Italian films may be the ones to profit most from the absence of big-name auteur directors that looks set to afflict the Venice festival this year.
From Italy the official selection is likely to include Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers in an out of competition slot, Marco Bellocchio's Buongiorno Notte, Edoardo Winspeare's The Miracle and Paolo Benvenuti's Segreti Di Stato. Elsewhere in the line-up, probably in the Contro Corrente parallel competition section, should be Daniele Cipri and Franco Maresco's The Return Of Cagliostro, Gianluca Tavarelli's Liberi and Paolo Virzi's Caterina Va In Citta. Italian-produced Turkish film Mud (Fango) by Darvish Zaim could also find a place on the Lido.
Films from abroad that are strongly tipped for competition include Margarete von Trotta's Rosenstrasse, Christopher Hampton's Imagining Argentina, Tsai Ming Liang's Never To Meet Never To Part, Carole Lai's Floating Landscape, Amos Gitai's Alila, Michael Winterbottom's Code 46, Srdjan Karanovic's Loving Glances, Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation, Bruno Dumont's Twentyninepalms, Robert Benton's The Human Stain , Francois Dupeyron's Monsieur Ibrahim Et Les Fleurs Du Coran and Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men.
While that looks a pretty healthy list, sales agent sources say that Venice was still accepting submissions of new titles on tape as late as the middle of last week. Other sources report that the festival has been making its competition decisions later than usual, though that rumour is a perennial favourite. Nothing will be certain until the festival makes its line-up announcement later this week. Until then the only confirmed title is Woody Allen's Anything Else, which screens as the opening film out of competition.
Where all the gossip mongers concur is that Venice has not been able to reap the harvest of films by the art-house super-stars that did not go to Cannes. The reasons are diverse, ranging from the genuinely not ready to the kind that raise questions about the usefulness of festivals as a launch platform.
Those apparently missing include Emir Kusturica's Hungry Heart (still not ready); Wong Kar Wai's 2046, which is still shooting and is set for a mid-December release in China, which makes it more likely for Berlin; and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. One top name Italian director who will not make the parade is Ermanno Olmi, whose Singing Behind The Screens is still not ready.
The second instalment of Peter Greenaway's Tulse Luper Suitcases trilogy is not ready, but elements of it may screen as a work in progress. Ingmar Bergman has been tinkering with a near-finished version of Saraband for many months, but is reported not to want to hurry and may now prefer a Berlin slot.
Jane Campion's In The Cut and The Coen brothers' Intolerable Cruelty both appear to have chose a straight-to-theatrical commercial release pattern instead. The same is said to be true for Peter Weir's Master And Commander. There is still talk of the Coens showing their film in Venice as a work-in-progress and Campion going to Toronto instead.
It is unclear what fate holds for Stephen Fry's Evelyn Waugh adaptation Bright Young Things or Robert Altman's The Company. Fry's film is completed and being promoted by the director in Los Angelers, but may not attend the autumn round of festivals. Some sources say that Altman's film was not even offered to Venice.