Venezia! Back at the Venice Film Festival to Kick Off the Fall Festivals
by Alex Billington
August 27, 2019
"Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?" I'm back! Back again in the groove, the film festival groove. This week kicks off the fall season with two major film festivals: the Venice Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival, both running over the weekend. I'm back in Venice for my third time in a row to celebrate the 76th edition of this iconic festival, happy to be here, ready to start watching, excited to see all the films they're showing. I can't wait to see James Gray's Ad Astra, which has been in the works for years and is my most anticipated. And then there's Todd Phillips' Joker (get ready), then there's Haifaa Al-Mansour's The Perfect Candidate, then there's Soderbergh's The Laundromat, then there's Baumbach's Marriage Story, then there's David Michod's The King. And there's all the other films I haven't mentioned yet, too.
I went to the Telluride Film Festival every year from 2008 to 2016 - nine years in a row. I adore that festival, it's a one-of-a-kind cinephile paradise in the mountains. I miss it. I really miss it. I'd go again in a heartbeat just to be there with everyone again. The atmosphere, the mountains, the cinemas, the vibe. Nothing like it. Now that I live in Berlin, it's much more affordable to go straight to the Venice Film Festival instead. Since 2017 I've been flying down to Italy every August to catch films here and it's also an exquisite experience. Riding boats all day, the Italian sun, pasta, and Venice. Both festivals are two of the finest film festivals in the world. And I hate having to choose between them, because I would seriously go to both if I could. But I'm just happy to be here, anxious to start watching, hoping for masterpieces. Festivals are my happy place.
There's something magical about arriving in a city, bustling and busy, filled with tourists just here to see the sights. We settle into our apartment, where we'll be living for the next 12 days, becoming locals who catch the boat back & forth between the main island and the Lido where the festival takes place. It's not about the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, it's about the magic and mystique of cinema. That's why I'm here. That's what excites me and many of my colleagues. I saw two bonafide masterpieces at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year (Parasite and The Lighthouse) and there's some potential films in the line-up here that could reach those same heights. I don't want to wait for these films to hit theaters, I need to see them now, discover their excellence at the very first premiere. The very first showing. So we have arrived. Ready to roll.
I do realize how lucky/privileged I am to be here living this life, watching movies all day for my job, while staying in Venice for a week. But I'm also dedicated and passionate. I love cinema, and I've been writing about my love for movies for the past 11 years. I don't waste my time at parties, instead I spend all my time thinking about movies, and lining up for the next one, so I don't miss anything that might be a masterpiece. I do very much miss Telluride, and I miss the mountains, and all my friends, and the vibe of that festival. However, I'm just as happy being here. And I'm happy to keep saying this and to keep mentioning it over and over because it's true, because it's this feeling deep inside of me - a complete love for cinema and that power it has to amuse us and inspire us and move us and change us for the better. I love it with all my heart.
As usual, you can follow my updates from Venice directly on Twitter @firstshowing at the festivals. I'll be posting reviews and other blog recaps on the site as both festivals continue. You can also find my photos on Instagram @abillington. I also now list all the films I've seen on my Letterboxd @firstshowing, if you want more thoughts on what I'm watching. And now - to pick up my badge and get ready for the countdown.