Ah, The Venice Film Festival. According to this year’s organizer, La Biennale di Venezia, “The aim of the Festival is to raise awareness and promote international cinema in all its forms as art, entertainment and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and dialogue.”
But really, it’s about the who, what and perhaps most importantly, the wear and this year the fashion did not disappoint.
I mean, can you even imagine what it’s like to pack for the most glamorous week of your life? Three to four outfit changes a day and jaw-dropping gowns to change into every night? Um, sign me up. This is so not the Venezia I know.
Venice was the first stop on my Italian honeymoon. Jet-lagged and starving, we wandered the cobblestone streets and bridges until the charm wore off and we just wanted to take a nap. I asked for directions to our hotel in my college-Italian and when we finally checked in it was twilight. Before crashing on the bed for a much needed night’s sleep, I raced to the windows, undid the latch and threw the two shutters open, recreating a scene I’d probably watched in my The History of Italian Cinema class. With a view to an alley below, it wasn’t much, but you could smell the sea air (at least, I hope it was sea air) and for a minute it was everything I ever thought Italy would be-all warm breezes, starry skies and ancient hotels with wooden beams and Italian charm.
My husband and I settled in for the night. But after a few hours of deep sleep, I woke up to a distinct and familiar buzzing sound in my ear-a mosquito. We had fallen asleep with the windows open because hey, when in Venice, only to wake up to a mosquito bite on my forehead. I swatted it away and reached for the light and that’s when I saw it-on the ceiling of our hotel room was a graveyard-a graphic, blood-splattered scene of mosquitoes who had met their fate from countless other unassuming couples who had made the same open-window mistake as us. Clearly, this was not George and Amal’s Venice.
My husband and I swiftly closed the shutters and spent the good part of the next hour jumping off the bed to smack the ceiling with our hands and take out as many of these bastardos as we could, laughing our asses off the whole time, drunk with jet-lag and dumbfounded at our not-so-romantic first night in this floating city. It was my husband’s least favorite city we visited and I can’t say I blame him.
So, seeing all of these celebrities and gorgeous gowns on parade at this year’s Venice Film Festival has me wanting to go back and do it right. You know, the Clooney’s Venice. But until I can make that happen, I’ll sift through the endless galleries of abito da ballo and watch what they’re watching to make myself feel like I’m there. A little Prosecco may help.
One of the most anticipated shows debuting in Venice this season is My Brilliant Friend, based on a series of books by Elena Ferrante (Interesting side note-that’s the author’s pseudonym and unearthing her true identity has been something of a fascination for fans of her books. You can read more about that here). What will set My Brilliant Friend apart, besides the impeccably crafted story, is that it’s the first official foreign-language series on HBO (but don’t worry, they’ll do subtitles). You can watch the trailer here.
A few of us almost picked My Brilliant Friend for our September Book Club choice, but Tangerine-which I’m also very excited about and which is also set to be made into a film starring Scarlett Johansson-won out in the end. I’ve ordered My Brilliant Friend to read anyway and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you. The books are about two girls growing up in 1950’s Naples and explore their intense everyday life and friendship. Here’s the official book synopsis:
Book one in the New York Times bestselling Neapolitan quartet about two friends growing up in post-war Italy is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted family epic…Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.
I’m looking forward to the books and then to following it up with the HBO series. Join me! And maybe, just maybe, we can create new images and memories of Italy, the one I long to go back and visit, with the windows closed.