September 11, 2005

Venice packs away red carpet but questions future

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

VENICE (Reuters) - Still smarting from a bungled,
Hollywood-heavy 2004, this year's Venice festival balanced
glamour with arthouse films. But organizers said on Sunday the
event's future was uncertain without a new headquarters.

The gala prize-giving on the Lido was not without
controversy, as Ang Lee's acclaimed "Brokeback Mountain," a
story of forbidden love between two cowboys, beat George
Clooney's favoured "Good Night. And, Good Luck" to the coveted
Golden Lion.

And disappointed Italians wondered whether Giovanna
Mezzogiorno only won the best actress award for her role in
"Don't Tell" as a consolation prize for Italy, which has not
taken the top prize since 1998.

As workers packed away the red carpets on the Venice Lido,
festival director Marco Muller said he was happy with the
11-day festival, which saw none of the excruciating delays and
middle-of-the-night premieres that marred last year's awards.

"There are always hitches we can fix, and that is what we
need to know from the directors, producers, distributors,"
Muller told reporters.

"So far, the results have been incredibly positive."

But he said Venice faced tough questions over its future,
as a new, iceberg-shaped Palace of Cinema remains at the
drawing board stage with no financial backing for the 100
million euro project, while Rome prepares to launch a rival
film competition.

Without a new, bigger home, Venice will not be able to
build on a Hollywood star-studded line-up that has grown over
recent years or, crucially, create a money-spinning movie
market to compete with Cannes and Berlin.

"The only way to add a market is to build on an existing
festival," said Muller, who has said he would not stay on
without new headquarters. "It is a question of money, and we
should not be ashamed. Cinema is, after all, an industry."


Muller and Davide Croff, head of the Biennale which
oversees the festival, said Venice's future would depend not on
Rome, an unlikely rival given its poorly chosen October slot,
but on the new home.

"The real problem is the development of the festival, of
which the palace is a main element," Croff said. "But if we are
going to debate it for 36 years, it isn't Rome that will defeat
us. Venice will have sunk."

Currently cramped into the aging Palace of Cinema,
camouflaged at considerable cost for the festival, Venice
spills over into an array of tents and the Lido's cavernous

After a gloomy end to the Cannes festival, critics gave
Venice the thumbs up for its eclectic mix this year, from John
Turturro's quirky working-class musical "Romance & Cigarettes"
to Terry Gilliam's fairytale blockbuster "The Brothers Grimm."

Arthouse cinema received a boost as Philippe Garrel took a
Silver Lion prize for "Regular Lovers," an austere
black-and-white love story set in Paris after May 1968.

"I simply don't do glamour. My films are marginal," Garrel
said after accepting the award for his "new wave" inspired

Some questioned whether Mezzogiorno, who was not favorite
to win, deserved Italy's best actress prize, which was
unusually paired with an ad hoc prize for France's Isabelle
Huppert, whom many regarded as the true winner.

Huppert was in Venice for her role in Patrice Chereau's
intense domestic drama "Gabrielle.

Italy won none of the top prizes last year or the year
before, prompting outrage among the local press.

"This time round Italy could not be cast aside again,"
veteran critic Natalia Aspesi wrote in la Repubblica on Sunday.

"It would have been a slap in the face and a setback for
our gasping cinema and for the Biennale organisers. An
honorable course was taken."