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Film Scouts Venice Buzz

Daniel Heymann predicts the awards

The day before the competition ends and the results are announced, the 52d Mostra d'Arte Cinematografico--the real name of the Venice Film Festival--is, as usual, abuzz with loud whispers, pervasive rumors, and all sorts of outrageous speculation. Everybody knows everything, but nobody will tell. In fact, nobody knows anything, but why should that stop anyone from telling, and telling, and telling.

For instance, that Woody Allen might come to Venice to collect a Lifetime Achievement Gold Lion. Are you kidding? The Woodman NEVER goes to a Festival. True, but his favorite cinematographer, the wonderful (and very Italian) Carlo di Palma, is here; that's a sign, isn't it?

Speaking of Lifetime Achievement Awards (LAAs), Gillo Pontecorvo allegedly decided NOT to give too many of them this year, lest the Award itself be devalued. Last year, there were no less than three LAA winners: British director Ken Loach; American actor Al Pacino; and Suso Cecchi d'Amico, the legendary scriptwriter who worked with Luchino Visconti, among others.

This year, apparently, the new, "more drastically selective" Lifetime Achievement Awards might go to Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Italian actor Alberto Sordi... Wait, that still makes three, doesn't it? Rumor also had it that the eight jurors had vanished, possibly locked-up in some secret abode to avoid all kinds of leaks. As is well known, "leakage" is Italy's national sport. A few years ago, Gillo Pontecorvo--now head of the Festival but then just a juror--recited the entire Awards list live on Italian television, several hours before they were officially announced!

This year's jurors had not vanished. They had indeed escaped from the madding (and maddeningly inquisitive) crowd to hold their final deliberation, the guests of Count Volpi (whose ancestor created the Biennale) in his private residence, "La Giudecca", a breathtakingly beautiful house, luxurious without ostentation, with paintings by Canaletto hanging on walls dressed with panels of blond wood, English-style, in the midst of a heavenly garden overflowing with flowers and fruit.

A mini-glitch, though. Docking at the Count's private pontoon, the jurors found themselves mere adjuncts to a huge luncheon hosted by the Count, with dozens of incredibly elegant Venetians zeroing, with faux indifference, on the table where sea-food risotto was served to the two guests of honor, Jack Nicholson and Mel Gibson.

Huddled around a side table in the shade, the jurors expressed a few thoughts that may (or may not) shed some light on the results when they are officially announced.

Jorge Semprun, president of the jury, admitted that none of the seventeen films in competition had really swept him away, but hastened to add that the level was generally good, at least "as good as could be this year."

"It's not going to be easy," said Guglielmo Biraghi, a former head of the Mostra, now--as he puts it with endearing self-deprecation--"a professional juror" (After Venice he will be on the juries of the Alexandria, Chicago and Salonica Festivals). "No, it won't be easy at all. We, the jurors, are so disparate in terms of age, culture, and taste in films."

Semi-substantiated "truths" permitting, and semi-confirmed "hot" news ("So-and-So's just been asked to come back"), why not--like everybody else, and with the customary disclaimers--indulge in the guessing game?

French director Claude Chabrol's "The Ceremony" might be among the winners, more than likely with a double Best Actress award for its leads, Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Bonnaire, whose extraordinary performances cannot be dissociated.

Best Actor? Possibly Georg Gtz, as the terrifying serial killer in Romuald Karmakar's "The Deathmaker", from Germany.

Other awards might (deservedly) go to the Portugese film, "A Comedia de Deus", written, played and directed by Joao Cesar Monteiro, a funny, free-styled, sensual piece of work, hampered, perhaps, by its length (165 minutes). Or perhaps to "Cyclo", the (real) return to Ho-Chi-Minh City of Tran Anh Hung, the young Vietnamese director whose "Scent of the Green Papaya" unexpectedly became last year's international sleeper of the year. What else? Perhaps "L'Uomo delle Stelle", a Sicilian chronicle by Giuseppe ("Cinema Paradiso") Tornatore, if not to Kenneth Branagh's joyful and witty "In the Bleak Midwinter"...

The jurors will have to deal with one problem, however, and with utter cowardice, we choose to pass the proverbial buck onto them. And the problem is, How NOT to let the Americans leave Venice empty-handed, when they contributed so many films (in all sections) and so many stars? In all honesty, neither Spike Lee's "Clockers" nor Sean Penn's "The Crossing Guard" deserve to be among the winners. But with the right behind-the-scenes diplomacy (read: arm-twisting), miracles can happen...

Back to the Venice Festival 1995

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