto Minervini, Low Tide. This movie has almost no scenery but it was moving and drew the audience in with its images alone, earning a long applause as the credits rolled.
Tuesday, 4 September
Venice is beautiful and sunny today. My day starts with an “artistic” breakfast in the Salone Marco Polo at the hotel, filled with 17th century frescos by the students of Tiepolo, followed by a quick peek at the Bridge of Sighs. I have to say, the water shuttle to Lido, unlike the buses of Milan, is on time and, from my stop (San Zaccaria Monumento), takes a little less than 15 minutes to get to my destination.
This is going to be a crazy morning. I run from the PalaBiennale to Sala Volpi, from Sala Darsena to Sala Perla and there is just enough time to eat a quick sandwich while waiting in line between one film and another. That’s right because press or not, there is always a line at the Venice Film Festival, especially for the most anticipated and discussed films. It’s better to show up at least fifteen minutes before to be sure that you get a seat. I just waited in line for Spring breakers by Harmony Korine but it was worth the trouble. It is definitely the most interesting and captivating film of this sixty-ninth festival. Insular, raw and ironic, it’s full of bright colors that remind me of the photos by David LaChapelle. It’s a sort of mega pop video clip that is, at the same time, playful.
The film that I found truly moving, however, is the documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, by the Swiss director Sophie Huber. A black and white portrait of the actor and character that also acted for Wim Wenders and David Lynch, full of interviews, delightful chats, pearls of wisdom and folk and blues classics interpreted by Stanton.
Today, I’m leaving the Lido after having viewed the restored version of Campanadas a medianoche by Orson Welles. Every year, the Venice Film Festival offers a wide selection of classics. In the last few days, for example, several films by Elio Petri were screened.
Wednesday, 5 September
It’s never easy leaving this city but the time has come for me to leave the water and go back to the “metropolis” of Milan. Even though I’ve done nothing by watch six films a day, I didn’t get to see the one I really wanted but I made up for it at Le vie del cinema: a festival organized by Lombardia Spettacolo that, each year, as soon as the Venice Film Festival closes, brings a lot of the films that screened at Venice to Milan with very low ticket prices (€3 a film).
My bags are packed. I say goodbye to Piazza San Marco and I enjoy my last views of the lagoon from the water shuttle that is bringing me to the station. Goodbye, Venice! Until the next Festival!
Venice Film Festival
Luna Hotel Baglioni
Films to Watch
Harry Dean Stanton: partly fiction
Fill the void