Cavani receives Lifetime Achievement award in Venice

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Organizers of the 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival, which ran Aug. 30-Sept. 9, recognized a number of legendary artists. Tributes included a film retrospective dedicated to Gina Lollobrigida, who passed away in January.

One very special recognition went to director Liliana Cavani, who was awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Now 90 years old, Cavani was there to receive her award and later presented her new film, “L’ordine del tempo,” which premiered out of competition.

Actress Charlotte Rampling, who starred in Cavani’s 1974 devastating Holocaust drama, “Il portiere di notte” (The Night Porter), presented Cavani with the award.

“From the early 1960s, Liliana Cavani has been forcing us to confront the beautiful, the ugly and the unresolved. With her relentless questioning through her documentaries and film, she sent streams of passionate and complex messages out into the world,” said Rampling.

She went on to say about their collaboration, “I couldn’t have played Lucia in ‘The Night Porter’ had I not been carrying shadows. You took hold of my shadows, Liliana Cavani. They belong at the center of our shared destiny.”

Cavani took advantage of her international platform to rally for the recognition of women in film.

“I’m the first female person to receive this award,” she said. “There are women writers and directors who are working as well as men. It’s not quite right if we don’t give them a chance to be seen.”

Cavani’s filmmaking style is fierce, unflinching and no-holds-barred. Working with future stars Charlotte Rampling, Helena Bonham Carter and Mickey Rourke early in their careers, she was able to evoke a depth of emotion from her actors that was truly exceptional. Her films are like symphonies that feature exquisite sets, rich cinematography and classical music that almost feels like an additional character.

She rose to international prominence with the 1974 release of “The Night Porter.” A dark erotic thriller, the film stars Rampling as Lucia, a concentration camp survivor who checks in to a Vienna hotel with her husband, an American conductor. There, she comes face to face with her former captor and lover, Max, who now works as the hotel’s night porter.

After spending a sleepless night haunted by her flashbacks of life in the camp and her relationship with the former Nazi SS officer, played by British actor Dirk Bogarde, she tells her husband to continue on his way and she stays behind at the hotel. When Max confronts her, paranoid that she has searched him out to turn him in to the police for war crimes, the two have an explosive encounter that ends with the realization that they still love each other. What follows is the pain and pleasure of a tortured, doomed love.

Cavani’s balance of tenderness and violence, death and despair, is expressed through the extraordinary performances of her actors. The scenes in the concentration camp brilliantly highlight the human desire for the beautiful things in life like culture and closeness against the grey, corrupt and brutal backdrop of the Holocaust. Cavani’s camera moves smoothly in time with the classical music soundtrack, contrasting the extravagance of the Vienna hotel with the cold reality outside its doors, as if the hotel is a sanctuary, and once the couple leaves, they must fend for themselves.

“The Night Porter” is available to stream on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video with a MAX subscription. Follow this direct link.

We’ll keep you posted on the stateside release of Cavani’s latest film.


About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L'Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film "Gelsomina," which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC's "Special Report" following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.

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