Free advice to anyone who feels adrift these days: Put Tilda Swinton in charge of your life. With her chartreuse suit and stingray-skull face mask, she has single-handedly saved the Venice Film Festival red carpet.
That’s not to say the 77th annual iteration, which normally brings Hollywood’s glitterati en masse to the City of Canals, isn’t as weird as hell right now.
Some of the attendees, like the model Taylor Hill, have eschewed such prole-ish accessories as masks. In photos taken of the Victoria’s Secret angel posing on the opening night’s red carpet, dripping in Chopard diamonds and a paisley Etro gown, you can see festival workers scurrying behind her in blue medical coverings.
Tons of Italian influencers, who have taken the place of the American celebrities who would normally be there but are instead wasting away inside their compounds, are also mask-less when posing outdoors. In a way, that makes the Venice Film Festival look a lot like your local Walmart, but with more tulle and feathers.
Then there are Swinton and Cate Blanchett, the chair of this year’s jury, who make a big to-do about their mask habits. They are, in a sense, the Moms of the festival. They encourage social distancing, sitting two seats apart from each other in screenings.
Not that it will be hard to take up space on that red carpet. There is a scarcity of celebs, and if tumbleweeds grew in Italy, one would surely pass by.
Blanchett has pledged to recycle past gowns from old red carpets for this one in a nod toward austerity. I live in New York, a whole ocean across from Venice, but I still feel a wave of calm wash over me knowing that she is in charge.
Swinton, who won a Lifetime Achievement Award, was also no slouch when packing her suitcase. She picked up her honor in a white cotton smock blouse and black tiered skirt by Chanel. It was pretty boring and not what I’d wear if given the chance to dress up after six months of having nowhere to go, but luckily it was saved by her custom James T. Merry mask.
The artist wrote on Instagram that his piece was “inspired by: stingray skeletons, seaweed, orchids… + also my favorite fish sculptures on the columns of the rialto fish market in venice.”
Swinton held the gilded-face covering by its long handle. With its intricate cutouts, it resembled what a very flamboyant plague doctor might have worn in the 15th century. It might not have the CDC’s seal of approval, but Swinton did have a regular white mask with her, too. She put that on later, so the gold one wouldn’t clash with her shiny new award.
Blanchett’s first-night outfit took us back to the easier days of 2015. She showed up in a slinky, metallic Esteban Cortazar gown, which she had previously worn to the premiere of Carol. The Colombian-American designer wrote on Instagram that the dress, like Merry’s mask for Swinton, was created as an homage to stingrays. Maybe they are the true breakout stars of the Venice Film Festival.