VENICE (AP) – Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has joined a chorus of voices at the Venice Film Festival and is pushing for the reopening of cinemas and a return to cinema normality after the coronavirus shutdown, saying that movies are meant to be on the big house.
Directors and actors have welcomed the return to the Lido red carpet and theatrical performances – albeit in a modified way – after the pandemic closed cinemas and put film sets on hold around the world.
“Even the preparation for today was rather surreal and there was a sense of normalcy,” gushed French actress Stacy Martin as she presented director Nicole Garcia’s competition film “Lovers”.
Venice organizers are proud to continue with the in-person festival despite cumbersome and costly anti-virus restrictions that include protective masks during all screenings, half- or one-third-capacity theaters, and strict temperature controls and decontamination. They went on to play the first major COVID-era film festival, convinced they needed to chart a path for a film industry badly affected by the lockdowns.
Almodovar, who premiered his short film “The Human Voice” on Thursday, said streaming platforms had played an “essential role” in entertaining people during months of virus-prone confinement at home.
But he said they had also contributed to the “dangerous” phenomenon of people becoming more comfortable living, working and eating at home – a kind of “confinement” that he said should be resisted.
“And the antidote is the cinema,” he said as he went out, sitting next to strangers in a movie theater, where “you find yourself crying or rejoicing with other people.”
“If I put my movie on a platform like Netflix, I somehow lose that contact and meeting point with the viewer,” he said. “So you have to tell people to go to the movies, to go to theaters, because some things will only be discovered on the big screen, in the dark with people we don’t know.”
That said, it won’t be the same.
Daniele Luchetti’s family drama “Ties” was met with continuous applause when it opened the festival on Wednesday evening. But the Italian director said on Thursday that something wasn’t quite right: social spacing rules for the theater made viewers feel like they were in a “vacuum bubble” and spread the sound of the clapping at the end.
“I know very well how an audience reacts to a movie, both when they like it and when they don’t like it,” Luchetti told The Associated Press after his movie premiered. “This time the atmosphere was very unusual. Just the fact that I don’t have a person by your side: I couldn’t turn around and see a crowd of people laughing or looking carefully. “
He said he heard the applause at the end, but said it was scarce as every other seat was empty. “It was a round of applause in a room with a different balance,” he said. But he admitted, “I think we have to get used to this.”
Tilda Swinton, who stars in Almodovar’s short film and received a Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement award, made the same point from the Lido main theater stage, saying she was overwhelmed to see the audience’s eyes and ears ( although not their mouths because they are all covered in masks.)
“When I ask myself how to adequately express my gratitude for this honor, words fail,” she said. “But I think I can tell you a little bit about what it means to be here with you tonight: what it means to be in a room with living things on a big screen. What it means to see a movie in Venice.
“Pure joy,” she said.
AP journalist Louise Dixon contributed.