Venice festers with the Lido lacking

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There's grumbling on the Lido at the midway point of the 65th Venice Film Festival.

Industry players are grousing that business is off compared to previous years, the tabloid press is carping about the lack of star power on the red carpet, film critics are bemoaning what so far has been a weak lineup and technical snafus are making Internet access either unusually expensive or unreliable.

These gripes, plus the high price just to be here in the lagoon city — a water taxi from the airport costs $150, a plate of pasta runs $25 — have left more than a few Venice veterans vexed.

"The conditions this year certainly make you wonder about how important having a big presence in Venice actually is," said one executive from a U.S.-based studio, echoing comments from other foreign industry figures.

Although things could pick up during the coming days, Venice's perceived shortcomings could prove good news for rival Toronto or even the upstart Rome Film Festival.

But Venice artistic director Marco Mueller brushes off most of the complaints as unfounded.

"The writers strike caused us some problems this year because a lot of films that would have come to Venice were not yet ready," Mueller said. "Add Frank Miller's 'The Spirit' and 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' from Terry Gilliam (which would have been strong candidates if not for the threatened strike), and I don't think you'd be hearing a lot of these criticisms."

"Venice has always had infrastructure problems, limited space, high costs," Riccardo Tozzi, the former head of film industry association ANICA and head of Rome-based production house Cattleya, said before the festival began.

"Venice's strength has always been the lineup. An off year is felt more in Venice than in other festivals." (partialdiff)
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