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‘Rachel’ lifts Venice at midpoint

Star Anne Hathaway adds glitz to festival

Jonathan Demme’s dysfunctional family drama “Rachel Getting Married” lifted the Venice Film Festival out of its midpoint slumber, as the Lido heads toward what is expected to be a more satisfying final stretch.

Fest topper Marco Mueller maintains that Venice got off to such a slow start because he planned it that way in order to steal some thunder away from the Toronto Film Festival, which starts today.

With several buzz Yank titles still to unspool — including Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” on Thursday and Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” — Mueller told Daily Variety that he deliberately backloaded the fest to “prove that Venice can still exist, even after Toronto begins.”

Mueller complained that Toronto had been particularly aggressive with the Lido this year, trying to put producers in an “us or them situation.”

“Despite that kind of pressure, more than 20 titles are screening in Toronto after Venice,” he boasted.

Speaking at a press lunch on Wednesday, Mueller also responded to mounting criticism over this year’s lineup by countering that “the selection simply reflects the state of cinema today.”

Mueller claimed that he had already secured two “high-profile Hollywood titles” for next year “if we like how they turn out.”

However, it was the world preem of Anne Hathaway starrer “Rachel Getting Married” that injected life into the Lido on Wednesday. That it unspooled in Venice ahead of its North American bow in Toronto must have given Mueller some satisfaction.

Demme, Hathaway, producer Neda Armian, scribe Jenny Lumet and Sony Pictures Classics co-topper Michael Barker walked the red carpet.

“Rachel,” in which Hathaway plays a recovering addict out from rehab to attend her sister’s wedding, goes out Stateside via SPC on Oct. 3.

“It was so much fun to be the combustible element,” Hathaway said at a packed press conference, which reinfused the fest with a top-tier feel. “I have enjoyed playing so many of my roles, but this was definitely by far the most complex.”

Demme revealed that he shot this naturalistic, at times hilarious drama “as Dogma as possible,” referring to the now defunct Danish film movement against image manipulation.

“Rachel” follows two docus for Demme, who praised Sony Pictures Classics for getting him back into the feature game.

“If Sony Pictures Classics had not decided to make this film, it would not exist,” said Demme, after lamenting that some of his previous features have suffered from “an absence of commitment” on the part of studio distribution execs. “I had told myself: ‘I can’t have that experience again.’ ”

The Venice fest ends Saturday.

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