Once upon a time in Venice
by Andira Vitale
The longest-running film festival is 90 years old. Some believe that this number solves all problems. On this occasion, let’s go on a time travel at the Venice Film Festival, wishing for a peaceful world where there are no wars and the deadly viruses come to an end…
We are on the “Once upon a time Venice” time train. As we go back, we see how many unforgettable films, immortal stars and legendary loves fit into its nearly one century history… It recorded countless stories…
Finally we reach the first station. The calendars show August 6, 1932. From the enthusiastic and excited crowd in the city, we understand that both the state and the public have a great interest in cinema. Italians spend most of the money they spend on cultural events on movies. Most of the films shown are American. Some have discovered the feature of cinema to direct society. All these phenomena have led to the involvement of the government in the film industry and a yearning to celebrate Italian culture in general.
Living his golden age, Mussolini is in pursuit of the lands Italy lost in World War I and the raw materials necessary for industry. White Telephone films are produced to entertain the public and to keep the consensus. Such rosy, escape films often consist of costume melodramas, musicals, and Hollywood-esque comedies. In the stories set in large cruise ships, luxury hotels and stylish nightclubs, the lifestyle of the upper class is praised and presented as if it were the lifestyle of Italy. These flamboyant productions would eventually replace the propaganda-smelling films noir. About half of the 639 films made between 1930 and 1944 would go on record to be in this genre.
In the early years of this period, Mussolini was laying the foundation of an international film festival. Thus, he left a very valuable, long-term cultural legacy that unites societies, both to Italy and to the world. It was created by Giuseppe Volpi, Luciano de Feo, and Antonio Marain. Giuseppe Volpi, who had been Benito Mussolini’s minister of finance was appointed as the president of the festival, Luciano de Feo was the head of the executive committee, and Antonio Maraini was the festival’s secretary-general-Mario-Camerini-Gli-uomini-che- mascalzon-
When we reach the platform prepared by the sea by boat, the “International Art Film Exhibition” poster, prepared with the symbols of Venice, draws our attention. The weather is warm, but the water and bird sounds that accompany the breeze from time to time refresh the lucky crowd there. The front rows of seats are reserved for important people. Women in colorful, long pastel-colored dresses, men in black frock coats or suits are very stylish…
All eyes are on the terrace of the hotel Excelsior, with its ostentatious domes on the island of Lido, meaning “coast”. The common interest of the guests is on a big screen that presents all 7 arts to the audience. Films from many countries participate in the event, which will be called La Mostra in the coming years. In the first festival where various countries took part, the controversial country of the period, the Soviet Union, also takes place.
And Venice brings to life the first international event, the idea of a film festival that is expected to last for years. The city is no longer just a center of advanced tourism and entertainment, it also adds art to its magnificent identity. Every evening, cheerful gala shows are held, and people who are fond of art take part in these art parties. His staff happily convey that the tickets sold to Mussolini by telegraph were 17,453 and the audience was much higher.
This first festival, held on August 6, 1932, carries valuable titles that later became true ‘classics’ in the history of cinema; ‘Forbidden’ by the great American director Frank Capra, ‘Grand Hotel’ by Edmund Goulding, ‘The Champ’ by King Vidor, ‘Frankenstein’ by James Whale, ‘The Devil to Pay’ by George Fitzmaurice, Mario Camerini from “Gli uomini, che mascalzoni” and René Clair’s ‘A nous la liberté’…
In addition to the films mentioned, the works of other great directors such as Howard Hawks, Russian Nikolaj Ekk, French Maurice Tourneur, German Anatole Litvak and English Victor Saville, with three films – American Ernst Lubitsch – with two films, are also in the competition.
The prominent personalities of this first show were the actors who appeared with the films projected on the big screen and ensured the great success of the festival in all aspects. Naturally, they also played an important role in bringing over 25 thousand spectators to the halls.
The stars of the first festival
One of the biggest stars of the period, “Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Fredric March, Wallace Beery, Norma Shearer, James Cagney, Ronald Colman, Loretta Young, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Italian idol Vittorio De Sica and the great Boris Karloff” came to the first festival. was among
First movies shown
The first film in the festival was screened on the evening of 6 August 1932: Rouben Mamoulian’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was followed by a large dance event held in the halls of the Excelsior. Mario Camerini’s first Italian film, “Gli uomini, che mascalzon” was introduced on the evening of 11 August 1932.
The names of the awards were also beautiful and natural: Funniest Film: René Clair’s À nous la libertè; Most Original Fantasy Film: Doctor Jekyll; Most moving film: Edgar Selwyn’s The Sin of Madelon Claudet; and Technically Better Film: A director on the runway, Leontine Sagan’s Girls in Uniform is a jolt that has faded away for many years.
No awards were given at the first festival, but an audience referendum was held. The French film À Nous la Liberté was chosen as Film Più Divertente (Most Entertaining Film). The Sin of Madelon Claudet was named the film Più Commovente (Most Motion Picture) and its star, Helen Hayes was awarded as the best actress. Best Original Film (Film dalla fantasia più originale) was awarded to Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hydeve, and its leader, Fredric March, was named best actor.
Despite its initial success, the festival was not reorganized in 1933. In 1934, the festival was declared an annual event, with attendance increasing to seventeen from nine countries. The festival also presented its first official awards, the Mussolini Cup for Best Italian Film, the Mussolini Cup for Best Foreign Film, and the Ministry of Companies Cup. Seventeen awards were given that year: the best film award that year was the Mussolini Cup. This Trophy was the award for the best film in the context of the Venice International Film Festival, from its founding in 1932 until the abolition of the award in 1946.
The award for the best film was distributed in 1947 and 1948 as the Gran Premio Internazionale di Venezia (Grand International Prize of Venice). The award given to the best film since 1949 was the Golden Lion. As we mentioned above, it was given the name Coppa Mussolini (Mussolini Cups, Mussolini Cup) to the best Italian and best foreign films.
Today, films and artists from all over the world participate in the Venice Film Festival, which has turned into a global arts festival. The Venice Film Festival takes a firmer stance than ever before, tackling world and local conflicts. The Lido, a great magic and, at the same time, the place of social and political temperature in the world. A dream and sometimes a scary movie. In any case, a cinema, or rather an island dream …
And every Golden Lion award becomes an important reference pointing to the upcoming Oscar. Venice’s time train is constantly moving forward…