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Venice Film Festival 2013


Venice Film Festival … Networking:  la dolce vita way…

I’ve been on intimate terms with Venice for a long time. I know her well. Her dampness and wet. Her shadows and light. Her crumbling decadent beauty and strident artifice. Steps to nowhere.  Bridges to everywhere. I go to her to write, to listen to concerts, taste wines, visit exhibitions. I go alone, to feed my soul.

But this was my first time at the Venice Film Festival and it provided such a new way to experience Venice. When I wrote to the Accreditation Office, I explained that I was a wine author trying to break into film-writing. Not having any film-related body of work to show them, I wished to come to watch and learn. “Non sono nessuno … niente”, I offered. They were extraordinarily helpful and professional. They gave me an Industry Pass, patiently explained how it all works, and when I arrived at their offices on the Lido, they invited me to the Opening Ceremony, the Premier (Gravity), and the dinner at the Excelsior afterwards. I met the most fascinating woman next to me at the Premier, Caroline, who then invited me to the after-party. Having spent most of the film holding white-knuckled hands, we are now firm friends. And, as accustomed as I am to the social whirl of châteaux, galas and black-tie tasting events, I have to say that the wine industry has a lot to learn from that of film, and Venice in particular – such effortless glamour. Every premier had a pre-party, an after-party, and an after-after party! One night I found myself eating sea bass at 2 am at Bungalow 8 in the Palazzino Grassi for The Canyons party with Harvey Weinstein at the next table.

What was frustrating, for me, as a total novice, was trying to figure out the best way to “use” the festival. It was so perfectly organised and every day there were industry events, conferences and movies. You could not do it all. But I noticed that there was actually quite a lot of business being done on the terrace of the Terrazza Mediterranea whilst sunbathing and sipping Pinot Grigio or on the Excelsior’s beach during cocktail hour. I know that Venice is viewed as more “social” than Cannes or Toronto, but I accomplished a lot, in the most unexpected situations and venues. Encounters happened organically; without force or contrivance. 

The Festival attracts the films. Its opening title, Gravity  was panned the next morning  as being too “Hollywood”. But as the week went on and we were served a plethora of films all seemingly on incest, suicide and other such angst-ridden themes, its ratings improved dramatically! Philamena was splendid. Catch Andrea Pallaoro’s compelling Medeas. And avoid Under the Skin. Meant to be an “erotic thriller”, it was neither erotic nor thrilling but was a juvenile fantasy of sorts,  to which a spotty-faced adolescent might enjoy masturbating. The critics left the Sala Grande in droves. It was an unworthy vehicle for Scarlett Johansson's talent. That said, the sheer wealth and breadth of films present, and the talent displayed  was truly international.

The Venice festival is unjustly under-rated, knows it, and is pulling out all of the stops to attract its previous attendance. And it is working. Everyone I met was generous with their time, their knowledge and their contacts. Network the Italian way, I say.

LJ Johnson-Bell