Croff climbs into gondola

Native is neutral to players in fest clash

ROME — Marking a partial breakthrough in the crisis crippling the Venice Film Festival, respected exec Davide Croff was confirmed Thursday as head of the Venice Biennale, the event’s parent organization (Daily Variety, Jan. 15).

Croff is a former managing director of mammoth state bank Banca Nazionale del Lavoro and also a onetime exec of automaker Fiat. A native Venetian, he is widely considered a solid replacement for Franco Bernabe, the outgoing Biennale topper, ousted after a power struggle with Culture Mister Giuliano Urbani.

That clash is widely believed to have revolved around Urbani’s aversion to Swiss-born Moritz de Hadeln, the fest’s artistic director whose contract expires in March.

De Hadeln, hired by Bernabe in 2002, may have a fighting chance of keeping his job because Croff is not considered to be Urbani’s lackey.

At this stage, the only name circulating as a possible successor to De Hadeln is veteran actor Giancarlo Giannini — best known to U.S. audiences for his roles in the Lina Wertmuller pics “Swept Away” and “Seven Beauties” — who would operate with the help of an expert assistant.

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