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FILM

Director Bruni-Tedeschi gets personal at Cannes

Italian-French director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, the sister of France's former First Lady Carla Bruni, relived a painful chapter of her family history in a film presented at Cannes on Tuesday in which she cast her real-life mother and ex-lover.

Director Bruni-Tedeschi gets personal at Cannes
Italian actress and director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi hugs her mother Italian actress Marisa Borini during a photocall for the film 'A Castle in Italy'. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Bruni Tedeschi, the elder sister of Carla Bruni, said her work on 'A Castle in Italy' (Un Chateau en Italie) helped heal old wounds.

"For me work is a form of therapy," she told reporters. "I sleep better when I have the impression I've worked well during the day."

She recast actual events, including her own brother Virginio's AIDS death in 2006 and her relationship with co-star Louis Garrel, with often absurdist takes on them on screen.

"When I'm working on a different planet like this, it's like being in a carnival," she said.

"Everything is back to front, upside down. In that sense it is like therapy, it helps me to enjoy life more."

Bruni Tedeschi plays Louise, the 40-something retired actress and heiress to a Franco-Italian industrialist family that can no longer afford the upkeep on its elegant manor home in the Italian countryside and sets up in Paris.

The director's own wealthy family left Italy for France in the 1970s, fearing attacks by far-left radicals.

Once in Paris, Louise begins dating Nathan (Garrel), a man almost 20 years her junior who she hopes can give her a child.

Meanwhile her ailing brother and elderly mother cling to the family castle and their collection of Old Masters' paintings even as an accountant tell them they will have to make some major sacrifices to pay off an unexpected tax bill.

Bruni Tedeschi said she chose her mother, Marisa Borini, an actress and concert soloist who also plays piano in the film, for the part but was careful as they relived their grief for Virginio.

"I chose my mother to be in the film because she's a wonderful actress. Perhaps I make her work even harder than the other actors. Sometimes I'm more strict with her, I like being very strict with my mother," she said.

"I always thought a lot of work would help her to act in this film without feeling too much pain and suffering. The idea was to protect her, I think work protects us from what might be a psychodrama."

Borini said in notes for the film that "making a movie changes absolutely nothing" in terms of the pain of losing a son.

But she said at the same time that it was important for the family itself to tell its own story, rather than "someone else going to our family cemetery".

Bruni Tedeschi, the only female director in competition at Cannes this year, dedicated the film to Virginio.

But despite feverish speculation in France before the premiere, Carla Bruni is not depicted in the film.

"A Castle in Italy" is one of 20 films in the running for the Palme d'Or top prize to be awarded Sunday by jury president Steven Spielberg.

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FILM

Venice Film Festival fights for impact amid coronavirus curbs and cancellations

What if you threw a film festival and nobody came?

Venice Film Festival fights for impact amid coronavirus curbs and cancellations
File photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
That, in essence, is the challenge facing organisers of this year's Venice Film Festival, the glamorous annual competition where stars, critics, photographers and industry executives mingle on the bustling Lido, overlooking sandy beaches and the blue Adriatic.
   
Provided, of course, it's a normal year.
   
But in 2020, the world's oldest film festival is forced to walk a tightrope between preserving its lustre as the premier launch pad for Academy Award-winning films, while safely navigating the coronavirus crisis and averting the controversy over gender inequality that has dogged it in the past.
   
Opening Wednesday and continuing until September 12, the prestigious event now in its 77th year will be the first international film festival since the pandemic shuttered competitions around the world.
   
It has put in place a host of safety measures — from limited seating to thermal scanners, to a fan-free red carpet — to protect attendees as Covid-19 cases continue to climb in Italy and around the world.
   
In July, festival director Alberto Barbera declared the event “saved” as he announced the 18 films among the approximately 60 presented that would vie for the top award, the Golden Lion.
 
  
He promised that the festival would preserve the “liveliness of contemporary cinema”.
   
Despite its scaled-down size with theatre capacity reduced by about half, La Biennale di Venezia takes on greater importance this year due to the cancellation of rival film festivals across the globe, among them the glitzy Cannes Film Festival on the Cote d'Azur in France.
 
 
But just days ahead of the opening, organisers are scrambling to navigate uncharted territory amid uncertain attendance and last-minute cancellations.     
   
Whereas Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Scarlett Johansson provided the star firepower at last year's festival, ongoing travel restrictions — especially a travel ban from the United States into Europe — mean that most Hollywood elites will be no shows, along with actors and directors from China, India and South America.
   
Those arriving from outside Europe's Schengen zone will have to submit results of a Covid-19 test just before their departure, with a second test carried out in Venice, meaning that some attendees may have to cancel.
   
Earlier this week, the festival announced that American actor Matt Dillon would be a last-minute substitute on the jury for Romanian director Crisit Puiu.
   
No reason was given for Puiu's absence, but industry trade magazines noted he had given a speech earlier this month in which he said it was “inhumane” to watch movies with a mask on.
   
Those confirmed as attending include, among others, British actress Tilda Swinton, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, US director Oliver Stone and Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.
 
 
 
More women directors
 
The uncertain lineup of stars and dearth of top names leaves Australian actress Cate Blanchett, president of the jury, to take up the mantle of celebrity — and social activism — at Venice.
   
Blanchett was the leader of the #MeToo women's march up the red carpet steps at Cannes two years ago that sought to bring attention to the lack of parity and diversity in cinema.
   
The presence of Blanchett helps raise such awareness while the festival seeks to stanch criticism levelled in recent years over the glaring lack of women directors in festivals' top lineups.
 
The Oscar-winning headliner told Variety magazine on Thursday that this year's eight women directors in the main competition lineup of Venice is “a direct response to the positive advances that have been made this year”.
   
Others say it is too early to tell whether a page has turned.
   
“It's all about being consistent and diligent and believing that women make movies as well as men, and using that in the way you programme,” said Melissa Silverstein, founder and publisher of “Women and Hollywood”, which advocates for gender diversity and inclusion in film.
   
Last year's festival opened under controversy after the inclusion in the lineup of French-Polish director Roman Polanski, who fled the United States after his 1977 conviction of rape of a 13-year-old girl.
   
There were also only two female directors in the selection. In both 2018 and 2017, only one female director was represented.   
 
Blanchett said more was riding on the jury's decisions this year, given the limited opportunities for filmmakers to show their work publicly, due to the coronavirus closures.
   
“So, whatever the deliberations the jury will make will be more impactful. I don't take that responsibility or privilege lightly.”
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