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CULTURE

Race wide open for Venice film festival prizes

The race was wide open ahead of awards night in Venice on Saturday, after a festival featuring a dark Marilyn Monroe biopic, an imprisoned Iranian director and a morbidly obese Brendan Fraser.

Actor Brendan Fraser in Venice
US Canadian actor Brendan Fraser arrives on September 4, 2022 for the screening of the film The Whale presented in the Venezia 79 competition as part of the 79th Venice International Film Festival at Lido di Venezia in Venice, Italy. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Critics have been deeply divided on many of the 23 films in competition at the 79th Venice Film Festival, but it has been a stellar year for individual actors. 

There was a huge standing ovation for Fraser, who made an unlikely comeback from the Hollywood wilderness as a 600-pound (272-kilogram) English professor in The Whale, sparking talk of Oscar nominations and a “Brendanaissance”.

Cate Blanchett is also an awards frontrunner for her performance as a classical music conductor in Tar, which takes a nuanced look at cancel culture.

And Hugh Jackman’s performance as a father dealing with a depressed teenager in The Son has been labelled the best of his career.

Hugh Jackman in Venice

Australian actor Hugh Jackman arrives on September 7, 2022 for the screening of The Son as part of the 79th Venice International Film Festival at Lido di Venezia in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

While some reviewers found the Monroe biopic Blonde too relentlessly grim, most were bowled over by the “ferociously emotional” performance from Cuban star Ana de Armas.

Sexual identity has been a recurring theme across the 11-day festival, with Trace Lysette becoming the first trans actress to star in a competition entry for Monica.

Last year’s best actress winner Penelope Cruz played the mother to a trans teen in L’Immensita, whose director Emanuele Crialese admitted for the first time at its press conference that he was born a woman.

Politics and protest

Picking the winners falls to a jury led by actor Julianne Moore, and also featuring Nobel-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.

A last-minute favourite for the top prize Golden Lion is No Bears by Iran’s Jafar Panahi, who was imprisoned for “propaganda against the system” in July. That was the subject of a flash-mob protest Friday on the Venice red
carpet, led by Moore.

President of the Venezia 79 International Jury, US actress Julianne Moore (C) and other jury members hold on September 9, 2022 a poster showing Iranian director Jafar Panahi, calling for his release from prison. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Another political film to win rave reviews was the documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which follows artist Nan Goldin and her fight against the Sackler family, held responsible for the opioid drug crisis in the United States.

It is the latest from Laura Poitras, the journalist who first made contact with whistleblower Edward Snowden and won an Oscar for the resulting film, Citizenfour.

There has also been a lot of love in Venice for The Banshees of Inisherin, a pitch-black Irish comedy-drama tracing the falling out of two friends played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

Argentina 1985, the true story of the lawyers who took on the country’s military junta, was also widely praised.

Venice is seen as a launchpad for Academy Award campaigns, eight of the last 10 Best Director Oscars having gone to films that premiered at the festival.

Netflix had been hoping for a big year, but Blonde tested the patience of many critics, as did Mexico’s two-time Oscar winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrituto, with his fantastical semi-autobiography Bardo.

The streamer is also behind White Noise, a sharp satire of US consumerism and academia starring Adam Driver — but that, too, got a mixed reception from reviewers.

READ ALSO: Ten of the best TV shows and films to help you learn Italian

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CRIME

Accused forger of Old Master paintings wanted in France arrested in Italy

A well-known art collector sought by French authorities for allegedly operating a sophisticated forgery network for decades turned himself in to Italian police on Friday, his lawyers said.

Accused forger of Old Master paintings wanted in France arrested in Italy

Giuliano Ruffini, 77, is accused of cheating museums, auction houses and individuals for decades with dozens of forgeries of old masters.

He turned himself in to police at Castelnovo ne’ Monti, a town in the Reggio Emilia region of central Italy, his lawyer Paul Le Fevre said in a statement.

Italian news reports said Ruffini, who lived nearby, was subsequently arrested by police.

Ruffini’s arrest comes after years of judicial efforts to extradite him back to France, following an investigation begun in 2014 and the issuance of a European arrest warrant five years later.

A Milan appeals court authorised Ruffini’s extradition to France two years ago to face charges of fraud and counterfeiting, but it was put on hold until a parallel procedure for tax evasion in Italy was complete.

Ruffini was acquitted in May of those tax evasion charges.

Well-known in the art world, Ruffini sold dozens of paintings since the 1990s by such masters as Parmigianino and El Greco to some of Europe’s most prestigious museums, including the Louvre, often through intermediaries.

His fakes also attracted wealthy buyers, such as the Prince of Liechtenstein, who bought a forged Lucas Cranach the Elder painting of Venus for seven million euros ($7.24 million).

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