Arts & Entertainment

Almodovar, Penelope Cruz to open star-studded Venice Film Festival

By Magdalena Tsanis

Venice, Italy, Aug 31 (EFE).- A duo of Spanish cinema icons – Academy Award-winning director Pedro Almodovar and Oscar-winning actress Penelope Cruz – are set to open the 78th Venice International Film Festival, which was an unusually low-key event last year but is set to welcome back some big Hollywood stars starting Wednesday.

Some of the most-anticipated movies of the season will have their world premieres in Venice, including Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” and Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel” (both of which will be screened out of competition) and the latest offerings by Paolo Sorrentino, Jane Campion (her first feature film in a decade) and Pablo Larrain.

Almodovar, along with Cruz and other cast members in his latest picture – the in-competition “Madres Paralelas” (Parallel Mothers), the festival’s opening film – will be the first to walk the red carpet at the Palazzo del Cinema di Venezia on Wednesday night.

The other big star of the evening will be Roberto Benigni, best known for directing, writing and starring in the 1997 Holocaust film “Life Is Beautiful,” who will receive one of this edition’s two honorary Golden Lions for his contributions to cinema.

The other career honor will go to American actress Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of film legends Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh and the star of movies such as James Cameron’s “True Lies,” “A Fish Called Wanda” and several movies of the Halloween horror franchise.

In his welcome message, the Venice Film Festival’s artistic director, Alberto Barbera, announced the return of Hollywood glamor in full force after a subdued event last year due to Covid-19.

The line-up of stars will include Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (“The Last Duel”); Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya (“Dune”); Kristen Stewart (Larrain’s “Spencer”); Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson and Ed Harris (Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter”); Anya Taylor-Joy (Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho”); Benedict Cumberbatch (Campion’s “The Power of the Dog”); and Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg (Michel Franco’s “Sundown”).

Cruz will be doing double-duty at Cannes, since she also is among the stars – along with Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martinez – of another in-competition film: “Competencia oficial” (Official Competition), directed by the Argentine duo of Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat.

And Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac is involved in three films or series that will have their world premieres in Venice: “Dune”; Paul Schrader’s “The Card Counter”; and the five-episode limited series “Scenes from a Marriage,”

Of the 21 in-competition films, only five are directed by women: Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter,” Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” Ana Lily Amirpour’s “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,” Audrey Diwan’s “L’evenement” (Happening) and “Captain Volkonogov Escaped,” which Natalya Merkulova co-directed with Aleksey Chupov.

Barbera said that 24 percent rate of female-directed films confirms that the coronavirus-triggered drop in production had a bigger impact on women than on men.

But he reiterated the festival’s objective of achieving gender parity.

Several strict Covid-19 mitigation measures put in place at last year’s festival have been maintained for the current edition, including requirements that people reserve their tickets on the Internet and use face masks in theaters and media areas and while waiting in line.

In addition, people must show their European vaccination certificate to be allowed entry to the grounds of the festival, will run until Sept. 11. EFE


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