Traveling by definition is both coming closer and moving away. (…)
I wonder if the meaning of travel is not ultimately in returning, having taken one’s distance to see better, or simply to be able to see.
Wim Wenders, from “The Act of Seeing”
Today, there is no simple or predictable answer to the usual question – which surfaces each time the festival comes around – regarding the future of cinema. The film industry, lacerated from within by contrasting subjects who are, for the most part, clinging to corporatist defensive positions, seems unable to provide an answer.
Nor is a solution offered by critics, who no longer waver between stances that are apocalyptic or integrated, as we used to say, but between disappointed skepticism and die-hard optimism regarding the future of an art form that is undergoing breakneck transformation. Neither do filmmakers seem particularly interested in finding an answer; they seem to be primarily occupied with tapping into the vast economic resources – so vast that the memory of the golden age of cinema pales in comparison – in order to make as many movies as they can. Often to the detriment of quality, which should not be affected by haste, and resulting in shorter shooting and production schedules, and a lack of screenplay development, which requires much greater care for an adequate and satisfactory outcome. But time is of the essence, platforms press for more new content, and even those few countries still lacking a film tradition are racing to equip themselves with organisms and structures geared to foster its development. The short-sighted debate over so-called “windows” and the predominance of algorithms have little real effect, while the majority of movies that aspire toward distribution in cinemas are suspended in a limbo that is destined to last forever.
But more and more people go to festivals, and the desire to earn a place in the sun in the ever-feared and much-respected agon seems to indicate a future that is anything but free of expectations and wide appeal. How can we not agree with Francis Coppola, who, at 82 years of age, expresses unlimited faith in the future of film and the survival of theatres, where the audience’s response has withstood the challenge of time ever since the days of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides? The Venice International Film Festival, which is about to mark the ninetieth anniversary of its first edition – which took place from August 6 to August 21, 1932 – is a reflection of this difficult moment, affected by all kinds of tension and subject to an ongoing transformation whose telluric dimensions we can sense but whose final outcome is not ours to see.
Assuming one exists, in a world that is increasingly fluid and liable to abrupt and unpredictable change. The program is more varied than usual, placing affirmed filmmakers alongside directors in search of confirmation and, above all, talented newcomers aspiring for international recognition, but what still prevails is the feeling that “Cinema still wants to try to explore ways of thinking, big themes and big questions, the profound relationships that tie people to one another, the power of feelings and memory and the ability to push one’s gaze beyond the horizon of the present.” We are borrowing the words of Gian Piero Brunetta, taken from the monumental work that reconstructs the history of the Film Festival in a book that was co-edited for the occasion by Marsilio and La Biennale di Venezia. One thousand two hundred pages that flow like a grand adventure story, whose events are intertwined with the political, social, and moral vicissitudes that have affected Italy over these past nine decades. A magnificent gift for an important birthday, considerable sustenance for a journey that is destined to continue well beyond this year’s festival. Which, rather than ecumenical or reassuring, aims to be interrogative and debatable.
Nicola Lagioia says that literature has an amazing ability to “bridge the (sometimes enormous) gap that separates us from ourselves.” Substitute the word ‘film’ for ‘literature’ and you will discover that it is still a perfect fit. The Venice Film Festival is this, as well: an invitation to go on a surprising journey; when it ends, we might not be the same as we were before.