Italy's President Calls Marco Bellocchio to Praise 'Dormant Beauty' After Venice Snub

Courtesy of Giorgio Napolitano
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano

Giorgio Napolitano called the director to say he "appreciated" the film, while newspapers said its chances for an Oscar candidacy could be hurt by the lack of a major prize.

ROME – A day after its director expressed outrage that critically acclaimed euthanasia drama Bella Addormentata (Dormant Beauty) was shut out of the major awards at the Venice Film Festival, the film gained at least one high-profile fan when Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called director Marco Bellocchio to express his admiration for the film.

Earlier, Bellocchio blasted the 69-year-old Venice festival, claiming it undervalued Italian productions. The director, who had been presented with Venice’s Golden Lion career honor in 2011, vowed to never bring another film to the Venice Lido.

The provocative film was almost universally praised by critics, including The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young, who called it a production of “sparkling intelligence” that “should make it a full-fledged contender for a major prize at Venice.”

REVIEW: 'Dormant Beauty'

In the end, that did not come to pass. The film won only one minor prize: the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best new young actor, which went to Fabrizio Falco for his work in both Bella Addormentata and Daniele Cipri’s E stato il figlio (The Son Was Here), where Falco had a more significant role.

But Napolitano, Italy’s 87-year-old head of state who actually had a bit role in Bella Addormentata in the form of archival footage, reportedly called Bellocchio after watching the film to tell him he “appreciated” the production, which addressed “a difficult topic.”

The film, which opened on Italy Thursday, the day after its Venice premiere, took in €328,000 ($405,000) over its opening weekend, good for sixth place at the Italian box office -- far behind the latest film in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight Rises, which opened in Italy Aug. 29 and earned €1.67 million ($2.06 million) over the weekend, its first time in the top spot. The Dark Knight Rises played on nearly three times as many screens as Bella Addormentata.

Before its Venice opening, Bella Addormentata had been hailed as a likely contender for Italy’s official candidate for the Oscars, along with Reality from Matteo Garrone -- a disgruntled member of the Venice jury that failed to recognize Bellocchio -- and Cesare deve morire (Caesar Must Die) from Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.

Reality won a jury prize in Cannes and Cesare deve morire took home Berlin’s Golden Bear. Italian newspapers said Tuesday that Bella Addormentata’s lack of hardware from a major festival would likely hurt its chances to be selected when audiovisual association ANICA names its candidate later this month.

Bella Addormentata is screening at the Toronto Film Festival, with its North American premiere scheduled for Thursday, where it is screening as a “special presentation” and is considered a longshot for recognition to win the festival’s People’s Choice Award.