The Venice Film Festival (Aug 31-Sept 10) is once againshaping up as a glamorous magnet for A-list stars. However, visitors to theLido this year can expect a rather more streamlined and manageable event sinceartistic director Marco Mueller has reduced the number of pictures on the Lidoby a hefty 30% in a bid to avoid last year's overcrowding headache.
Mueller, who hasbeen scouring the five continents for months on the look-out for pictures, hassuggested that this year's line-up will boast an even bigger mix of signaturecollection and avant- garde titles. "Venice is a festival of big films andbig name directors, we have the glamour and glitz, but we are also very much ofa public festival," he said.
Around 58 filmswill screen, down from 90 last year, split between 20 in competition, 18 in theHorizons sidebar (including six feature-length documentaries) and the remainderout-of-competition including galas and non-nightly midnight screenings.
The festivalwill kick off with Tsui Hark's out-of-competition Seven Swords, and the Biennale will also hold a galaevent for the world premiere of Lasse Hallstrom's Venice-set Casanova, starring Sienna Miller and HeathLedger.
Other titlesrumoured to be a sure thing, either in competition or out, include AngLee's Brokeback Mountain, John Madden's Proof, Keira Knightley starring Pride and Prejudice, collective Unicef film All TheInvisible Children, CinderellaMan, Goodnight and Good Luck, Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, Krzysztof Zanussi's Persona Non Grata and Abel Ferrara's Mary with Juliette Binoche.
Possiblecontenders also include Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, James Ivory's The White Countess, Fernando Mereilles' The ConstantGardner, Isabel Coixet'sThe Secret Life of Words, and French director Philippe Garrel's Les Amants Reguliers, Patrice Chereau's Gabrielle, Danis Tanovic's Hell, Scott McGehee and David Siegel's Bee Season with Richard Gere and Jaume Balaguero's Fragile with Calista Flockhart.
A rich showcaseof Asian talent could include China's Zhang Yimou (Riding Alone ForThousands Of Miles),Korea's Park Chan-wook (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance), China's Chen Kaige (The Promise), Thailand's Pen-ek Ratanaruang (InvisibleWaves).
Meanwhile, theItalian press has reported that three local pictures will screen in the maincompetition. Possible contenders both in and out-of-competition include MichelePlacido's crime epic Romanzo Criminale, tipped as a special event, Roberto Faenza's I Giornidell'Abbandono, FrancoBattiato's Muikanten,Fausto Paravidino's debut feature Texas with Valeria Golino, Cristina Comencini's La Bestia NelCuore with Alessio Boni,Roberta Torre's Mare Buio, Pasquale Scimeca's Passione di Giosue L'Ebreo, Antonio Capuano's La Guerra di Mario and Giacomo Campiotti's Il Sentierodei Guerrieri della Luce.
Stars could alsoinclude Gwyneth Paltrow, Juliette Binoche (who stars in Bee Season as well as Mary), Ralph Fiennes (who stars in both theIvory and Mereilles films), Matt Damon, and Jake Gyllenhaal - while HeathLedger could be on the Lido with three films: Casanova, Brokeback Mountain and The Brothers Grimm.
Meanwhile,Italy's number one box office star, Roberto Benigni, is still busy onpost-production on his latest picture, The Tiger and The Snow. However, rumours suggest that theTuscan comic could make an appearance at the festival's closing ceremony, withIsabella Rossellini's name currently making waves as a possible host.
Venice willannounce its full line-up on July 28.