The 79th Venice Film Festival opened on August 31, and some of the films in its packed line-up are already making waves: yesterday, Tár, Todd Field’s first film in 16 years, received a six-minute standing ovation.
Cate Blanchett, the star of the film, was met with a thunder of applause and cries of ‘bow’. The actor then held onto the hands of festival chief Alberto Barbera, and took a bow as the clapping continued.
According to Variety, Blanchett looked to a member of her team and said: “Let’s get a drink” once the cacophony subsided.
The film tells the story of the undoing of the headstrong, arguably predatory, first female chief composer of a prestigious German orchestra. Tár is the surname of protagonist Lydia Tár, but the word also means tears in Icelandic.
Field reportedly wrote Tár specifically with Blanchett in mind, and the film is set to be released in the UK in January 2023. Tár also stars Mark Strong, Julian Glover (The Empire Strikes Back) and has Hildur Guðnadóttir, the composer of the Joker’s Oscar-winning score, also on board.
— megspampi (@shineyourlightB) September 1, 2022
Both Field and Blanchett have picked up their fair share of accolades over their careers. Field’s 2001 films In The Bedroom and 2006’s Little Children were both nominated for Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, and In The Bedroom was also in the running for Best Picture.
Blanchett also has had a star-studded career, winning two Oscars for 2005’s The Aviator and 2014’s Blue Jasmine; she has also recieved no less than eight nominations. Venice is known for kicking off the Oscar buzz, and so yesterday’s major commendation for Tár seems to nod at several nominations at least coming to both Blanchett and Field.
The reviews, too, indicate that the film is going to be one to beat: “The film wields its intelligence and style with total effortlessness, and its every move holds your gaze like a baton’s quivering tip,” said The Telegraph.
The Times called it a “glorious monster” while Vanity Fair said: “Field’s film is enormous, contemplating the end of idolism in all its loss and revolution. Tár bracingly responds to the dawning of a new era.”
— Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) September 1, 2022
Last year Denis Villeneuve’s Dune received a seven-minute standing ovation but with no major blockbusters on this year’s roster, no one could predict which films would be able to similarly galvanize the crowds.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri director Martin McDonagh is also presenting a new black comedy, The Banshees of Inisherin; Oscar-winning Bordman director Alejandro G Iñárritu is presenting Bardo; Timothée Chalamet has reunited with Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino for Bones and All; and French director Florian Zeller presents The Son, which stars Hugh Jackman, Vanessa Kirby, Laura Dern and Anthony Hopkins.
The Jury of the 79th Venice Film Festival includes Argentinean director, Mariano Cohn alongside Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Italian director Leonardo Di Costanzo, French director Audrey Diwan (who won the Golden Lion for her film Happening last year), Iranian actress Leila Hatami and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and is being headed up by Julianne Moore.
While it’s all go at the film festival this year, Venice is no stranger to significant moments such as standing ovations, interesting interviews, and even some controversy. Here at the film festival’s other big moments in its recent history.
Lars von Trier, 2014
In early August this year, Melancholia director Lars von Trier’s production company shared the news that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Speaking about the diagnosis in an interview with Variety last week, the director said: “That means that I had not lived up to the way I wanted to be as a director, because I was ill. And that’s a pity for the [“The Kingdom Exodus”] actors, but I think they did okay.” His new series The Kingdom Exodus, which wraps up his cult The Kingdom trilogy, was shown at Venice on Thursday and will be released on film screening site Mubi later this year.
However, back in 2014, his appearance at the film festival was more ostentatious. He had been banned from Cannes Film Festival in 2011 for joking that he, “sympathised with Hitler a little bit” and as a reaction declared he would not be making any more public appearances.
But, the director did pop up in 2014 at Venice, via a laptop live stream. Delegates had earlier watched his 2013 director’s cut of Nymphomaniac – which included some even more graphic scenes and ran nearly five-and-a-half-hours long. When he was asked if he had learnt anything new about female sexuality during the filmmaking process Von Trier said: “Have I learned anything about woman? No, I knew everything about women already.”
Roman Polanski, 2019
Roman Polanski has remained a controversial figure since 1978 when he pleaded guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl, spent a month in prison and then fled from the United States to France where he has lived ever since.
However, his films have not only continued to be funded and produced, but they’ve featured some major Hollywood stars and have won tonnes of awards too: For example, his 2002 film The Pianist starred Adrien Brody and won both Brady and Polanski Oscars for Best Actor and Best Director. His 2013 film Venus in Fur featured the French stars Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner and earned the director five nominations at the 39th César Awards as well as a win for Best Director.
In 2019, the director was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Venice for his film An Officer and a Spy. The decision came sometime after #MeToo had made a real impact in Hollywood, with Harvey Weinstein’s arrest taking place in May 2018, and caused discordance at Venice, even between jury members: The Guardian reported at the time that the “jury members clashed”.
The festival’s director Alberto Barbera stuck by the decision and said, “The history of art is full of artists who committed crimes but we have continued to admire their works of art and the same is true of Polanski. He is, in my opinion, one of the last masters in European cinema. We cannot wait 200 years to decide whether his films are great or easily forgotten, an aesthetic judgment needs to be passed at once.”
Polanski had also disregarded #MeToo in 2018, calling it “mass hysteria”. In 2020 he was expelled by the Academy Awards.
Gender quotas, 2019
2019 was a difficult year for the Venice Film Festival. Not only was there the controversy around Polanski’s inclusion, but out of the 21 films chosen for the competition that year, only two were directed by women: Haifaa Al Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate and Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth.
Quotas became a major topic as the festival opened: The president of the international jury at Venice at the time, Lucrecia Martel, said: “Quotas are never satisfactory. But there are no other solutions to guarantee the inclusion of women or give them the position they deserve.”
Barbera, however, disagreed. He said he was “fully against the idea of quotas for the selection of a film festival”. He said it would “be offensive because it goes against the only criterion that we have to consider, which is the quality of the film”.
However, in 2020, there was, happily, a major shift, though quotas had not been implemented. Eight of the eighteen films chosen for the competition were directed by women and Chloe Zhao won the Golden Lion for Nomadland, following in the footsteps of Margarethe von Trotta who won the award for Marianne and Juliane, Agnès Varda who won it for Vagabond and Sofia Coppola who won the prize for Somewhere.
Then in 2021, Audrey Diwan won the Golden Lion for her film Happening. However in 2021, just 24 per cent of competing titles were directed by women, and this year again just 23 per cent of competition titles have been directed by female directors.
Venice Film Festival runs until September 10