*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.)
The unmistakable face of Eric von Stroheim, a guest at the Venice Film Festival in 1951, shown here with Giovanni Ponti, the Special Commissioner of the Biennale. In 1958 the Venice Film Festival dedicated a major retrospective to the Austrian director.
KENJI MIZOGUCHI ON THE BEACH – PHOTO
Kenji Mizoguchi on the beach of the Lido in 1953: he was the winner of the Silver Lion that year for Ugetsu Monogatari, jointly with Moulin Rouge by John Huston, Thérèse Raquin by Marcel Carné, Sadko by Aleksandr Ptushko, I vitelloni by Federico Fellini and The Little Fugitive by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin. The Jury chose not to award the Golden Lion.
GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA ON THE SEASHORE AT THE LIDO – PHOTO
Gina Lollobrigida on the seashore at the Lido in 1956: she was one of the most highly acclaimed stars that year. Oriana Fallaci described her triumphal arrival at the Palazzo del Cinema in L’Europeo magazine: “A roar rose up from the crowd. The metal barricades risked snapping like twigs, the 156 policemen trying to hold back all those bodies were on the verge of being overwhelmed by the crush. Gina alighted from a taxi accompanied by Milko Skofic and by a bodyguard. Milko looked bored. Gina was wearing a blue-green satin dress, glittering with sequins; she exhibited blood-red gloves and not a jewel around her neck. (…) The photographers rushed towards her. The bodyguard enclosed her in a circle of arms. You could no longer see her long breezy black curls, her immense wonderstruck eyes and her full lips. (…) All of this took place at ten in the evening on Tuesday August 28th, the day of the inauguration of the 17th Film Festival, also known as the Lollo’s Festival, for the heroine of our time”. Gina Lollobrigida had already participated in the Venice Film Festival in 1952 as the actress in two films: Altri tempi, a film in nine episodes by Alessandro Blasetti, and Les belles de nuit by René Clair.
ANGELO RIZZOLI AND FEDERICO FELLINI – PHOTO
Producer Angelo Rizzoli and a young Federico Fellini meet outside the Palazzo del Cinema: the year is 1958. A few months later, in March 1959, together they would begin production of La dolce vita.
ELSA MAXWELL AND OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND – PHOTO
Elsa Maxwell, the tireless mover of the Venetian smart set, dressed extravagantly as a Navy officer, hugs actress Olivia de Havilland in Venice, in 1955.
JOAN FONTAINE DISEMBARKS AT THE LIDO – PHOTO
1952: Joan Fontaine disembarks on the famous Darsena of the Excelsior Hotel. The actress came to the Venice Film Festival as the star of Ivanhoe by Richard Thorpe.
MARIA CALLAS IN VENICE – PHOTO
1957: Maria Callas is one of the stars that enliven the nights of the 18th Venice Film Festival with her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini. That was the year that the opera singer met Aristotle Onassis for the first time in Venice, and two years later he would become her partner.
The Biennale Cinema 2016 will run Aug. 31 to Sept. 10
In 1990 the jury headed by Gore Vidal assigned the Golden Lion to Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in preference to the visionary emerging talent of Jane Campion. This controversial decision kindled heated debate between the public and experts, with shades of the ’50s when the juries apparently ignored Visconti’s films. An Angel at My Table only received the Jury Grand Prix. Likewise the great surprise of the following year, Raise the Red Lantern by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, did not succeed in winning the Golden Lion (it went instead to Michalkov’s Urga), however the last Festival directed by Biraghi was distinguished by a broad variety in selection, and the inclusion of young American talent such as Spike Lee and Gus Van Sant.
Filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo (nominated Curator in 1992 then appointed Director until 1996), the director of La battaglia di Algeri, took up office with three decrees: make Venice the capital of quality filmmaking, bring the great directors and film stars back to the Lido, and revitalise the Palazzo del Cinema zone with young people. Pontecorvo succeeded in his intentions through a remarkable series of events and initiatives. During the years of his mandate Venice hosted the “Auteurs’ Assise” (1993), numerous seminars were held and the U.M.A.C. (World Union of Auteurs) was founded.
The spectacular films from the Notte section brought “stars” from the US firmament to the Lido – Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, with Golden Lions for Career Achievement to Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Francis Coppola; at the 1992 Festival, the Golden Lion was awarded to a comedian, Paolo Villaggio.
The Lido was re-animated during the Pontecorvo years with rock concerts held in the square facing the Casinò, and thanks to the initiative of “CinemAvvenire”, which entailed inviting high school students who had won awards for work on film themes.
Of the films and filmmakers launched during Pontecorvo’s period, mention must be made of the young Italians Mario Martone (Morte di un matematico napoletano), Aurelio Grimaldi (La discesa di Aclà a Floristella), Carlo Carlei (La corsa dell’innocente at the first Festival, along with Sally Potter (Orlando) and Neil Jordan (The Crying Game).
Over the following years the Lido witnessed a series of appearances by filmmakers and works including Altman (Short Cuts, Golden Lion) and Abel Ferrara, de Heer and Radford (Il postino), Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures) and Milcho Manchevski (Before the Rain, Golden Lion), Lee Tamahori and Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days), Tsai Ming Liang and Anh Hung Tran (two oriental Golden Lions), Gregg Araki, then Jane Campion once more (The Portrait of a Lady).
One of the innovations introduced by Pontecorvo was the landmark section “Finestra sulle immagini”, a lively workshop of film and video, shorts, medium length and feature films, animation, anything new and unusual on offer from audio-visual production.
Under the direction of Felice Laudadio the films of Takeshi Kitano were launched on the international stage; in 1997 he received the Golden Lion for Hana-bi. In 1998 Così ridevano by Gianni Amelio became the ninth Golden Lion awarded to an Italian film. At this time a vast marquee was also erected in Via Sandro Gallo to host the ever-increasing members of the public for the Festival screenings.
In 1999, Alberto Barbera was appointed as director of the festival. He took up the position until 2001.