by Nick Vivarelli, Variety
The Venice Film Festival has unveiled a star-studded lineup full of hotly anticipated new works from Jane Campion, Ana Lily Amirpour, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott, Paolo Sorrentino and Edgar Wright — to name a few standouts — that are likely to bolster the Lido’s standing as an awards season kingmaker.
Amirpour’s “Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon,” in competition, starring Jeon Jong-seo as a girl with unusual powers who escapes from a mental asylum, and also featuring Kate Hudson, will bring the Iranian-American director back to Venice after her post-apocalyptic cannibal love story “The Bad Batch,” scored the Special Jury Prize in 2016.
Campion, as anticipated by Variety, is competing with “The Power of the Dog,” a drama about feuding brothers set in 1920s Montana starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. “Dog” is one of two Netflix Original films in the Venice competition, the other one being Paolo Sorrentino’s personal drama “The Hand of God,” which marks the Oscar-winner’s return to making a film in Naples, his hometown, 20 years after his dazzling debut “One Man Up.”
Campion is no stranger to Venice, where she premiered “An Angel at My Table,” which won the fest’s Grand Jury Prize in 1990, three years before her Cannes Palm d’Or for “The Piano,” while, for Sorrentino, “God” will be his first feature to get a Lido launch.
Gyllenhaal, who recently served on the Cannes jury, will be in Venice with her directorial debut “The Lost Daughter,” based on an Elena Ferrante novel and starring Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard and Italy’s Alba Rohrwacher.
Ridley Scott’s medieval epic “The Last Duel,” set during France’s Hundred Years War, starring Matt Damon and Adam Driver and Ben Affleck, and Villeneuve’s hotly anticipated “Dune” reboot, with Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, are both world premiering out-of-competition, as is Edgar Wright’s London-set psychological chiller “Last Night in Soho” starring Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”), Thomasin McKenzie and Matt Smith.
Back to the competition, Kristen Stewart’s Princess Diana drama “Spencer,” directed by Pablo Larrain, whose Jackie Onassis biopic “Jackie” also launched from the Lido, will be vying for a Golden Lion.
Venice’s previously announced opener, Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers,” which expands his previous depictions of womanhood and stars Penelope Cruz, is also competing.
Cruz also stars in another hotly anticipated title looking to be lionized in Venice: the Spanish-language comedy “Official Competition,” revolving around a billionaire businessman determined to make a movie that will leave its mark on history. Pic, which also stars Antonio Banderas, is directed by Argentine duo Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat (“The Distinguished Citizen”).
Paul Schrader’s revenge thriller “The Card Counter” about a gambler who attempts to guide a young man out for revenge against a mutual enemy is among the U.S. pics vying for the top prize. The cast comprises Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe.
Also from the U.S., albeit out-of-competition, are classic Western “Old Henry” directed by Potsy Ponciroli (“Still the King”) starring Stephen Dorff, Tim Blake Nelson and Trace Adkins and, as previously announced, David Gordon Green’s chiller “Halloween Kills,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis who will be feted with a lifetime achievement award.
HBO’s limited series “Scenes From a Marriage,” starring Jessica Chastain opposite Oscar Isaac in an adaptation of the Ingmar Bergman film, will also world premiere.
As is customary, France will have a strong showing on the Lido with a trio of pics in competition comprising Stephane Brize’s “Un autre monde,” which stars Vincent Lindon as a union leader representing workers who are facing layoffs because their factory is closing; Xavier Giannoli’s high-profile drama “Lost Illusions,” based on a Honoré de Balzac novel and powered by a cast including Benjamin Voisin, Xavier Dolan, Cecile de France, Gerard Depardieu and Jeanne Balibar; and “L’Evenement,” by Audrey Diwan which revolves around a young woman called Anne who in 1963 decides to have an abortion, which was against the law, in an attempt to finish her studies and escape her working class predicament.
Italy has the largest presence in recent memory with five pics in the running repping a wide range of cinematic styles. It spans from “Il Buco,” about a group of speleologists who in 1961 discover the world’s second deepest cave, directed by Michelangelo Frammartino, whose offbeat, dialogue-free “Le Quattro Volte” made a global splash in 2010, to “Freaks Out,” the new genre-bender by Gabriele Mainetti known for off-kilter 2016 superhero pic “They Call Me Jeeg.” Mainetti’s latest is set in 1943 Rome where four “freaks” who work in a circus are left to their own devices when the Eternal City is bombed by Allied Forces.
Rounding off the copious Italian contingent is dark thriller “America Latina” by twins Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo who made a splash in Berlin last year with “Bad Tales,” while Mario Martone (“Capri Revolution”) is back with “Qui Rido Io,” a drama about Neapolitan theatre luminary Edoardo Scarpetta, played by the ubiquitous Toni Servillo (“The Great Beauty”) who also stars in Sorrentino’s already mentioned “Hand of God” and in Leonardo Di Costanzo’s out-of-competition entry “Ariaferma” as well.
Mexican auteur Michel Franco, who won the Silver Lion last year with “New Order,” is back with his new film “Sundown”; Filipino filmmaker Erik Matti is premiering his “On The Job: The Missing 8,” the long-gestating sequel to his 2013 “On The Job,” about prisoners who become hitmen-for-hire which made a splash after launching from the Cannes Director’s Fortnight.
Poland’s Jan P. Matuszyski (“The Last Family”) will launch “Leave No Traces,” based on the real-life story of a young man who witnesses the fatal beating of his friend by the police in 1980s Warsaw; Russia’s Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov (“The Man Who Surprised Everyone”) are back with “Captain Volkonogov Escaped,” which is set against the backdrop of 1938 Soviet political persecutions; Ukrainian director Valentin Vasyanovych, who in 2019 won best film in the Venice Horizons section with “Atlantis,” is back in Venice with “Reflection” in which he returns to the theme of the devastation of Ukraine’s war with Russia.
Venezuelan helmer Lorenzo Vigas, winner of Venice Film Festival’s 2015 Golden Lion with his first feature “From Afar,” is also back with his second feature “The Box” (La Caja), about a teenager from Mexico City, who travels to collect the remains of his father, which have been found in a communal grave in the northern part of Mexico.
Highlights of Venice’s more cutting edge Horizons section comprise Thomas Kruithof’s “Les Promesses,” starring Isabelle Huppert as the passionate mayor of a Parisian suburb who faces a tough political and personal dilemma, which is the section’s opener; “The Peacock’s Paradise,” by Italy’s Laura Bispuri, whose “Sworn Virgin” and “Daughter of Mine” both launched from Berlin; “Amira,” the new film by Egyptian helmer Mohamed Diab (“Clash”) which takes its cue from real-life instances of Palestinian children conceived behind bars with smuggled sperm; “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” by India’s Aditya Vikram Sengupta whose debut “Labour of Love,” premiered in Venice in 2014; Ukrainian filmmaker and former political prisoner Oleg Sentsov’s crime drama “Rhino” set against the backdrop of Ukraine’s conflict and near financial collapse in the 90s; and British director Harry Wootliff’s psychological drama “True Things,” starring Ruth Wilson and Tom Burke.
Artistic director Alberto Barbera is launching a new section this year called Horizons Extra dedicated to works of all genres with no length constraints, beyond being more than an hour long. They will be judged by an audience jury. The Horizons Extra opener is U.S.-based Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat’s “Land of Dreams,” about a young Iranian art student, played by Sheila Vand, who travels across New Mexico to take portraits of people she encounters and ask them about their dreams. Matt Dillon and Isabella Rossellini also star. First-time director Mounia Akl’s “Costa Brava, Lebanon,” starring multihyphenate Nadine Labaki and Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri as a couple who leave the toxic pollution of their home city of Beirut hoping to build a utopian existence, only to end up right by a garbage-packed landfill, and Russian helmer “Mama, I’m Home,” produced by Alexander Rodnyansky (“Leviathan,” “Loveless”) are among other Extra highlights.
As previously announced, “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho will preside over the main jury, which also includes Chloe Zhao whose “Nomadland” launched from Venice last year; French actor Virginie Efira, who most recently starred in Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta”; the U.K.’s Cynthia Erivo, who plays Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s “Genius” series; Canadian actor and producer Sarah Gadon; Italian director Saverio Costanzo and Romanian helmer Alexander Nanau (“Collective”).
The 78th edition of Venice will run Sept. 1-11.
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP
“Parallel Mothers,” Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
“Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,” Ana Lily Amirpour (U.S.)
“Un Autre Monde,” Stephane Brizé (France)
“The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion (New Zealand, Australia)
“America Latina,” Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo (Italy, France)
“L’Evenement,” Audrey Diwan (France)
“Official Competition,” Gaston Depart, Mariano Cohn (Spain, Argentina)
“Il Buco,” Michelangelo Frammartino (Italy, France, Germany)
“Sundown,” Michel Franco” (Mexico, France, Sweden)
“Lost Illusions,” Xavier Giannoli (France)
“The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal (Greece, U.S., U.K., Israel)
“Spencer,” Pablo Larrain (Germany, U.K.)
“Freaks Out,” Gabriele Mainetti (Italy, Belgium)
“Qui Rido Io,” Mario Martone (Italy, Spain)
“On The Job: The Missing 8,” Eric Matti (Philippines)
“Leave No Traces,” Jan P. Matuszyski (Poland, France, Czech Republic)
“Captain Volkonogov Escaped,” Yuriy Borisov (Russia, Estonia, France)
“The Card Counter,” Paul Schrader (U.S., U.K., China)
“The Hand of God,” Paolo Sorrentino (Italy)
“Reflection,” Valentin Vasyanovych (Ukraine)
“La Caja,” Lorenzo Vigas (Mexico, U.S.)
OUT OF COMPETITION – Fiction
“Il Bambino Nascosto,” Roberto Andò (Italy) – CLOSING FILM
“Les Choses Humaines,” Yvan Attal (France)
“Ariaferma,” Leonardo Di Costanzo (Italy, Switzerland)
“Halloween Kills,” David Gordon Green (U.S.)
“La Scuola Cattolica,” Stefano Mordini (Italy)
“Old Henry,” Potsy Ponciroli (U.S.) - Director of Photography: John Matysiak
“The Last Duel,” Ridley Scott (U.S., U.K.)
“Dune,” Denis Villeneuve (U.S., Hungary, Jordan, UAE, Norway, Canada)
“Last Night in Soho,” Edgar Wright (U.K.) - VFX Producer: Gavin Gregory