1968: a year that has become synonymous with rebellion in Europe, given the profound impact the students' protests had on politics, society and culture. 2008: the 40th anniversary of the "event", and the perfect occasion for Antonello Sarno and Steve della Casa to make a 39-minute documentary, screened at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, about the relationship between '68 and the festival itself.
The best known effect of '68 on cinema is probably the fact that the Cannes festival was canceled that year, since Truffaut, Godard and the other New Wave masters sympathized with the protesters. Venice came very close to suffering the same fate, with people threatening to boycott the whole thing even mere days before the scheduled start. One of the leading figures of the controversy was, predictably, Pier Paolo Pasolini, who went as far as withdrawing his film Teorema from the competition.
The no doubt fascinating story of Venice in 1968 is recounted with the usual talking heads technique: interviewees include historians, the people in charge of the festival that year and some of the directors who protested. The problem is that, while the anecdotes are fun to listen to, no one ever gets to the core of the issue, and most of the stuff we hear has been told before. Maybe the running time is to blame: 39 minutes is nowhere near enough for a subject as complex and thought-provoking; a more thorough, insightful study of the matter would have been more gratifying (who knows, maybe we'll get one for the 50th anniversary). An even bigger problem is that the voice that would have mattered the most is heard only in archive footage: Pasolini was murdered in 1975, and so all we get from him are comments recorded during the protest, not after-wards. Given his strong critical sense, his recollections would most likely have been priceless.
Nevertheless, Venezia '68 is sufficiently entertaining, and anyone interested in some basic knowledge of what happened should be satisfied. What it lacks in detail it makes up for in pace and enjoyability of the interviews.
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