Venice (AP) – The sea glistens seductively in the sun, before it the wide sandy beach of Venice stretches for miles. But one thing is missing from this perfect setting: the throngs of vacationers who otherwise come to sunbathe and swim on Lido Island at this time of year.

Even a few meters further, at the Venice Film Festival, the consequences of the pandemic are omnipresent at the start with stars like Penélope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar – while at the same time a return to the normal life of the festival is felt.

Glamorous celebrities

A radiant Penélope Cruz, next to her a Pedro Almodóvar with a relaxed look: From the opening, the 78th International Film Festival will deliver the usual glamorous images of celebrities. The two Oscar winners presented their drama “Madres paralelas” at a gala in which the Italian actor and director Roberto Benigni (“Life is beautiful”) received a Golden Lion for his life’s work, thus opening the festival. Cruz plays one of the two women who unexpectedly fall pregnant. Shortly before the birth of their daughters, they met in a clinic and from that moment their lives remained closely linked.

With “Madres paralelas”, which means “Parallel mothers” in German, Almodóvar takes up many of the well-known things from his earlier works such as “Volver – Returning” and the Oscar hit “All About My Mother”. It shows strong women taking responsibility, supporting each other and asserting themselves without real help from men. There is also a subplot that forcefully denounces the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and calls for not forgetting the past. His paintings are colorful and tastefully decorated as usual. A rich touch of red color can be found in almost any scene.

Nevertheless, when you watch, you always have the impression that the Spanish director is alluding too much. It discusses rape in schools and the issues of single mothers, but does not really delve into these issues. Surprisingly, it doesn’t turn the turn of the two mothers and their children into a gripping psychological drama, but rather turns towards a more conciliatory ending. This means that “Madres Paralelas” is certainly not one of Almodóvar’s best films, but it still ensured a glamorous debut at the Venice Film Festival.

Responsible party

It is also remarkable how the festival allows this sparkle despite Corona’s strict requirements. Cannes Film Festival organizers repeatedly said in July that full cinemas and crowds of fans on the red carpet were more important to them than keeping their distance and other measures. Venice, on the other hand, proves once again how one can organize an international film festival in a prudent and responsible manner – without having to do without glamorous images.

This year’s jury chairman, South Korean director Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”), also praised Venice’s handling of the new situation. The Oscar-winning actor was also optimistic ahead of the opening: the Corona period would pass and the cinema would continue, he was sure. As a jury, it is now important to respect the work of all the filmmakers during the coming days of the festival. “We are ready to explore, we are ready to fight!”