×

Annette Bening Makes Stirring Speech as Venice Kicks Off on High Note With ‘Downsizing’

VENICE, Italy — The 74th Venice Film Festival opened on an upward trajectory Wednesday with Alexander Payne’s sci-fi comedy “Downsizing” eliciting plenty of praise and bolstering the Lido’s status as a prime awards-season launching pad.

Payne and stars Matt Damon, Hong Chau and Kristen Wiig pranced down the red carpet on a balmy evening promoting the Paramount pic in which humans agree to get shrunk down in order to live luxuriously in a government resort as part of an effort to save the planet from overpopulation. The paparazzi had a feeding frenzy.

Damon was accompanied by his wife Luciana Barroso in a fiery red gown. Also seen: Paramount Pictures Chairman Jim Jianopulos, main jury president Annette Bening, and Brazilian supermodel Isabel Goulart.

Once the Palazzo del Cinema theatre was full, Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella made his entry to warm applause. Security is tight on the Lido with Italy considered a possible upcoming ISIS target in the aftermath of the recent Barcelona attack. Security checks and cement protection barriers to prevent truck attacks are the most visible aspects of the anti-terror efforts which also involve floating security devices in the lagoon, plainclothes policemen with body cameras and sharpshooters on rooftops, according to local media.

The somber but effective ceremony was hosted by Italian actor Alessandro Borghi, who stars in Netflix TV series “Suburra” which is launching from the Lido.

In a brief opening adress Paolo Baratta, president of the fest’s parent organisation, the Venice Biennale, underscored improvements in the event’s facilities. “We are inaugurating a new citadel of cinema,” he said. It includes a state-of-the-art red cube-shaped 450-seat screening venue and some buildings on the Lazzaretto, a tiny island a stone’s throw from the Lido that was a leper colony in the 15th century, where Venice is launching a 22-title competitive strand dedicated to works made for virtual reality-viewing, the first-ever competition for VR works launched by a major film event.

But the highlight of the evening was Bening’s beautifully delivered speech, which also wrapped up the ceremony:

“For me cinema is magic, and I think all of us who make films are primarily audience members. We make films because we love to watch them. And to me the moment when the lights come down in the theatre and there’s a moment of silence and darkness; that is the moment of possibility. When all of us — it doesn’t matter of you are the president or the usher, or whether you are Italian or American or Iranian or Chinese or a man or a woman — we can lose ourselves in the best way possible and become free. And become like children again: open, curious and available to the possibility of the moment,” she said.

“This is what we aspire to. Along with my fellow jury members, we bring all of our passions and enthusiasm and hopefully some knowledge, but most importantly our deep love of cinema, to every film that we see. I am deeply honoured to be president of the jury.”

The fest runs through Sept. 9.

More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content