(Venice) A dozen admirers lined up in front of the Palazzo del Cinema on Wednesday, under their umbrellas, a few hours before the opening of the 80th Venice Film Festival. In the very place where, last year, several dozen onlookers hoped to glimpse the shadow of a lock of Timothée Chalamet’s or Harry Styles’ hair.

There are not many people who want to contemplate the void, welcome the silence and bear witness to the absence of Hollywood stars at the Lido.

The strike of Hollywood screenwriters and actors is making itself felt in Venice. As the Screen Actors Guild strike continues, the Hollywood Actors Union prohibits its 160,000 or so members from promoting films from major studios and digital platforms with which it is negotiating a new employment contract (over the supervision of the artificial intelligence, in particular).

Under an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA, actors in independent films shot outside the United States can take advantage of an exception to the ban on promoting works, including those presented at festivals.

This is the case of Ferrari, a feature film by Michael Mann on the life of car manufacturer Enzo Ferrari, which is to be presented in competition in Venice on Thursday in the presence of its main interpreter Adam Driver. It is also that of Sofia Coppola’s new film, Priscilla (about Priscilla Presley), which benefits from an exemption because it was shot in Canada.

While many press conferences are still on the – particularly enticing – menu of the Festival, the confirmation of the most anticipated guests is slow in coming and is trickling in. We doubt why. Some American comedians are likely to be called in sick over the next few days in solidarity with their fellow strikers.

The red carpet of the Palazzo del Cinema, usually so well attended, could turn into a red desert (as Antonioni would say).

“The impact will be felt and important players will be absent,” admitted artistic director Alberto Barbera on Wednesday during the Festival’s opening press conference. “But it could have been worse,” he added. For the first few days, we feared the absence of the entire American delegation. »

The president of the competition jury, the American Damien Chazelle and the jurors Martin McDonagh and Laura Poitras (Golden Lion last year for All The Beauty and the Bloodshed) supported the strikers for their part during the press conference , wearing t-shirts that read “Writers Guild on Strike”.

“Each work of art has a value in itself. This is not just content to put into a pipeline. Over the past decade, we have witnessed the erosion of the very idea of ​​the durability of art,” said Damien Chazelle, who launched his films La La Land and First Man in Venice.

The first Venetian victim of the Hollywood strike, the film originally scheduled for the opening of this 80th Mostra, Challengers by Italian Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), was replaced at short notice by Comandante by Edoardo De Angelis. We bet Challengers, starring “youth idol” Zendaya, would have attracted more onlookers around the red carpet on Wednesday…

Comandante, who is competing for the Golden Lion, tells the true story of Italian Royal Navy Commander Salvatore Todaro (Pierfrancesco Favino), a World War II Good Samaritan who has been made a hero. After torpedoing a Belgian ship carrying weapons for the British in the Atlantic, Todaro picked up two dozen enemies in his submarine, rescuing them from the freezing waters, in defiance of orders given by his staff.

“Why did you save us?” asks the Belgian commander in Comandante. “Because we’re Italian,” Todaro replies. No, this biographical film does not avoid patriotic hagiography. It presents its main character as both a devoted warlord who gives no quarter, and a man of principles, in solidarity with his victims, who above all responds to the code of ethics of the sea. To sink a ship, either, but without letting its occupants drown.

The Neapolitan Edoardo De Angelis, best known for having adapted on Netflix at the beginning of the year the novel by Elena Ferrante, The lying life of adults, does not lack style. The theatrical aesthetic of his film reminded me at times Querelle de Fassbinder (no doubt for its sailors in tank tops). Its screenplay, co-written with Sandro Veronesi, multiplies the poetic inner dialogues of characters who are afraid of the absurdity of war. I would be surprised, that said, if this historical film goes down in history.

The Palazzo del Casinò press room was empty hours before the opening press conference. I had just picked up my accreditation and his photo from my last visit to the Venice Film Festival… 17 years ago. I’m crossing my fingers that the security guards will remain convinced for ten days that this image of a cherub without gray hair matches the 50-year-old scribe in front of them.

We were only three very silent journalists in this vast space which can accommodate several dozen. I could hear the clicking of my computer keyboard resonating in this room with a (red) ten-meter ceiling, marble columns and velvet curtains, with a view of the sea. No, I assure you, there is no nothing too good for the working class.