(Venice) Victim of the Hollywood strike, the first red carpet of the 80th Venice Film Festival, which opens on Wednesday evening, will be without stars or glitz, with an Italian film replacing the originally planned American production at short notice.

Jury president Damien Chazelle has had more festive evenings: he, whose films La La Land (2016) and First Man (2018) twice opened the Mostra with great fanfare, will not meet many stars This year.

“Any work of art has a value in itself and is not just content – a very popular word in Hollywood at the moment – to feed a pipe”, estimated Wednesday during the opening press conference the filmmaker. , who wore a T-shirt supporting the strike. “Art comes before content,” he insisted.

In the meantime, the Mostra is the first major world festival to bear the brunt of the strike of American screenwriters, joined by the actors, who are demanding better remuneration and supervision of artificial intelligence.

Their powerful union, SAG-AFTRA, prohibits its members from filming, but also from participating in the promotion of films.

Thus, the new darling of Hollywood Zendaya was to inaugurate the Mostra with Challengers by Luca Guadagnino, but the American social movement decided otherwise.

The film was replaced at the opening by an Italian production, Comandante about a little-known episode from the start of the Second World War.

A much less glamorous program, even if the director of the Mostra, Alberto Barbera, who has done a lot in recent years to make Venice one of the favorite festivals of American stars, wants to put things into perspective.

“The impact of the strike will be very limited, because we lost only one film (Challengers, Editor’s note),” he reassured in an interview with AFP. “There will be a few highly anticipated stars missing, but in the end it’s not that bad,” he reiterated at a press conference.

Ferrari of Michael Mann will be one of the events of the competition. This biopic of the founder of the brand benefits from an exemption which allows its protagonist Adam Driver to be present.

On the other hand, it will be necessary to do without Bradley Cooper, in the running both as director and actor for Maestro, a biopic by composer Leonard Bernstein.

Also in the running for the Golden Lion, won last year by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (All the beauty and bloodshed), directors David Fincher and Sofia Coppola.

This edition is also distinguished by the return of filmmakers implicated in cases of sexual assault, which they contest.

Among them, Roman Polanski, 90, lives in Europe sheltered from American justice, which he has been fleeing for more than 40 years after being convicted of illegal sexual relations with a minor.

Persona non grata in Hollywood, the director of Rosemary’s Baby has seen his situation change in France since the controversy surrounding the César for directing won in 2020, when he was targeted by new accusations of sexual assault.

He is now considered by a large part of the profession as one of the symbols of a certain impunity. The Mostra highlights it with The Palace, presented out of competition. Polanski, however, has no plans to come to Venice.

Woody Allen has seen almost the entire industry turn its back on him after accusations of sexual assault of his adopted daughter, which he denies and for which no investigation has resulted. He will present his 50th film, Coup de chance, shot in Paris with French actors, out of competition.

“In any case, we must distinguish between the man and the artist. Art history is full of artists who were criminals, and yet we continue to admire their works,” said Alberto Barbera, interviewed by AFP.

The selection of 23 films includes five women for 19 men in the running for the Golden Lion, awarded on September 9 and which has been won by female directors for the past three years.

“Women’s films are few, […] obviously you have to fight for things to change,” admitted Mr. Barbera.