• Fashion

Venezia: The Parties

As the curtain comes down on the 71st Venice Film Festival, it’s time to reflect and reminisce, about the movies … and more. Like the glamour – always attendant – the oldest, perhaps most elegant, film festival in the world. No other festival has such
diverse after-premiere events and celebrations as Venice. Elisabeth Sereda went party hopping for us.

The annual Variety-fete, held on the rooftop of the Danieli, kicks off the festival in the best way possible. A day before opening night a mix of top international journalists, actors and jury members sip drinks overlooking the fabulous Grand Canal during sunset and nosh on a buffet of just about everything that the Italian cuisine is famous for. My personal highlight is always the risotto – tasty and made with Arborio rice that, unlike in the U.S., is never soggy. “It’s the pronunciation, bella !” the waiter exclaimed: “It’s RISOTTO with two hard Ts, as al dente as you say it !”
The official opening night party takes place in a see-through tent on the sand, right in front of the legendary Excelsior Hotel on the Lido. Usually the cast of the opening night film and the members of the jury are separated in a VIP section. One that is particularly easy to crash if you know someone – anyone – who is seated there. And so this year we hung out with Michael Keaton, Ed Norton and Alejandro Iñárritu, whose film Birdman played to endless applause. Alberto Barbera, the fest’s especially nice director, introduced us to jury president Aexandre Desplat. And we also caught up with jury member Moran Atias whom we last interviewed in Tel Aviv for her series Tyrant. Moran looked stunning in Zac Posen. In the following days she wore a lot of his designs to premieres. It is the after-after-parties that are a problem in Venice: a city that rolls up its pavement at 11pm and has exactly one (1) regular nightclub in town – a blue lit cave that looks like a mixture of opium den and Berlin bar from the 30s – isn’t really able to create a nightlife for only 12 days out of the year. Although the proprietor of the Palazzina G (the G stands for Grassi and the Palazzina is a small part of the grand palazzo) tried to keep the momentum going after Amy Sacco created a pop-up of her famous Bungalow 8 there last year. That she didn’t return this year may have something to do with the lack of huge names at the festival: last year’s opening film was Gravity and with Clooney in town, Amy also had a sponsor in form of his tequila brand.
Much more fun are the dinners of the foreign filmmakers. The Italians prefer places like the Quattro Fontane and the foreigners find tiny little gems of ristoranti all over the Lido or in the old Venezia. The Austrians held their dinner for the two films in competition at the Antica Locanda Montin in Dorsoduro, where the owner doesn’t have a set closing time. The Swedes took over half a small canal on the Lido, steps away from the Elisabetta and Gran Viale and kept the locals awake ‘til 3am.
What is missing from the party circuit of bygone Venice festivals is due to the economy: since the major studios are counting their dime, there are no more lavish excursions to the palazzi that line the Canal Grande. Gone are the days where we were taken by private taxi boats across the lagoon to fete Nicole Kidman who starred in the Jane Campion movie Portrait of a Lady. Where Tom Cruise (then still Mr. Kidman) showed up and did a better job at PR for the film than any publicist. A distant memory the grand buffet at another palace for the out-of-competition Dino de Laurentiis produced action thriller U571 (an Italo-American version of Das Boot), where I salsa-ed with leading men Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi, the latter a very talented dancer.
And dinner and game night put on by another studio at the Casino, a former residence of Richard Wagner for the premiere of The Devil Wears Prada. That studio even gave all guests chips to put on the roulette table. And Anne Hathaway showed up with an Italian boyfriend (who later went to jail for real estate fraud), while Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci entertained the crowd with tales from the set.
Or when the late Ismail Merchant, known for his other talent – cooking – prepared a meal at the palazzo he rented with partner James Ivory, and everyone was happy to break the daily pasta routine with a little Indian food.
That’s not to say that the cheaper, second tier events for the smaller films aren’t often a lot more fun. For one you don’t have to dress up for them.
A few days ago Fatih Akin took over the ospedale, the old and defunct hospital at the end of the Lido, a creepy place with graffitied walls and the smell of death. That may have been fitting for the theme of his film The Cut about the Armenian genocide. But when he played DJ and took over the turntables, his first song was Pharrell’s ‘Happy’!
Outside the rain came down like a waterfall on one of the worst nights, weather wise. The storm caused havoc at another event, the re-opening of the San Clemente Hotel by a new owner-group. Once they made it across on a boat that felt like the Titanic, guests ran through the courtyard with turned up umbrellas to get to the bar only to get wet feet all over again because the carpet was soaked from the rising groundwater. The place had the atmosphere of The Shining. No one would have been surprised if Jack Nicholson in crazy mode had peaked around the corner. No wonder: the building used to be an insane asylum originally.
But even that is fitting in a city where death, decay and mystery just add to its charm.

Elisabeth Sereda

To see some of the beautiful gown at the festival Click here! [gallery:3413]