News from Venice, Toronto, and San Sebastián

Claire Rushbrook and Adeel Akhtar in Clio Barnard’s Ali & Ava (2021)

The pandemic has scrambled the festival calendar, making this summer an unusually bustling season. With this week’s announcements from Venice and Toronto, the fall is already beginning to take shape as well. Just two weeks ago, Pedro Almodóvar took part in the opening ceremony in Cannes, and now Venice has announced that his new film will open its seventy-eighth edition on September 1. Premiering in competition, Parallel Mothers stars Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit as single women who strike up a friendship when they share a hospital room—both of them expecting to give birth at any moment. Venice gave Almodóvar a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement two years ago, and in 1998, the Spanish director won the best screenplay award for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

The day before Venice opens, the festival will celebrate the centennial of actor, director, singer, and Italian television personality Nino Manfredi by presenting the new restoration of his 1971 directorial debut, Between Miracles. The screening will be preceded by Andrea Segre’s The Venice Biennale: Cinema in the Time of Covid, a diary “chronicling how Venice pulled off last year’s edition as a physical event, becoming the only top-tier international film festival to do so,” as Nick Vivarelli explains in Variety.

At Cannes, Apichatpong Weerasethakul picked up the jury prize (which he shared with Nadav Lapid) for his new film, Memoria. Now he’s presenting his award-winner at FIDMarseille, where he is being fêted with a retrospective and an honorary grand prize. The festival, renowned as a fertile hunting ground for international programmers, is presenting 110 films, including forty-three world premieres, through Sunday.

Today sees the opening of the thirty-fifth edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato, the festival in Bologna of new restorations and rediscoveries. Through July 27, the program will offer retrospectives dedicated to George Stevens, Romy Schneider, Herman Mankiewicz, Aldo Fabrizi, and Wolfgang Stadte as well as strands devoted to Indian Parallel Cinema and rarely seen gems from the collection of Tomijiro Komiya. Isabella Rossellini will introduce The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), directed by her father, Roberto. “The simplicity and directness of Rossellini’s greatest films—of which there are many—can be disarming, even shocking,” writes Kent Jones. “At any given moment, one can hold them up against everything else in cinema and measure the distance of our collective focus from humanity itself—at this moment, it feels like light years. Certain of Rossellini’s films are demonstrative of his charity and compassion as an artist and as a human being, perhaps this one most of all.”

Locarno has added two titles to complete its lineup of 209 films slated to screen from August 4 through 14. In her first feature, Charlotte Colbert directs Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Everett, Alice Krige, and Kota Eberhardt in She Will, the story of a woman who retreats to rural Scotland with her nurse to recover after a double mastectomy. Gleb Panfilov, who won Locarno’s Golden Leopard in 1969 for No Path Through Fire, returns with 100 Minutes, the story of Soviet prisoners of war who return to Russia after the end of the Second World War only to be sent to Stalin’s labor camps. The screenplay is based on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1962 novella, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

In New York, First Look 20/21, the Museum of the Moving Image’s showcase of new and innovative international cinema, opens on Thursday. Meanwhile, the New York Asian Film Foundation and Film at Lincoln Center have announced that Hong Kong New Wave filmmaker Ann Hui will receive a lifetime achievement award during the twentieth edition of the New York Asian Film Festival. The NYAFF will screen over sixty films between August 6 and 22, including Hui’s The Story of Woo Viet (1981), starring Chow Yun-fat as a Chinese-Vietnamese refugee who travels to Hong Kong in hopes that he’ll eventually make to the U.S.

Toronto will be bringing a good handful of critical favorites that have just premiered in Cannes to North America, including Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, Ildikó Enyedi’s The Story of My Wife, and Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District. Little White LiesDavid Jenkins calls Clio Barnard’s Ali & Ava, which premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight, “an unlikely and intimate love story set on the mean streets of Bradford.” For Sophie Monks Kaufman, writing for Sight & Sound, this is “Barnard’s most accomplished film since her debut, The Arbor [2010], dispensing with the bitter aftertaste left by her gratuitously punishing tale of trauma, Dark River (2017). Where that film hammered the note of suffering until it became one monotonous drone, Ali & Ava is a nuanced slice of life that is generous to all its characters, even as it recognizes the magnitude of the challenges they face.”

Toronto will open on September 9 with Stephen Chbosky’s Dear Evan Hansen, an adaptation of the hit musical starring Julianne Moore and Ben Platt, and close on September 18 with Zhang Yimou’s One Second, a “love letter to cinema” which was all set to premiere in competition in Berlin in 2020 when Chinese authorities called it back home. The story of a prisoner who escapes during the Cultural Revolution to seek out a lost newsreel eventually opened in Chinese theaters last November.

The twenty gala and special presentations added to the Toronto 2021 lineup join a first round announced a few weeks ago that includes Terence Davies’s Benediction, starring Jack Lowden as First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon and Peter Capaldi as Sassoon in his later years. Benediction is also one of nine films selected to screen in competition in San Sebastián (September 17 through 25).

The festival’s first round also includes Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Earwig, an adaptation of Brian Catling’s novel about a fifty-year-old man caring for a ten-year-old girl whose ice dentures must be changed several times a day; Laurent Cantet’s Arthur Rambo, the story of the rise and fall of Karim D., a young Maghreb writer and social media star; Claire Simon’s I Want to Talk about Duras, based on Yann Andréa’s book about his relationship with Marguerite Duras; and Claudia Llosa’s Fever Dream, cowritten with Samanta Schweblin, who wrote the book of the same name in 2014. “To call Schweblin’s novella eerie and hallucinatory is only to gesture at its compact power,” wrote Jennifer Szalai in the New York Times in 2017, adding that “the fantastical here simply dilates a reality we begin to accept as terrifying and true.”

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