The Lido red carpets may be starless this year, but that hasn’t stopped the Venice Film Festival from staging a stunning constellation of new films from supernova filmmakers. (Full lineup is here.)
The work stoppage on SAG-AFTRA strike means, of course, that competition directors such as Yorgos Lanthimos (“Poor Things”), David Fincher (“The Killer”), Sofia Coppola (“Priscilla”), Ava DuVernay (her first time competing and the first African-American female director to compete, with “Origin”), Saverio Costanzo (“Finlmente L’Alba”) and Michel Franco (“Memory”) will have to speak at press conferences and attend reruns without their actors, if they wish. It’s tricky for multisyllables like Bradley Cooper, who directs and plays Leonardo Bernstein in Netflix’s “Maestro”; IndieWire hears that he will participate in this festival.
Among the Venice film stars who won’t wave at paparazzi from water taxis are Emma Stone, Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Jacob Elordi, Aunjanue Ellis, Lily James, Joe Keery, Rachel Sennott, Niecy Nash-Betts and Jessica Chastain. However, many of their films will be in the fall awards conversation, shaky as that may be.
During the press conference announcing the lineup, Barbera insisted that the slate was largely unaffected by the strikes, with Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers,” starring Zendaya, being the only film withdrawn from the festival. (MGM and Amazon moved the release date up to April 26, taking it out of this year’s awards talk and possibly next year’s as well given the date).
These unique conditions could create a Cinderella effect, turning smaller films into breakouts. French author Bertrand Bonello joins the competition for the first time with “The Beast” starring George MacKay and Léa Seydoux, a dystopian sci-fi inspired by Henry James set in a world where people can relive their past lives to free themselves from the burden of human emotions; and beloved actress Alba Rohrwacher has roles in “Finalmante L’Alba” by Italian and Venetian director “Finalmante L’Alba” and in “Hors-Saison” by Stéphane Brizé. This is the kind of double bill that gets you noticed for a Golden Lion Best Actress award.
Meanwhile, Luc Besson makes a comeback with ‘Dogman’, following recent controversies which saw him cleared of rape charges. Venice director Alberto Barbera says the genre-bending trauma redemption saga, starring Caleb Landry Jones, will prove Besson can direct more than action thrillers like “The Professional” and “Lucy.”
There’s also Polish director Agnieszka Holland, who surreptitiously shot “The Green Border” about Syrian refugees on the Polish-Belarusian border; and “Evil Does Not Exist,” a new surprise film from “Drive My Car” Oscar winner Ryûsuke Hamaguchi about the construction of a luxury resort in Tokyo that threatens the ecological balance.
One film that remains the most intriguing is Franco’s “Memory,” starring Chastain, Peter Sarsgaard and Elsie Fisher. So far we know absolutely nothing about this film, but we expect a provocation from the Mexican director of “New Order”.
Barbera and his team have programmed 23 films in competition this year. Jury President Damien Chazelle and his judging panel include Jane Campion, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2022 Golden Lion winner Laura Poitras and Martin McDonagh.
The Out of Competition list brings some awaited, controversial and adored filmmakers to Venice: Wes Anderson’s Netflix Roald Dahl short film “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”, with stop-motion and 16mm; Harmony Korine’s top secret “Aggro Dr1ft,” with rapper Travis Scott; William Friedkin’s Herman Wouk courtroom drama “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” with Kiefer Sutherland; Richard Linklater’s Glen Powell’s action comedy “Hitman,” opening alongside TIFF; along with new films from Woody Allen (“Coup de Chance”) and Roman Polanski (“The Palace”). Polanski remains persona non grata at US festivals, but is often feted in Venice, where he won the 2019 Golden Lion for “An Officer and a Spy.” Expect both directors to get a warm welcome from some quadrants of the audience and field protests from others.
Among the out-of-competition documentaries, Frederick Wiseman’s latest film, “Menus Plaisirs,” will be screened alongside a Neo Sara film by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s son about the Japanese composer and pianist’s last concert before his death last March.
In the Horizons sections highlighting up-and-coming filmmakers, documentarians Bill and Turner Ross turn to narrative for the freewheeling road movie “American Honey” “Gasoline Rainbow”; Emerging Macedonian director Goran Stolevski of “Of an Age” delivers his third feature film, the queer “Housekeeping for Beginners”; British actor Jack Huston makes his directorial debut with the boxing drama “Day of the Fight,” starring Michael Pitt; Olmo Schnabel, son of iconic artist Julian Schnabel, directs the New York-set queer novel “Pet Shop Boys” with a cast that includes Willem Dafoe and Emmanuelle Seigner. Filmmakers such as Brady Corbet, Lav Diaz and Ana Rocha de Sousa have all emerged from Orrizonti’s lineups with awards in recent years.
Some films set in recent months for Venice that didn’t make the cut and are now slated for TIFF (and will now appear in Telluride given the lack of a world premiere in Monday’s Toronto reveal) include Kitty Green’s “The Royal Hotel” starring Julia Garner, Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” starring Paul Giamatti, and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s narrative feature “Nyad” starring Annette Bening as marathon runner Diana Nyad. IndieWire’s Anne Thompson reported on an alleged Bening tribute to Telluride, which is now obviously being scrapped.
So far there have been no performances at either TIFF or Venice: Ridley Scott’s epic ‘Napoleon’; Academy Award-winning director’s subversive period sequel “Saltburn” “Promising Young Woman”; Kenneth Branagh’s “A Haunting in Venice” (scheduled for a Disney release on Sept. 15 which seems on track given the recent launch of the second trailer); and director Jeymes Samuel’s “The Book of Clarence.”
Also nowhere to be found are Ethan Coen’s “Drive-Away Dolls,” which is rumored to displace its Focus Features release from the September release calendar, and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Megalopolis.” However, it wrapped production in March and is probably still fiddling with the edit.