In an strong year, Venice has set 22 world premieres in competition for the Golden Lion, including works from Coppola, Schnabel, Tykwer, Kechiche, Miike and more.
The selections include Sofia Coppola’s father-daughter story Somewhere featuring Elle Fanning; Saverio Costanzo’s The Solitude of Primary Numbers; Tom Tywker’s Berlin-set love triangle Three, Vincent Gallo’s low budget Promises Written in Water about a terminally ill girl; Abdellatif Kechiche’s Venus Noire based on the true story of a South African woman used as a circus exhibition; Julian Schnabel’s Miral about Hind Husseini, a Palestinian woman’s effort to open an orphanage in Israel staring Frieda Pinto; Mario Martone’s three-and-a-half hour Italian unification costume drama We Believed; and Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff set on the 1845 Oregon trail starring Michelle Williams.
Biennale President Paolo Baratta and artistic director Marco Mueller announced the programme today. This edition marks something of a turning point for Venice, as it makes Mueller the longest serving artistic director in the fest’s history, surviving Italian political currents for seven editions.
Different from last year’s competition line up — which had five first-time directors — this year’s competition is defined by a crop of young, yet experienced filmmakers. Many of them, such as Coppola, Tykwer, Kechiche, Takashi Miike (with 13 Assassins) and Darren Aronofsky (whose Black Swan, as previously announced, opens the festival) have previously competed at Venice. Organisers asserted that the median age for competition directors this edition – at 47 – is the youngest ever. The sole competition debut is Ascanio Celestini’s Black Sheep (La Pecora Nera), previously a theatre piece remade for film and shot from the POV of a mental patient.
Notable omissions from this edition include the George Clooney starring The American by Anton Corbijn. Shot in Italy and the first recipient of Italy’s new tax credit the film seemed like a lock – particularly considering Clooney’s tenure on the Lido. In fact, Clooney himself as a Lido no-show is quite a surprise.
Mueller explained that The American’s US distributors (Focus Features) will open it Sept 1 Stateside and were interested in the opening film slot, which instead went to Aronofsky’s Black Swan from Fox Searchlight. The decision suggests filmgoers can expect another powerful film from Aronofsky whose The Wrestler took the Golden Lion in 2008.
Other Lido no-shows include Terrence Malick’s long-gestating Tree Of Life, although it could show up in Mueller’s “surprise film” competitive slot which is announced at some point during the festival. Italy’s Pupi Avati is no where to be seen on the line up although his Una Sconfinata Giovenezza was originally “leaked” as one of four Italian titles in competition. Subsequently it was “leaked” the film would be out of competition – creating speculation that he or his distributors RAI Cinema pulled the film.
Finally, the UK, for a third year running, is totally absent from this year’s Venice competition (although the UK has a strong showing in Toronto). The UK is represented with 6 titles in Horizonns (Orizzonti) line up.
Other films in competition include Canada’s Barney’s Version with a star-studded cast including Dustin Hoffman and Paul Giamatti as a fearlessly politically incorrect character by Richard J. Lewis. Monte Hellman’s 12-years-in-the-making Road To Nowhere is about a filmmaker who gets involved in a crime while shooting on location.
In addition to Kechiche, France guarantees some Gallic star power with Francois Ozon’s Potiche about the wife of a rich industrialist who takes charge during a factory strike staring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu as well as Happy Few, Antony Cordier’s follow up to Douches Froides.
The Italian offer of Celistini, Costanzo and Martone is rounded out by Carlo Mazzacurati’s tragi-comic La Passione starring Coppa Volpi winner Silvio Orlando as a washed up film icon who finds a muse in a young TV starlet from Italy’s Fandango.
Chile’s Pablo Larrain represents Latin America in competition with his Tony Manero follow up Post Mortem; Greece is on board with a new film by indie filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari whose Attenberg is described as an odyssey and an “urban Eastern.” Russia brings Silent Souls from Aleksei Fedorchenko while Basque director Alex de la Iglesia represents Spain with A Sad Trumpet staring Carmen Maura about two clowns in love with the same trapeze artist.
Asian titles include Hong Kong action master Tsui Hark’s first go at Lido competition with Detective Dee And The Mystery Of Phantom Flame (a Chinese production).From Japan, Tran Anh Jung’s anticipated adaptation Norwegian Wood joins Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins.
Out of competition, The Affleck brothers Ben and Casey each bring titles. Ben Affleck’s The Town is about a bank robber who falls in love with a clerk he holds up, while brother Casey Affleck brings his Joaquin Phoenix documentary I’m Still Here. Fox’s first Italian production in 30 years – the Michele Placido directed Vallanzasca – Gli Angeli Del Male about the notorious Italian criminal Renato Vallanzasca stars Kim Rossi Stuart and Filippo Timi with Paz Vega; Gorbaciov -Il Cassiere Con Il Vizio Del Gioco by Stefano Incerti with Divo and Gomorrah star Toni Servillo as a compulsive gambler; John Turturro’s canzone Napolitana documentary Passione; Andrucha Waddington’s Lope a historical epic staring Sonia Braga, Alberto Ammann and Luis Tosar about playwright Lope de Vega are just some of the films on offer.
Four 3D pictures – Oxide and Danny Pang’s The Child’s Eye 3D; Nadia Ranocchi and David Zamagni’s All Inclusive 3D; Takashi Shimizu’s Shock Labyrinth 3D; and Zhang Yuan’s Space Guy 3D, China’s first 3D production, will screen out of competition but be eligible for the Persol 3D film prize.
Mueller’s Controcampo Italiano section continues in its all-Italian line up and brings the entire Italian offer to 41 across all sections. The US is the second strongest with 19 films in a year that offers works from 34 countries – up from last year’s 27.
Paolo Baratta opened the press conference confirming that Venice’s budget is a stable Euros 12m ($15.1m) of which Euros 7.7 m ($10m) comes from the state. He said the economic crisis led to the creation of the new – free formatted Orizzonti section – but asserted that the change will “be permanent.”
Venice’s 67th edition runs Sept 1-11.
For the list of films, please click here.