*Featured Photo: Brigitte Bardot illuminating Venice with her presence in 1958: the photographers chase her and she immediately becomes the center of social life on the Lido. “BB”, at the peak of her career, came to the 19th Venice Film Festival as part of the cast of the film En cas de malheur (Love Is My Profession) by Claude Autant-Lara. (Photo credit courtesy of Asac – la Biennale di Venezia.)
Because of the war, few countries participated in the 1940, 1941 and 1942 Festivals, not taken into consideration later on, with the dominating presence of the members of the Alliance. Following the war pause, the Festival was held again in 1946 with screenings at Cinema San Marco (the Palazzo del Cinema had been requisitioned by the Allies).
In 1946, in view of an agreement with Cannes, which had held its first festival that year in the spring, a simple transitory festival was organized in September. The 1947 Festival was held in the splendid setting of the courtyard of the Ducal Palace, with a record audience of 90,000. It was one of the best festivals and saw the return of the USSR and the new “popular democracies” including Czechoslovakia, which won first prize for Siréna by Karel Stekly. That year the international jury was reinstated to assign the International Grand Prix of Venice. Up until 1948 the director was Elio Zorzi, a Venetian.
Proceedings were transferred permanently back to the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido in 1949, and the Golden Lion of St. Mark introduced for best film.
During the Fifties the Festival experienced a period of international expansion, with the affirmation of new types of film (Japanese, Indian), and the arrival of leading directors and film stars. The Festival director’s chair was occupied by Antonio Petrucci (from 1949 to 1953), Ottavio Croze (1954 and 1955), Floris Ammannati (from 1956 to 1959) and Emilio Lonero in 1960.
Over the years the Festival has had a noteworthy influence on the history of world cinema. Japanese cinema has become well known in the West mostly thanks to the Golden Lion awarded to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashômon in 1951, and successively through the Silver Lions won by Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) and Sanshô Dayû (1954) by Kenji Mizoguchi, not to mention the presence of films such as Biruma no Tategoto (1956) by Kon Ichikawa. It was the same case for Indian film, Golden Lion in 1957 to Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito. Eastern European cinema was brought to world attention partly through the Grand Prix awarded to the film Siréna (1947) by Karel Stekly (Czechoslovakia), and later thanks to the presence of emerging filmmakers such as Andrzey Waida (Popiól i diament, 1959).
After the first neo-realist films were shown at the Festival (Paisà by Roberto Rossellini and Il sole sorge ancora by Aldo Vergano in 1946, La terra trema by Luchino Visconti in 1948), a number of foremost Italian figures were recognised as leading talents in the ’50s and ’60s: Fellini, Antonioni, Rosi, Olmi, Bertolucci, Pasolini, Vancini, De Seta, and Zurlini. The fact that Luchino Visconti did not receive the Golden Lion for Senso in 1954 nor for Rocco e i suoi fratelli in 1960 led to heated debate. Visconti was to be awarded the top prize in 1964 for Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa.
French cinema marked decisive steps in the Festival history, with the presence of directors such as Jean Renoir (The Southerner, 1946), Henri-Georges Clouzot (Manon, 1949), Robert Bresson (Journal d’un curé de campagne, 1951), Marcel Carnè (Theresa Raquin, 1953), Louis Malle (Les amants, 1958), Alain Resnais (L’année dernière à Marienbad, 1961) and Jean-Luc Godard (Vivre sa vie, 1962; La chinoise, 1967).
Great figures in world cinema received awards with significant works: Carl Theodor Dreyer (Ordet, 1955), emergent Andrej Tarkovskj (Ivan’s Childhood, Golden Lion in 1962), Luis Buñuel (Belle de jour, 1967), Ingmar Bergman (The Face/The Magician, 1959), who had first come to the Lido in 1948 as an unknown figure with Musik i mörker.