Hollywood will be jetting to the Lido for the 64th edition of the Venice Film Festival where a cluster of top shelf US directors are unveiling their current projects in a festival that underscores the force of English-language cinema.

While six American pictures have made the competition cut, they are flanked by three British and one Canadian titles giving English-language films an edge in this year's Venice competition lineup.

In fact, of the 57 films across all the sections, English-language selections make up about one third of the line up. This is just as Marco Mueller, in his fourth year as Venice's artistic director, promised in a May press conference.

Mueller stated today that most of the titles have 'been confirmed since the spring.' And said the films made the cut because
of their 'originality and singularity.'

'We thought a lot about the fact that we were giving such an important space to Anglophone cinema, what is so extraordinary is that they are the most innovative films, made with stars but different than the dominant cinema.'

Mueller has reinforced bonds with recent masters and created a splinter out of competition 'Masters' section featuring works from six international directors with long ties to the Lido. Meanwhile, young directors will bookend the festival. Joe Wright's second film
Atonement opens, and Alexi Tan's first film Blood Brothers closes.

Mueller pays homage to Venice's 75-year history with a special Golden Lion to Bernardo Bertolucci and an event dedicated to
Alexander Kluge.

For the second year in a row, and the second time in post-war history, Mueller has secured world premieres for all 22 competition films.

Of the 57 titles across sections, 51 are world premieres; the programme is selected from 3,122 submissions.

Among the Hollywood competition entries are screenwriter Tony Gilroy's directorial debut Michael Clayton. Earlier reports set the legal drama in a gala niche; the film is brought to the Lido by Medusa in Italy and stars Venice regular George Clooney and Tilda Swinton.

Wes Anderson has two films in Venice this year. In competition he
presents The Darjeeling Limited, an adventure comedy about three brothers who travel through India at the death of their father. It stars Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Anjelica Huston. Hotel Chevalier starring Natalie Portman has an out of competition special event slot.

New-Zealand born director Andrew Dominik joins the US roster with the Warner Bros. drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford starring Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck and Sam Shepard based on the book by Ron Hansen.

Brian De Palma's Redacted - a war-themed film - is also in competition. De Palma's Black Dahlia opened last year's Venice Film Festival, in competition, to a mixed reception.

Todd Haynes also returns also Venice with I'm Not There about musical legend Bob Dylan - film focuses on seven different characters that embody the musician's life and stars Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger and Julianne Moore. Haynes was last on the Lido in 2002 with Far From Heaven, for which Moore won the Coppa Volpi for best actress.

Oscar winner Paul Haggis' drama In The Valley of Elah rounds out the US competition titles. Featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon the film tells the story of a couple who seek the truth behind their son's disappearance after a tour of duty in Iraq.

A seventh film is US-backed although in Mandarain. That is Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain follow up Lust, Caution which features an all-Asian cast.

Other US fare placed throughout other Lido sections includes Woody
Allen's London-set Cassandra's Dream.

Richard Shepard's The Hunting Party - also war themed - with Richard Gere is in Venice's out of competition Midnight section as is The Nanny Diaries by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini starring Scarlett Johansson.

US pictures in the Horizons section dedicated to new trends in film-making include Searchers 2.0 by Alex Cox. This film is a comic homage to Sergio Leone and, a contemporary extension of Venice's previously announced Spaghetti Western retrospective.

Jonathan Demme's Jimmy Carter doc Man from the Plains is in the Horizons Doc programme. That section also features a Julian Schnabel doc titled Berlin starring Lou Reed and Emmanuelle Seigner.

Peter Greenaway's European and Canadian co-production Nightwatching stars Martin Freeman as painter Rembrandt.

UK titles include Atonement, Ken Loach's immigrant workforce drama It's a Free World and Kenneth Branagh's Sleuth starring Michael Caine and Jude Law. All three UK titles are UK-US co-productions, indirectly upping the US presence in the competition line up. Out of competition, UK director Asif Kapadia presents Far North starring Michelle Yeoh.

As always with Mueller, Asia has a strong presence on the Lido. China is represented twice in competition with Ang Lee Lust, Caution facing off against Jian Wen's long awaited The Sun Also Rises. Rises is getting a Lido bow after reports had bumped from Cannes due to technical problems. The project is director's first feature since Devils on the Doorstep won the grand jury prize in Cannes in 2000.

Also from the mainland is Lu Yue's The Obscure, which made the Horizons selection, while Du Haiban's Umbrella and Jia
Zhangke's Useless are both Horizons Doc selections.

Taiwan is in competition with Lee Kang Sheng's Help Me Eros, which is being sold by Fortissimo.

Miike Takashi's Japanese Western Sukiyaki Western Django is Japan's only competition entry and it also doubles as a contemporary reference to the Spaghetti Western retrospective - and features a Quentin Tarantino cameo.

Egypt is in competition with Youssef Chahine's It's Chaos (Heya fawda).

Italy, which had one picture in competition in Berlin and none in the
Cannes official selection, is in full force with three competition
titles and three films in Horizons and Horizons Doc.

The competition selection for Italian films includes Paolo Franchi's
second work Nessuna qualita agli eroi starring Elio Germano and French actress Irene Jacob.

Vincenzo Marra's third work starring Fanny Ardant Rush Hour (L'ora di punta) produced by Tilde Corse and Gianni Romoli for R&C produzioni has made the cut as has Andrea Porporati's Sweet and Sour (Il dolce e l'amaro), a mafia themed film with Luigi Lo Cascio.

The strongly tipped Il Disco del Mondo directed by Riccardo Milani
based on the book by Rome Mayor and Rome Fest initiator Walter
Veltroni - did not make the Venice selection. Despite references to the Rome Festival - Mueller said only the picture was not ready.

France is in competition with Abdellatif Kechiche's La Graine et le mullet with Habib Boufares and Marzouk Bouraouia starring alongside Eric Rohmer's Les Amours d'Astree et Celadon, based on the 17th-century novel by Honore D'urfy set in 5th-century Gaul.

Spain's competition title is En la ciudad de Sylvia by Jose Luis
Guerin, but Spanish animation Nocturna by Adria Garcia and Victor Maldonado is in the Midnight programme.

The competition includes no Latin America and South American titles - by way of explanation Mueller told journalists these countries tend to prefer Cannes and San Sebastian film festivals. But Mexico is on board in Horizons with Cochochi by Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas.

Brazil shows strength however - with two Horizons Doc entries and Julio Bressane's Cleopatra - a comedy in the out of competition Masters section.

Russia - the only Eastern European country in competition - presents Nikita Mikhalkov's 12 - about the jurists in a murder trial. Estonia has Autumn Ball (Sugisball) by Veiko Ounpuu in Horizons.

Mueller has set six directors in their own 'Out of Competition
Masters' section.

Directors in this category are Woody Allen, Brazil's Julio Bressane, France's Claude Chabrol, South Korea's Im Kwon Taek, Japan's Kitano Takeshi and Portugal's Manoel de Oliveira.

Mueller promises two surprise films will be announced later - one film he says will be 'really big' and presented in Midnight. He says the other might be in competition. Last years surprise film Still Life won the festival's top prize and Mueller said it has gone on to be sold in 66 territories.

He also announced two last minute open-air screenings - one is Empire II by American director Amos Poe and the other is an Italian film L'altra parte della luna by Davide Marengo.

This year seven directors will be presenting first works - vying for the Luigi De Laurentiis prize for a first film - which carries a $100,000 prize.

Biennale President Davide Croff told journalists that due to drastic cost cuts the Biennale has tripled private funding which now makes up one-third of the festival's budget.

As previously announced, Spaghetti Westerns will be the subject of Venice's Secret History of Italian Cinema 4 sidebar with US director Quentin Tarantino acting as godfather of the event.

The career lion will be handed to Venice favorite Tim Burton, with Venice's Tim Burton Day scheduled for Sept 5.

An all-director jury lead by Zhang Yimou has been rounded up for the 64th edition which is being celebrated within the Biennale's Jubilee anniversary which marks 75 years since its founding August 6th, 1932.

The 64th edition of the Venice Film Festival runs Aug 29-Sept 8.