ROME — Having raced against the clock to assemble a lineup in the short time since he accepted the job in March, fest director Moritz de Hadeln has unveiled a program for the 59th Venice Intl. Film Festival weighted heavily toward U.S., European and Asian cinema.
Miramax’s “Frida” — tracing the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her troubled relationship with fellow painter Diego Rivera — will open the fest, which runs Aug. 29-Sept. 8. Director Julie Taymor and star Salma Hayek will accompany the competition entry.
The selection of “Frida” marks a return to Venice’s tradition of raising the curtain with a U.S. feature. Last year’s choice to kick off the fest, Balkan Western “Dust,” represented the first departure from studio fare in the opening slot since 1994. That pic took a critical hammering.
“I was appointed exactly four months and one week ago,” de Hadeln said at a press conference Tuesday in Rome. “In four months you need a miracle to accomplish what we have done. Watching 600 films in an emergency situation was no easy task.
‘Rich and varied’
“I think this is a very exciting program, rich and varied,” he added. “At the same time, we have respected the desire on the part of some to increase the glamour, and of others to remain true to auteur cinema.”
After being absent from this year’s Cannes lineup (aside from the “Gangs of New York” reel), Miramax clocks in with five films in Venice’s official selection.
Premiering in the main competish, Venezia 59, will be Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Hours,” starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep and Ed Harris; and Stephen Frears’ “Dirty Pretty Things,” toplining “Amelie” star Audrey Tautou.
Godfrey Reggio’s latest collaboration with musician Philip Glass, “Naqoyqatsi,” will premiere out of competition, while Steven Soderbergh’s return to non-mainstream filmmaking, “Full Frontal,” will figure in the Controcorrente (Upstream) competition, designed to showcase more cutting-edge work. Sole other U.S. entry in the Upstream lineup is Larry Clark and Ed Lachman’s drama of Californian youth “Ken Park,” scripted by Harmony Korine.
Also from the U.S., Sam Mendes’ “Road to Perdition,” from DreamWorks and Fox, will screen in the main competition, with star Tom Hanks making his fourth Lido visit in less than 10 years.
An out-of-competition berth has been secured by Kathryn Bigelow’s submarine drama “K-19: The Widowmaker” from Paramount, with Venice regular Harrison Ford returning with co-star and previous Venice actor honoree Liam Neeson.
In the same section is Warner’s Clint Eastwood thriller “Bloodwork,” with co-star Jeff Daniels on hand; and Todd Haynes’ Douglas Sirk-styled melodrama “Far From Heaven,” from USA/Focus, starring Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid. Moore is expected to make the trip.
Also showing out of competition is Fine Line’s Patricia Highsmith adaptation “Ripley’s Game,” directed by Liliana Cavani and starring John Malkovich and Dougray Scott; and Malkovich’s directing debut, “The Dancer Upstairs,” a Fox Searchlight pickup first seen at Sundance.
“While maintaining the twin-competition format introduced last year by (previous fest director) Alberto Barbera, we made a concerted effort to avoid giving the impression of major and minor competitions,” de Hadeln explained.
“Our intention was to give a precise form and image to each competition. Upstream showcases work that goes against the grain of mainstream film either in form or content, while Venezia 59 represents more classical cinema.”
‘Dolls’ and nuns
Other Venezia 59 selections include former Golden Lion winner Takeshi Kitano’s triptych of stories about sadness, “Dolls,” from Japan; and “The Magdalene Sisters,” a drama of hardship in an Irish convent in the 1960s, from Scottish actor-turned-director Peter Mullan, whose debut feature, “Orphans,” was one of the discoveries of Venice 1999.
Germany and Russia have two entries each. From the former, Doris Dorrie weighs in with “Naked” and Winfried Bonengel with “Fuhrer Ex”; Russian contenders are “Bear’s Kiss,” by Sergei Bodrov, and “House of Fools” from Andrei Konchalovsky.
Agnieszka Holland is bringing competition pic “Julie Walking Home,” a German-Canadian-Polish co-production starring Miranda Otto, Lothaire Bluteau and William Fichtner. Australian helmer Rolf de Heer will be present with aboriginal drama “The Tracker.”
France is represented by Patrice Leconte’s “L’homme du train,” starring Jean Rochefort and Johnny Halliday; Tonie Marshall’s “Au plus pres du paradis,” with Catherine Deneuve and William Hurt; and Michelle Deville’s “Un Monde presque paisible.”
As always in Venice, Italian cinema features widely, with Michele Placido’s period romantic drama “A Journey Called Love,” starring Laura Morante and Stefano Accorsi, in the main competition alongside newcomer Daniele Vicari’s “Maximum Velocity” and Piergiorgio Gay’s “The Force of the Past,” starring Sergio Rubini and Bruno Ganz. Rubini’s “L’Anima gemella” is the sole homegrown entry in the Upstream lineup.
Screening out of competition will be “My Name Is Tanino,” from Paolo Virzi, who won Venice’s Grand Jury Prize in 1997 with “Ovosodo”; and Edoardo Ponti’s debut pic, “Between Strangers,” with Sophia Loren, the director’s mother and star, due to make her first Lido appearance in two decades.
“We have 19 first features in the Venice lineup, which demonstrates our commitment to making discoveries and our desire to contribute to the future of Italian and international cinema,” de Hadeln said.
Latin America is largely absent from the program, as is Africa, which is repped only by Flora Gomes’ musical “My Voice” in Venezia 59.
Asia, however, makes a strong showing. Venezia 59 entries include Taiwanese Chang Tso-Chi’s “The Best of Times” and Korean Lee Chang-Dong’s “Oasis.” Hong Kong helmer Fruit Chan appears in Upstream with “Public Toilet,” alongside Japanese cult figure Shinya Tsukamoto’s “A Snake of June” and mainland Chinese directors Lu Chuan with “Missing Gun” and Tian Zhuangzhuang with “Springtime in a Small Town.”
Other key titles in the Upstream comp include “Lilja 4-Ever,” from Swedish director Lukas Moodysson (“Together”); Mexican fest favorite Arturo Ripstein’s “La Virgen de la lujuria”; and French entries “Vendredi soir,” by Claire Denis, and “Un Homme sans l’occident,” by Raymond Depardon.
After “The Trumpet,” which bowed at Cannes, Venice will screen the next omnibus feature in the “Ten Minutes Older” series, “The Cello,” with episodes by Bernardo Bertolucci, Denis, Mike Figgis, Jean-Luc Godard, Jiri Menzel, Michael Radford, Volker Schlondorff and Istvan Szabo.
Also unspooling will be a compendium pic on September’s terrorist attacks on the U.S., “11-09-01,” grouping together directors Youssef Chahine, Amos Gitai, Shohei Imamura, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, Samira Makhmalbaf, Mira Nair, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Sean Penn and Danis Tanovic.
Chinese actress Gong Li will preside over the Venezia 59 competition jury. Other members in that and parallel juries will be announced in the coming weeks, as will closing-night film and entries in the international shorts competition.
“Bear’s Kiss,” Sergej Bodrov (Germany/France/Spain/Italy/Sweden)
“Fuhrer Ex,” Winfried Bonengel (Germany)
“The Best Of Times,” Chang TsoChi(Taiwan)
“The Hours,” Stephen Daldry (U.S.)
“Un Monde Presque Paisible,” Michelle Deville (Francia)
“Naked,” Doris Dorrie (Germany)
“Dirty Pretty Things,” Stephen Frears (U.K.)
“The Force of The Past,” Piergiorgio Gay (Italy)
“My Voice,” Flora Gomes (Portougal/France/Luxembourg)
“The Tracker,” Rolf de Heer (Australia)
“Julie Walking Home,” Agnieszka Holland (Germany/Canada/Poland)
“Dolls,” Takeshi Kitano (Japan)
“House of Fools,” Andrei Konchalovsky (Russia/France)
“L’homme Du Train,” Patrice Leconte (Francia)
“Oasis,” Lee Chang-dong (Korea)
“Au Plus Pres Du Paradis,” Tonie Marshall (France/Spain/Canada)
“Road to Perdition,” Sam Mendes (U.S.)
“The Magdalene Sisters,” Peter Mullan (U.K.)
“A Journey Called Love,” Michele Placido (Italy)
“Frida,” Julie Taymor (U.S./opening night)
“Maximum Velocity,” Daniele Vicari (Italy)
OUT OF COMPETITION/SPECIAL EVENTS
“Clown In Kabul,” Enzo Balestrieri/Stefano Moser (Italydocu)
“K19: The Widowmaker,” Kathryn Bigelow (U.S.)
“Ripley’s Game,” Liliana Cavani (Italia/U.K.)
“Johan Padan Toward The Discovery of The Americas,” Giulio Cingoli (Italy)
“Bloodwork,” Clint Eastwood (U.S.)
“El Caballero Don Quixote,” Manuel Gutierrez Aragon (Spain)
“Far From Heaven,” Todd Haynes (U.S.)
“Dancer Upstairs,” John Malkovich (Spain/U.S.)
“Between Strangers,” Edoardo Ponti (Canada/Italy)
“Naqoyqatsi,” Godfrey Reggio (U.S.)
“B As In Bejart,” Marcel Schupbach (Switzerland/France/Belgiumdocu)
“My Name Is Tanino,” Paolo Virzi (Italy)
“Ten Minutes Older: The Cello Bernardo Bertolucci,” Claire Denis/Mike Figgis/Jeanluc Godard/Jiri Menzel/Michael Radford/Volker
“Schlondorff,”Istvan Szabo (Germany/U.K.)
“110901” Youssef Chahine/Amos Gitai/Shohei Imamura/Alejandro Inarritu/Claude Lelouch/Ken Loach/Samira Makhmalbaf/Mira Nair/Idrissa Ouedraogo/Sean Penn/Danis Tanovic (France)
“Public Toilet,” Fruit Chan (Hong Kong/Korea)
“Ken Park,” Larry Clark/Ed Lachman (U.S./Netherlands/France)
“Vendredi Soir,” Claire Denis (France)
“Un Homme Sans L’occident,” Raymond Depardon
“Poniente,” Chus Gutierrez (Spain)
“Women’s Prison,” Manijeh Hekmat (Iran)
“Missing Gun,” Lu Chuan (China)
“Lilly’s Story,” Roviros Manthoulis (Greece/France)
“Lilja 4ever,” Lukas Moodysson (Sweden/Denmark)
“La Virgen De La Lujuria,” Arturo Ripstein (Spain/Mexico/Portugal)
“L’anima Gemella,” Sergio Rubini (Italy)
“Rosa La China,” Valeria Sarmiento (Portugal/Spain/Cuba/France)
“Full Frontal,” Steven Soderbergh (U.S.)
“Music For Weddings and Funerals,” Unni Straume (Norway/Sweden)
“Springtime in a Small Town,” Tian Zhuangzhuang (China/Hong Kong/France)
“A Snake Of June” Shinya Tsukamoto (Japan)
“The Lease,” Kristijonas Vildziunas (Lithuania)
INTERNATIONAL CRITICS WEEK
“Un Honnete Commercant,” Philippe Blasband (Belgium/Luxembourg)
“Roger Dodger,” Dylan Kidd (U.S.)
“The Tail of the Kite,” Aleksej Muradov (Russia)
“The Exam,” Nasser Refaie (Iran)
“Two Friends,” Spiro Scimone/Francesco Sframelli (Italy)
“The Woman of the Water,” Hidenori Sugimori (Japan)
“In The Land of Dreams,” Wentang Cheng (Taiwan)
“Shadows,” John Cassavetes (U.S./Special Event)