The 76th Venice Film Film Festival kicked off Wednesday evening with Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche on the red carpet for the world premiere of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “The Truth,” in which they play a mother and daughter in conflict. The well-received opening film by a male director, but with women at its core, encapsulates the mood on the Lido, where the ongoing uproar over female representation took center stage.
Deneuve in black and devilish red, Binoche in silver sequins, and fellow French actress Ludivine Sagnier, who is also in the film, had the flashbulbs popping in the balmy Lido evening glow. Ethan Hawke, who also stars, did not make the trek.
Earlier in the day at the opening press conference, fest director Alberto Barbera defended the often-cited fact that there are just two films directed by women in the 21-title competition. Barbera also stood firm on the inclusion in Venice’s official selection of new films by Roman Polanski and Nate Parker, despite both directors having histories of sexual assault allegations — in Parker’s case, he was accused of rape while in college but was acquitted of those charges. Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in California in 1977 but fled the U.S. before sentencing.
Jury president Lucrecia Martel said, “I will not congratulate him. But I think it is right that his movie is here at this festival.” In a note issued later by the festival the jury president clarified that she will watch and judge Polanski’s film “like any other in the competition.”
Martel, whose credits include “The Headless Woman” and “Zama,” at the press conference added that “we have to develop our dialogue with him, and this is the best possible place to go on with this type of discussion.”
But the Argentine auteur said she had turned down an invitation to toast Polanski at a gala dinner. Polanski himself will not be attending the festival.
Martel begged to differ with Barbera regarding his reiterated stance on rejecting the notion of quotas for women directors at film festivals.
“The issue of the quotas is difficult and the answer is never satisfactory,” she said. “There are no other solutions which include the discussion of whether to give women the place that they deserve,” she added, going on to point out that she thought “quotas are indeed pertinent for the time being.”
“The Truth,” which is Kore-eda’s foray into French-language filmmaking, marked Venice’s first European opener since 2012 when a string of Hollywood titles took over the slot.
However, day two will see a double dose of Hollywood with James Grey’s “Ad Astra” from Fox, starring Brad Pitt as an astronaut on a mission to save the solar system, and Noah Baumbach’s intimate divorce drama for Netflix, “Marriage Story,” with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple in conflict, unspool on the Lido.