Venice Showers ‘Parallel Mothers’ With 5-Minute Standing Ovation, as Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodóvar Wear Masks for Entire Movie

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At the Venice Film Festival, the masks stay on, even during the standing ovation.

At least that became protocol during the festival’s opening night movie, “Parallel Mothers,” on Wednesday night in Italy.

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Director Pedro Almodóvar and his muse Penelope Cruz didn’t so much as touch their face coverings during an enthusiastic five-minute standing ovation at the historic Sala Grande for the Spanish film.

As soon as the credits rolled, Cruz leaned over and clutched Almodóvar’s arm in a gesture of affection. And Cruz seemed to look teary-eyed at one point at the crowd’s enthusiastic reception for the film.

The 78th annual Venice Film Festival kicked off with some changes, having already established itself as the biggest film gathering in the world in 2020 during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the festival continued adhering to strict rules, including requiring proof of vaccination from attendees and only filling every other seat in screenings, to allow for social distancing.

That, of course, caused a crush for tickets for the premiere of “Parallel Mothers.” There were some impressive A-list stars who stayed on their feet, and remained masked for more than two hours. This year’s Venice jury — headed by president Bong Joon Ho and including Cynthia Erivo and Chloé Zhao — joined the applause, as did Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella, whose entrance shortly after 7 p.m. Italy time was met with a standing ovation of its own.

In “Parallel Mothers,” Almodóvar’s seventh collaboration with Cruz, the actor plays Janis, a successful fashion photographer who finds herself dealing with a moral dilemma after she becomes a mother. In Almodóvar fashion, there are plenty of soapy plot twists in the drama, which received good-to-mixed reviews out of Venice.

The evening began with a short speech from Bong. “We all believe that Covid will be over soon, but cinema will be with us forever,” said the director of “Parasite.”

Roberto Beningi received the festival’s career achievement award, which was presented to him by Jane Campion. The “Life is Beautiful” director and actor stormed the stage like it was the 1999 Oscars.

“Parallel Mothers” opens in the United States from Sony Pictures Classics on Dec. 24.

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