Turning 90

The Biennale celebrates the ninetieth anniversary of the Venice Film Festival
by Roberto Pugliese

An international conference at Giardini, an exhibition at Ca’ Giustinian and an evening at Sala Grande where two films in the line-up of the first Festival in 1932 will be screened. Happy anniversary Mostra del Cinema!

If the Venice International Film Festival appears to us, today, as a radiant ninety-year-old, we owe it to its apparent institutional instability. No other festival has ever been affected so strongly by the spirit of time. Born as a propaganda arm of the Fascist regime, then turned into the jumping board of everything twentieth-century, a stage for the politique des auteurs, a target first, flywheel later, of the Protests of 1968, a tool for experimentation, a showcase of new technology. The Festival is all this and more than anything its founder, Giuseppe Volpi, may have thought. The institutional relationship with the Biennale, itself two years older than the VFF, the management structure and the political nature of its board granted, over the decades, discontinuity, diversity, and plurality – more than any other comparable show anywhere.

Ammannati, Chiarini, Meccoli, Laura, Lizzani, Biraghi, Pontecorvo, Laudadio, Müller, Barbera – the VFF witnessed and documented the technical evolution of cinema as well as the evolution of a language that never lost its grip on our imagination, though at the same time had to reinvent and re-write its own rules. Two ‘scandals’ come to memory: one on Querelle de Brest (1982) and the other on The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). The Festival was also the launchpad for international blockbusters (Indiana Jones and Star Wars) and the nightly stage for unrepeatable experiences (Straub, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Kubrick’s Lolita, the director’s cut of Cimino’s Gates of Heaven).

All of this will be discussed on Saturday, July 9, at a celebration convention for the Festival’s ninety years. 1929 Dutch documentary Regen (Rain) by Mannus Franken and Joris Ivens will be screened in Sala Grande at 9pm, followed by What Scoundrels Men Are! by Mario Camerini (1932). Both films were in the first edition’s line-up in 1932. The celebration day will start early, in Venice, at the Giardini Library, with an international symposium and the presentation of a book, La Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia, by Gian Piero Brunetta, a top historian of Italian cinema. At Ca’ Giustinian, the main offices of the Biennale in Venice, an exhibition on the first Venice Film Festival has been produced by the Historical Archive section of the Biennale.