“Hello, darling? I just saw Andrea Occhipinti, the producer. He used to be an actor, do you remember?” It is one in the morning; we are on the steps of the Excelsior. Everyone at the Festival knows Antonio. Tall, tanned, the eagerness of a gold digger in his eyes as he dashes in and out of the revolving doors of the hotel. Every year, for more than a decade, he has said goodbye to his wife in Puglia and traveled up to Venice with two friends with only one mission: to see as many 'famous faces' as he can, to get an autograph (“I have fifteen thousand”) and a photo with them. Occasionally, he updates his wife on his achievements. He shows me a bit of paper, handwritten with the expected arrivals for each day. “But how do you know?” “I read newspapers from all over the world.”
Antonio is number one in the avvistatori puri (pure spotters) category at the Venice Lido. The pure spotters are happy to spot just about anyone: a Hollywood actor, an aspiring something, an influencer, someone’s ex or and ex-something, a 'has-been', a star with a single point. Most fans peel their eyes for someone in particular, perhaps even the unexpected. A blonde girl approaches Giorgia Soleri in the queue for the film by Inarritu: "For me, you’re not Damiano from Maneskin's girlfriend, you are Giorgia. You are my queen!”
For this year’s festival, the countdown started from the very first minute for Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet, the most eagerly awaited especially by the girls. “Timothée vieni a mangiare la pasta con me” (Timothée come and eat pasta with me) reads the sign held by three local girls, who also add their Instagram address, just in case the star of Bones and All wants to get in touch for a plate of spaghetti instead of the human flesh he feeds on in the movie. Together with many, many others, they are there from the morning to wait for the red carpet in the evening.
The countdown started from the very first minute for Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet, the most eagerly awaited especially by the girls
The youngest, willing to sleep on the street and not eat to enjoy the show, arrive on Friday. And this is the category 'movie lovers at any cost'. These include Laura, 34. She has come to the festival from Brescia since she was 19; she studies and dreams of directing. “Now I sleep in Mestre, but many times, I have found myself with other desperate fans at night, sleeping on the chairs in a facility set up for the day events and left open in the evening, or right on the stairs of the Excelsior.”
Giacomo, 25, from Parma, solved the problem by dragging his mom along: "I am a huge fan, I’m studying Education Sciences, it’s my sixth year of the festival.” Mom: “I’m not a movie fan. I come as a tourist while he watches the movies.” Jessica, 15, has convinced two friends to come with her. “We are so excited now, we don't know where to start! Timotheé? No, no, I like Italian actors.”
Francesco made short films in his youth, he has been coming since 1979 and has a broad perspective even if, he admits, “maybe I say that because I’m old.” And what he says is that “the people of the Lido have changed along with the movies, which used to be profound, with great filmmakers, serious, maybe too serious. But you didn’t see any of the superficial fanaticism with the screaming girls.”
Venice still has that charm that attracts the pure enthusiasts, but...
Daniela, who lives in London and has a home in Venice, is also die-hard fan of the festival, who has on the sidelines for thirty years. “It seems to me instead that the Lido people have not changed much. I see many aged faces, the same year-in-year-out.” With her friend Annamaria, a psychiatrist from Milan and lifelong theater companion, she offers another categorization of the Lido people.
By caste, determined by the color of the accreditation: the most coveted is red, which gives access to all screenings for a modest price. Organized in truly Italian style, however: “There are a lot of imposters, people from Venice I know well and who have nothing to do with journalism but I see them strolling around with their red cards around their necks.” Federico, an Italian professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford, stresses that “it is a good thing there are no longer the ideological debates of the past” and that “people have not changed that much in my 30 years coming here.” “Venice still has that charm that attracts the pure enthusiasts, but...”
He notes with some disappointment that they have kept the online movie booking system implemented during COVID, to the detriment of the old lines. “This makes the festival lose its charm and flexibility. Before, there was a lot of word of mouth; a friend would maybe say ‘Oh, look, there's a great Romanian film in an out of competition category' and you changed your plans, skipped dinner and rushed to see it. You can’t do that anymore: you go where you booked days in advance, at the last minute, there are often no seats left.” Not to mention, he adds, “that for the elderly and other people, such as a blind friend of mine, online booking is very difficult.”
Fortunately, however, the Lido people continue to talk about the movies even in the lines to go to the bathroom or sitting at the bar while suffering the anxiety of booking, with long and jostling waits. Massimo and Maria, volunteers who organize a small film theater in an oratory in Verona are true romantics: “We come here to find out which films to show for our movie fans, which best suit their taste.”
And you could also describe as romatic Isabella, Ada and Francesca, three ladies in their 70s: “We came for a book presentation and a conference on sharks. We remember the 1980s, when, young and beautiful, we went to the ball at Palazzo Volpi in early September organized as part of the festival. It was a lot more high-society: Onassis and other figures of a certain level. Now, who is there?”
It is a festival with few really great names, aside from actors and filmmakers
In fact, aside from Hillary Clinton's fleeting appearance, it is a festival with few really great names, aside from actors and filmmakers. The important thing, however, having observed the Lido people, is to take a selfie. Absolutely category number one.
13 settembre 2022
More splutter than sparkle. Eighteen films in the running, not one comedy. Attentive audiences, no whistles but neither were there standing ovations
7 settembre 2022
The Hotel Des Bains on the Venice Lido has been abandoned for 12 years. Built in the early 1900s in Art Nouveau, it has huge, wood-furnished rooms, marble finishes, and hallways overflowing with handcrafted
2 settembre 2022
Venice film festival, Oscar buzz, a plunge into childhood with Kabir Bedi (Sandokan!) and Hillary in blue caffettano