At the Cannes Film Festival too, Italy is a big winner

Italy’s triumph of European football on Sunday was celebrated aloud on the Italophile French Riviera, where the world’s premier festival was blessed with a slew of films from the peninsula, signaling a resurgence in Italian cinema.

Decked out in the Italian tricolor, pizzeria Salsa Rossa drew plenty of smiles and cheers as shoppers left the Cannes market on Sunday, just hours before Italy face England in the Euro 2020 final. soccer.

Go Italy, go get them!” shouted a driver, rolling down the window of his van as he drove past.

That Cannes would lean heavily in favor of the Azzuri never doubted. Italy is only a short drive along the coast and many locals here have at least one Italian-sounding name, when they’re not really from the country.

“Actually Cannes has been Italy, until not so long ago,” said Salsa Rossa owner Massimo Esposito, who moved to the Riviera from his native Naples more than a decade ago. “Garibaldi was born just down the street,” he added, pointing to nearby Nice, then known as Nizza.

A profusion of Italian tricolors at the Salsa Rossa restaurant in Cannes. © Benjamin Dodman, FRANCE 24

With its heady mix of sun, sea, garish clothes and beach cubs playing techno music, Cannes would make the perfect backdrop for a trashy scene in a film by Paolo Sorrentino, a frequent guest at the most glitzy showcase in the city. city, the Cannes Film Festival.

Italian filmmakers have a long and storied history at the world’s premier film festival, where they are second only to the French and Americans in the number of Palmes d’Or won. Italy last won the coveted prize 20 years ago but are still an ubiquitous presence, on and off screen.

In the queues for press screenings, the chatter of Italian critics is omnipresent. According to the FRANCE 24 red carpet photographer, the Italians also dominate the frenzied photo shoots, cajoling the stars with feverish gestures and cries of “Girati! Girati!” (Turn around!) and “Guardami!” (Look at me!).

Past Palme d’Or winners include Nanni Moretti, who has been part of the world’s most prestigious film festival since his first entry in the competition, “Ecce Bombo”, in 1978. He won Best Director in 1994 for “Dear Diary” and the biggest cinema prize seven years later for “La chambre du fils”.

At Salsa Rossa, Esposito once recalled hitchhiking in the filmmaker’s car – “a crummy old Renault 4” – between Naples and Rome in the 1980s.

“Moretti will always be in Cannes,” he said. “It’s an institution here.”

Later in the day, Moretti duly presented his latest film at the Palais des Festivals – his eighth competition entry overall. Adapted from a book by Israeli author Eshkol Nevo, about life in an upscale Tel Aviv apartment, “Three Floors” takes the story to Italy and stars Margherita Buy, Alba Rohrwacher, Riccardo Scamarcio and Moretti as residents of a Roman building whose lives are turned upside down by cascading events.

Working without an original script for the first time in his long career, Moretti manages to neatly tie together the film’s various storylines. But “Three Floors” is hampered by the lack of a strong underlying theme and doesn’t quite pack the emotional weight of his finer works. It was applauded for a long time at the Grand Théâtre Lumière and above all panned by critics – which doesn’t mean much for the race for the Palme d’Or, since jurors and critics rarely think the same way.

The “rebellious sequence” of Italian cinema

While Moretti is the only Italian in this year’s main competition, the other segments of Cannes are packed with films from the Boot.

Marco Bellocchio, another veteran author and Cannes darling, will present his personal documentary “Marx Can Wait” at a special screening later this week. He will be awarded an honorary Palme d’or, two years after his seventh appearance in competition with “Le Traiteur”.

The newcomer Laura Samani is in parallel selection at Critics’ Week with the fable “Small Body”, while the Directors’ Fortnight features four Italian films. Among them, “Futura”, a portrait of Italy seen through the eyes of teenagers, co-directed by Alice Rohrbacher (from “Happy as Lazzaro”). Jonas Carpignano is also back with ‘A Chiara’, the latest installment in a migrant-themed trilogy set in southern Italy, which began with ‘Mediterranea’.

Like French cinema, which also figures prominently this year, the Italian film industry has continued through most of the pandemic. It is now slated for a massive cash injection as part of the European Union’s pandemic recovery fund, which will finance an overhaul of Rome’s iconic Cinecittà film studios, still the biggest in Europe.

The much-needed investment comes as Italian cinema experiences a surge of creativity, driven by a new generation of filmmakers eager to embrace different subjects and genres. Among them is Haider Rashid, whose migrant drama ‘Europa’, set on the Turkish-Bulgarian border, will be screened in the Directors’ Fortnight this week.

“It’s quite new for Italian films to tackle this kind of subject,” Rashid told FRANCE 24, describing his film as “very atypical in terms of style, language and themes”.

The Italian-Iraqi director was delighted to be in Cannes after a grueling year and a half, with Italy among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. He expressed the hope that Italian cinema would continue to innovate in the years to come.

“Italian cinema has a huge history, it has long been a pioneer of cinematic language,” he said. “We sometimes forget that the great authors of the past, like [Roberto] Rossellini or [Vittorio] De Sica, had a rebellious streak. We have to rediscover it. »

That means continuing to introduce greater diversity into Italian cinema, Rashid said, and drawing inspiration from French cinema. He added: “The demographics of the country are changing very rapidly and we also need to see more diversity in cinema.”

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