Venice Film Festival Day 8: Focus Turns to Artistic Director's Unknown Fate

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Marco Mueller

As the festival begins to wind down, many wonder if Marco Mueller will return for another mandate.

VENICE – Cristiana Comencini’s in-competition drama Quando la notte (When The Night) and 4:44 Last Day on Earth from Abel Ferrara were the centerpieces on the Venice Lido Wednesday, as the 68th edition of Venice Film Festival started to wind down and attention in the local media starting turning toward the future of eight-year artistic director Marco Mueller.
Meanwhile, festival officials said that over the first week of the festival, paid attendance was up nearly 5% compared to a year ago, despite two rainy days that may have kept some ticket holders home.

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Mueller’s mandate – like those of the heads of all the sections of the Venice Biannale – is up at the end of the year, and so far there has been no indication about whether he wants to stay on for an unprecedented third mandate or whether he will be asked to do so. At the annual foreign press lunch Tuesday, Mueller was mum about plans, though regional and city political leaders quoted in the local press say they want Mueller to stick around.
No decision is expected before October, but the topic is sure to be a focal point after the conclusion of the festival Saturday.

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The consensus is that if Mueller does not return for the 69th edition next year, he will have gone out in style: not only is the 23-film main competition made up entirely of world premieres for the fourth time in five years, but this time around all 65 full-length films in competition, out of competition, or in one of the three main sidebars are all screening for the first time on the Lido. And the festival’s tradition of glitz and glamour continued, with a steady stream of A-list stars including George Clooney, Madonna, Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley waltzing across the festival’s well-worn red carpet.

That stated, Wednesday was a relatively low wattage day at the festival. The buzz around Comencini’s forbidden love story was that the press screening in the morning was interrupted by a heavy round of laughter at an unintended point that set the director and producers on their heels during the afternoon press briefing.

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The film is the second of three Italian films screening in competition in Venice, with L’ultimo terrestre (The Last Man on Earth), a science fiction story from Gian Alfonso Pacinotti set to premiere on Thursday.
Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth – the story of a couple coming to terms with the end of the world -- was a better received by audiences, but it still failed to generate much attention on the festival’s lowest profile day so far, as most of the international crowd in Venice has already jetted off for the Toronto Film Festival, which kicked off Wednesday.