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Venice 2011 competitors likely to include Arnold, Kolirin, Solondz, Ferrara

As Venice gears up for its lineup announcement on Thursday, word has it that competitors could include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Wuthering Heights, Shame, The Exchange, Dark Horse and more.

The 68th Venice Film Festival, which will announce its full lineup this Thursday, is shaping up to be a powerhouse event, with a competition lineup expected to include three keenly awaited UK titles - Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights and Steve McQueen’s Shame.

Word also has it that Steven Soderbergh’s virus outbreak thriller Contagion and Madonna’s Wallis Simpson-themed feature W.E. will screen out of competition.

Other films expected to make the competition cut are Eran Kolirin’s follow up to The Band’s Visit, The Exchange; Todd Solondz’s latest Dark Horse starring Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken; Abel Ferrara’s end of the world drama Last Day On Earth with Willem Dafoe and Paz de La Huerta; and William Friedkin’s dark comedy Killer Joe starring Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch.

Also from the US and tipped for a competition slot is Texas Killing Fields, a police thriller directed by Michael Mann’s daughter Ami Canaan Mann and starring Chloe Moretz, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain.

David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Roman Polanski’s Carnage are both expected to land in competition.

As previously reported, George Clooney’s The Ides Of March will open the festival in competition while Al Pacino’s Wilde Salome will play out of competition. Pacino will also be in Venice to receive the Jaeger-Le Coultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award.

Alfredson’s film of John Le Carre’s Cold War classic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the Swedish director’s first since international hit Let The Right One In. The Working Title production stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, with Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Stephen Rea among the cast.

Arnold’s Wuthering Heights - her third feature - features UK TV actress Kaya Scodelario as Cathy and unknown black actor James Howson as Heathcliff.

Shame, Steve McQueen’s second feature after Hunger, is a drama about a sex-addicted thirtysomething man living in New York and his younger sister. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan star.

Contagion features an all-star ensemble including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne. It is set to open in the US through Warner Bros on Sept 9.

W.E., which will open in the US through The Weinstein Company in prime awards season position on Dec 9, tell dual stories of romance - between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and between a contemporary young woman and a Russian security guard. Andrea Riseborough, Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac star.

Two more UK films are thought to have landed at Venice in the Horizons (Orizzonti) sidebar - Ben Rivers’ Two Years At Sea and Simon Pummell’s Shock Head Soul, a UK/Netherlands co-production.

Two Years At Sea is the latest from experimental film-maker Rivers (Slow Action, Ah, Liberty!).

Shock Head Soul is a cross-media documentary about the life and writings of Daniel Paul Schreber who, in 1893, claimed to receive messages from God and was sent to an asylum,

James Franco’s latest directorial outing Sal, the story of doomed Hollywood icon Sal Mineo (played by Val Lauren), is also thought to be in Orizzonti alongside I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad and The Beautiful, Jonathan Demme’s documentary about an African American woman trying to rebuild her life in the years after Hurricane Katrina.

Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries, which stars Lily Cole and Sarah Bolger as girls caught in a web of jealousy and betrayal at an elite boarding school, is thought to be screening out of competition.

This year’s festival runs Aug 31 to Sept 10.

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