– Bertrand Bonello, Yorgos Lanthimos, Sofia Coppola and a few other stars have finally confirmed their presence on the Lido
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Not even a Writers Guild of America strike, a Screen Actors Guild strike and an ensuing Hollywood shutdown could hold back the Venice Film Festival. The originally announced opening film, Luca Guadagnino‘s Challengersvacated its position – no Zendayano movie, the logic went – but beyond this, the entire, glittering line-up stayed put, making festival curator Alberto Barbera the envy of his colleagues.
The risk at Venice over the past decade has been that studio and now platform titles can overshadow the excellent selections in Orizzonti, the Giornate degli Autori and the International Film Critics’ Week. And like the past edition of Cannes, there’s an abundance of great and legends: the recently departed William Friedkin‘s final feature, The Caine-Mutiny Court Martial, Frederick Wiseman and Liliana Cavani, to mention a few directors who could perhaps only count on Venice and its forgiving culture to give them an elite festival berth. The festival also clearly rejected some decorated filmmakers who could have expected a main competition slot: the likes of Bertrand Bonellofor his highly buzzed The Beast, Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Agnieszka Holland make up the time-honoured arthouse contingent this year.
So we at Cineuropa will see you on the Lido, if you’re there, and if not, social media should well compensate, even if nothing rivals the Don’t Worry Darling first spitting incident. Here are our most highly anticipated Venice titles.
The Beast – Bertrand Bonello
(France/Canada – Competition)
“Something or other lay in wait for him, amid the twists and turns of the months and the years, like a crouching beast in the jungle.” So goes a passage from Henry James‘s turn-of-the-century novella, a text so good that it was apparently worth both this anticipated adaptation from Bertrand Bonello and Patrick Chiha‘s Berlin premiering version earlier this year, The Beast in the Jungle (+read also:
interview: Patrick Chiha
film sheet). Opening in a dystopian 2044, Léa Seydoux and Englishman George McKay headline as two lovers meeting amidst their past lives in 2014 and 1910, as Bonello’s ambitious script takes in serial killers, AI and – most forbiddingly – incel culture.
Premieres 4:30 p.m., Sunday September 3, at the Sala Grande.
Priscilla (+read also:
film profile) – Sofia Coppola
(USA/Italy – Competition)
This biopic from the much-cherished Sofia Coppola has already seen some public pushback: the all-powerful Elvis Presley estate does not approve of it, but perhaps more importantly, the still-living Priscilla Presley gives it her blessing. Chronicling the short but tumultuous union of the King of Rock and Roll and his only wife, expect another twist on the Coppola signature of privilege and celebrity as a gilded cage.
Premieres 7:15 p.m., Monday September 4, at the Sala Grande.
The Killer – David Fincher
(USA – Competition)
A cold-eyed Michael Fassbender plays a globe-trotting assassin in this Netflix-backed thriller from David Fincher, a rare but very welcome presence at elite festivals, with one of his masterpieces, Zodiachaving competed for the Palme d’Or in 2007, and fight club famously raising the roof at its own Venice premiere back in 1999. We can bet it’ll be sprightlier than mank.
Premieres 7:30 p.m., Sunday 3 September, at the Sala Grande.
Evil Does Not Exist – Ryusuke Hamaguchi
This was a real surprise when Alberto Barbera read out his name at the press conference, almost a “drop the tea tray” moment for those of us beguiled by Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. shot under the radar, Evil Does Not Exist follows the conflict between nature and industry, as a Tokyo company begins clearing away a forest to construct a glamping site for city tourists. The project was gradually shaped into a more traditional narrative, after Hamaguchi began an experimental collaboration with his brilliant Drive My Car compose Eiko Ishibashi.
Premieres 5:00 p.m., Monday September 4, at the Sala Grande.
Green border (+read also:
film profile) – Agnieszka Holland
(Poland/Germany/France/Czech Republic/Belgium – Competition)
Agnieszka Holland returns with this immensely topical refugee drama, which has also garnered slots at TIFF and the very choosy New York Film Festival. It depicts a Syrian family caught in the crosshairs of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s ploy to overwhelm the EU’s immigration policy, by allowing people fleeing the Middle East and Africa an open passage into Belarus. With a sprawling script depicting the political machinations, as well as unflinching dramatizations of the refugees’ works, this promises to be one of the prolific Holland’s strongest recent works.
Premieres 4:15 p.m., Tuesday September 5, at the Sala Grande.
The Theory of Everything (+read also:
film sheet) – Timm Kröger
(Germany/Austria/Switzerland – Competition)
Apparently mooted for the Venice competition for several months, this black-and-white-shot period thriller finds Timm Kröger following up years of work as a cinematographer, most notably on the controversy-spawning 2020 film The Trouble with Being Born (+read also:
interview: Sandra Wollner
film profile). In this movie, laden with mountainous Swiss chill, we follow a doctor of Physics who travels to a scientific conference in the Alps, and is faced with strange occurrences and deaths on site; only a sexy jazz pianist can help him get to the bottom of it. With that last detail, you can see why early word about the film endlessly invokes David Lynch.
Premieres 14:00, Sunday 3 September, at the Sala Grande.
Poor Things (+read also:
film profile) – Yorgos Lanthimos
(USA/Ireland/UK – Competition)
This ambitious sci-fi caper by Yorgos Lanthimos was set to be released globally only the week after its Lido premiere; now with the SAG strike afoot, it will use this competition showing to launch a longer festival run. A 19th century-set, Scottish literature-derived (courtesy of a novel by Alasdair Gray) riff-on Frankensteinthis macabre and disturbing tale finds Emma Stone reanimated after death, her brain replaced by that of an infant.
Premieres 6:45 p.m., Friday September 1, at the Sala Grande.
Ferrari – Michael Mann
(USA/UK/Italy/China – Competition)
This is the second colossally budgeted US flick on our rundown, although this time, it’s assembled from piecemeal international sources (they also share the same crack DoP, Erik Messerschmidt). Michael Mann continues his work in that rare category for the film business, the expensive art film, resurrecting a long-term passion project on the iconic Italian motor mogul. Adam Driver will stalk the frame in super-cool sunglasses, whilst Penelope Cruz apparently gives a “ferocious” performance as his spouse.
Premieres 7:00 p.m., Thursday August 31, at the Sala Grande.
Explanation for Everything – Gabor Reisz
(Hungary/Slovakia – Orizzonti)
Supposedly a real breakthrough title, with Barbera revealing at the press conference that he almost placed it in competition, this finds Hungarian independent filmmaker Gábor Reisz stepping up to a bigger production, with a multi-pronged narrative about a high-schooler’s graduation exam that ends in a media scandal. Initial comparisons have namechecked Joachim Trier and Lars von Trier’s early works.
Premieres 14:00, Friday 1 September, at the Sala Darsena.
Housekeeping for Beginners – Goran Stolevsky
(North Macedonia/Sweden/Kosovo/Poland/Serbia/Croatia – Orizzonti)
Following up two eye-catching initial features, You Won’t Be Alone (+read also:
film profile) and Of an Ageboth of which were picked up by Universal’s specialty distributor Focus Features, Stolevski will premiere his first work in a competitive section at a major European festival. Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (+read also:
interview: Cristian Mungiu
interview: Oleg Mutu
film sheet)) is Dita, whose mansion in the hills of the Macedonian capital of Skopje is a home and refuge for many queer people. The potential for families to form in queer spaces is explored when Dita is entrusted to raise the two daughters of her partner, who’s struggling with a terminal illness.
Premieres 17:00, Wednesday 6 September, at the Sala Darsena.