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San Sebastián: Monica Bellucci Charms Before Receiving Donostia Award

The actress looked back on a career nearing three decades, the poetry of violence, and Hollywood's slow improvement for actresses over 50

SAN SEBASTIAN — Monica Bellucci will be the latest actor to receive a Donostia Award in San Sebastián, the highest honor given by the festival. In anticipation of the evening’s ceremony, Bellucci hosted a brief press conference.

Dressed elegantly in a black suit with a white button-down shirt, she answered questions from the assembled press for nearly forty minutes before heading off to prepare for the evening’s festivities.

Bellucci started acting for TV in her home country of Italy in 1990. It wasn’t long before Bellucci’s talent started to gain international recognition in the film industry, and by 1992 she made her first American feature appearance in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” But, it was 1996’s “The Apartment” that really launched her to international stardom, earning her a César Award nomination.

Her career has crossed decades, borders and genres, but one common theme among her films, and the questions asked of her at the press conference, was violence.

“I think this duality between poetry and violence has always been part of my career. I think the poetry in violence is part of my work,” said Bellucci when asked to reflect on her role in 2001’2 “Malena.” Of the film, she said she has “very beautiful memories. I shot for five months in Sicily with Giuseppe Tornatore. It went all over the world and gave me a chance to work around the world.”

When asked about her standout role in “Irreversible” a year later, the actress recalled that “when the film came out in Cannes, it was a scandal in some ways. People thought it was too violent.” Without disputing the claim, she went on to point out that “today it’s a cult movie, and young students study it at university.”

In regards to contemporary European cinema, and any difficulties it is facing, Bellucci argued that outside of France, the main problem isn’t a lack of talent, but rather a lack of funding.

“There is so much talent, actors and directors are very talented but the problem is more economic and political.” Using France as an example, she said that while government funding for the arts in that country leads to more than 250 films being made each year, a country like Italy will produce less than half that count.

The most common lines of questions, however, regarded gender. “We have more courage to talk and say what we need to say,” responded Bellucci when asked to comment on life as an actress over 50. “In cinema, we see this very much, it’s why we see all those incredible actresses with great careers after so many years. It’s beautiful to see this evolution.”

Her final reflection seemed especially poignant on an evening dedicated to looking back over her career. “When you make a movie, you make it and you don’t know what is going to happen.” She paused a moment before applying the sentiment to her three decades in front of the camera, “Maybe I’ll understand why I made some of my choices later. Maybe later.”

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