Thursday, July 28, 2005

Venice Film Festival Line Up

The President of the Venice Biennale, Davide Croff, and the Director of the 62nd Venice International Film Festival, Marco Muller, announced the line-up of the festival that runs August 31 to September 10. The program is divided into 4 main sections: Venice 62 - In Competition, Out of Competition, Horizons (new trends in cinema), and Corto Cortissimo (short films not longer than 30 minutes).

The world premiere of "Qi Jian" (Seven Swords), a new and highly anticipated film by Tsui Hark,will be the opening event of the Film Festival. "Casanova" will be the featured film for the gala evening on Saturday, September 3rd. It will be the world premiere of Casanova by Swedish director Lasse Hallström, starring Heath Ledger (as Casanova), Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, and Lena Olin.

The panel of judges will be headed by Italy's Oscar-winning set designer Dante Ferretti. The other judges are Chinese author Ah Cheng, French film director Claire Denis, German director Edgar Reitz, Icelandic musician and actress Emiliana Torrini, whose father is Italian, and American independent producer Christine Vachon.

If you can't get to Venice for the festival, look for Erica Jong's novel, "Serenissima." Orignally published in 1987, it was re-released as "Shylock's Daughter" in 2003 (W.W. Norton, paperback). As the jacket copy says, "When the beautiful Jessica Pruitt arrives in Venice to star in a film based on The Merchant of Venice, she is preoccupied: she has recently lost custody of her daughter, and as an older actress she is increasingly aware of the difficulty of landing leading roles. One day, as she wanders through an old Jewish ghetto, Jessica is magically transported to sixteenth-century Venice where she finds herself the heroine of 'Will' Shakespeare's play. Immediately attracted to the younger playwright, Jessica enters into an intensely passionate love affair that defies time and place." It's a funny little book, with lots of great Venice/Film Festival settings.

The films listed below are "In Competition" and eligible for the Golden Lion award. The list shows the director, the film, the country(ies) where it was filmed, and the actors.

Pupi Avati, "La seconda notte di nozze," Italy, Antonio Albanese, Katia Ricciarelli, Neri Marcorè

João Bothelho, "O Fatalista," Portugal/France, Rogério Samora, André Gomes, Rita Blanco

Laurent Cantet, "Vers le sud," France/Canada, Charlotte Rampling, Karen Young, Louise Portal

Patrice Chereau, "Gabrielle," France/Italy, Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory, Thierry Hancisse

George Clooney, "Goodnight and Good Luck," USA, David Strathairn, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr, Patricia Clarkson

Cristina Comencini, "La bestia nel cuore," Italy, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Stefania Rocca, Angela Finocchiaro

Roberto Faneza, "I giorni dell’abbandono," Italy, Margherita Buy, Luca Zingaretti, Goran Bregovic

Abel Ferrara, "Mary." Italy/USA, Juliette Binoche, Matthew Modine, Forest Whitaker

Philippe Garrel, "Les Amants réguliers." France/Italy, Louis Garrel, Clothilde Hesme, Julien Lucas

Aleksey German, Jr. "Garpastum," Russia, Chulpan Khamatova, Evgeny Pronin, Danila Kozlovsky

Terry Gilliam, "The Brothers Grimm." UK, Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Jonathan Pryce, Monica Bellucci

Stanley Kwan, "Changhen ge," China/Hong Kong, Sammi Cheng, Tony Ka Fai Leung, Jun Hu

Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain," Canada, Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

John Madden, "Proof," UK/USA, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Hopkins

Fernando Meirelles, "The Constant Gardener," UK/Kenya/Germany, Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Hubert Koundé, Sidede Onyulo

Manoel de Oliveira, "Espelho magico," Portugal, Michel Piccoli, Marisa Paredes, Leonor Silveira, Ricardo Trepa

Park Chan-wook, "Chin-jeol-han Geum-ja-ssi" (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Korea, Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kwon Yea-young, Kim Si-hu, Nam Il-woo

John Turturro, "Romance and Cigarettes," USA, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken

Krzysztof Zznussi, "Persona non grata," Poland/Russia/Italy, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Nikita Mikhalkov, Jerzy Stuhr, Remo Girone

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Things I Miss.....

Part 1 of Things I miss about Venice.... One of my first stops in Venice is the Billa supermercato for breakfast supplies. "Arancia rossa," juice made from blood oranges is one of my must-haves. I can't find blood-orange juice here in NJ, where I live, so I have to drink as much as possible when I'm in Venice!

I took this photo in May 2004. This apartment, a studio (Ca' Gondola) was one I rented through Views on Venice (there's a link in the sidebar). If you look through the windows, you can see the Grand Canal in the background. Posted by Picasa

Buyer Beware

Venice's campaign against people who don't "respect" the ancient city has begun. Buongiorno Venezia, a publication of Venice Word International, reports that recently eight people were fined for going topless in St. Mark's Square (no word on the sex of the topless offenders....), 106 boats were fined for speeding, and a French tourist was fined for buying a bag from one of those vendors who seem to be everywhere.

In a related development, Project "Bad Bag" says the counterfeit bags are not only an economic problem, but also a problem of image, decorum, and order. Project "Bad Bag" is posting notices around town warning that anyone who purchases a counterfeit bag is just as liable as the sellers. If you get caught buying a "bad bag," you can be fined anywhere from 3,300 to 10,000 euros.

James Martin, travel writer for say, "Italy has a long history of 'shared responsibility' for certain legal infractions. Although seldom enforced, a restaurant must give you a receipt for your meal, a ricevuta fiscale with certain items, like cover and bread charges, itemized. You must carry it out of the restaurant for a short distance. If a policeman sees you and you can't produce that receipt, you're as guilty as the restaurant."

"The hospitality of Venice," the councillor for Tourism and Decorum Augusto Salvador said, "cannot be confused with the permissiveness. We will continue in our struggle against people who don't respect the dignity of our town."

So when you go to Venice, keep your shirt on and don't buy those bags!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Gondoliers Ask: Please Don't Make Waves

The following article comes from AGI online (
(AGI) - Venice, Italy, July 25 - Wave motion will be the main thing at the next Venice Historical Sailing Race, due in September, said the municipal councillor for tourism, Augusto Salvadori, renowned for his battles to preserve the city decorum, and, in the 80s, for his crusades against people sleeping in sleeping bags. Salvadori went on a gondola today to take part in a demonstration protesting against the surge. "We ask Venice's guests," he said, "Authorities and the state to take measures to preserve the city, to ward off the peril of wave motion." Salvadori announced that in September his group will put up a great photographic show documenting the damages caused by the surge. "Such damages are to be seen in the barriers of lagoon islets, buildings, foundations and tiers." (AGI) - 251728 LUG 05 COPYRIGHTS 2002-2005 AGI S.p.A. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dam Floods

Aqua Alta (high water) continues to threaten Venice. While the political types argue about the ambitious and controversial project MOSE (floodgates that will rise from the floor of the lagoon to block the floodwaters), the floods keep coming. The article is from the July 24 online issue of (an Italian news website). I took the photo of the aqua alta in Piazza San Marco in November 2004.

Venice Environmentalists Positive After New Studies (ANSA) - Venice, July 24 - New reports on the environmental damage of a project to protect Venice from sinking have breathed fresh life into a campaign opposed to the scheme.

Two studies prepared by environmental and heritage groups fighting the two-year-old Moses project (MOSE in Italian) have convinced Venice city authorities to call for its temporary halt.

Reports by the Alex Langer Eco-Institute, heritage protection society Italia Nostra and the Italian League for the Protection of Birds detailed a series of administrative and planning violations by the consortium working on MOSE.

"Two months ago we discovered that the construction sites that had started work didn't meet a number of municipal or regional planning regulations," explained Alex Lang Director Michele Boato.

"They also violated EU environmental directives regarding sites of European importance." Boato explained that when nothing had changed after a month, the groups sent a second report, "given that the damage risked becoming irreparable."

At this point, the city council prepared its own study, identifying 19 violations of municipal, regional and European environmental laws, he said.

This has reportedly been sent to the infrastructures ministry and Veneto regional government - the only bodies with the power to put a definitive stop to the project.

Meanwhile, Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari has also sent a council report to the president of the Venice Water Authority, Maria Giovanna Piva, asking her to not to approve any further stages in MOSE.

The Moses project comprises 79 barriers, designed to rise from the seabed to block the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea when high tides are forecast.

After 30 years of debate and testing, it was inaugurated by Premier Silvio Berlusconi in May 2003, although work is still in the preliminary stages.

The centre-right government in Rome has adopted MOSE as one of the jewels in its nationwide crown of major infrastructural projects but it has long been a source of contention within Venice.

It is opposed by environmentalists, conservation groups and a large number of citizens, angry over the costs involved and concerned at the environmental impact. They say the cash - some 3.4 billion euros - could be put towards more effective, cheaper and less damaging schemes.

Despite a series of legal challenges and widely covered demonstrations, a ruling last year by the regional administrative court gave definitive clearance for the project's go-ahead.

Combined with positive assessments from the Venice Water Authority, the Commission to Safeguard Venice, several teams of international experts and the municipal council's own implacable support for the scheme, environmentalists appeared to be fighting a losing battle.

However, this turnaround in the attitude of city authorities offers fresh hope to MOSE's critics.

The apparent change of heart had been on the cards for some weeks, following the election of Cacciari as Venice mayor in April.

His predecessor, another centre-left figure, backed the project and the issue split left-leaning parties during municipal elections. Cacciari, who made his opposition to the project part of his electoral platform, scored a narrow run-off victory against another centre-left candidate in favour of the plan.

Venice dailies have reported that the environmentalists' reports have also been set to the Venice public prosecutor's office and the environment ministry.

As well as being a biblical reference to Moses' parting of the seas, MOSE is an acronym for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (experimental electro mechanical module), a prototype that was built to test how the barriers would operate.

The project's completion date has been put at 2011.

� Copyright ANSA. All rights reserved Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The World's Most Photographed Veggies?

This floating vegetable stand in the Rio Di San Barnaba is often called "the world's most photographed vegetable stand."  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Venice and Terrorism

BUONGIORNO VENEZIA, a publication of Venice Word International, is one of my favorite Venice-related publications. This week's issue brings us two items about the presence of terrorism in and around Venice. Sad....

"There was another bombing attempt Saturday by the Italian Unabomber. In Portogruaro, a little village 50 kms from Venice, a woman found a bomb under the seat of her bicycle. Luckily, it did not detonate. The police have no doubt that this a Unabomber act. For the unknown attacker, this is the fourth 'mistake', but Venice is scared once again.

"After the London massacre on 7 July, Venice, which is also considered a town at risk, initiated safety measures. Police strengthened existing controls and new measures will be instituted next week by the National Committee for Order and Security. The obvious targets in town can be mapped very clearly even without including the artistic sites -- St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace, the Rialto Bridge, and the like -- and there are several places regularly frequented by the English and Americans, such as the Guggenheim Foundation and luxury hotels such as the Gritti, Danieli, Bauer, et al. There are also two American universities, Wake Forest University and the University of California, both in the Dorsoduro district."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Venetian Dilemma

Yesterday, I turned on my local PBS station and caught the last half hour of “The Venetian Dilemma: City or Theme Park,” a documentary produced by New Yorkers, and part-time Venetians, Carole and Richard Rifkind. Instead of focusing on the “sinking” Venice, this documentary looks at the impact of tourists and the shrinking population of Venetians.

The producers’ website ( says: “In magical, mystical, marvelous Venice a plummeting population of locals is drowning in an annual flood of visitors that now tops 14 million. Roberto, a savvy politician, is promoting a broad array of public works in a desperate attempt to modernize and thus revitalize this ancient city. Against a stunning backdrop of fabled canals, fairy tale bridges, and splendid monuments, the soul of the city is revealed by three who are battling City Hall: Paolo, an environmentalist, opposes the speeding tourist-serving motor boats that destroy the city's very foundations; Danilo, a fruit and vegetable vendor, wages a lonely battle to save his kiosk from condemnation; and feisty Michela, a career woman and mother, presses the city to help the young families who provide the last best hope of saving the city as something more than a Disneyland. A provocative debut film by Richard and Carole Rifkind, it is a fascinating portrait of a society in crisis.”