Venice film fest kicks off Wednesday

VENICE — Change is clearly coming to the Venice Film Festival, with the 66th edition due to kick off Wednesday amid a construction zone for its new Palazzo del Cinema HQ.

The building work isn’t likely to put off celebs expected to attend — Viggo Mortensen, Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes and Michael Moore are among those on their way to the Lido for a daring and diverse selection that comprises more countries, more newcomers, more Americans, more genre pics and what the fest boasts will be more 3-D on display than at any other nonspecialized event.

Following journo gripes about the scarcity of star power last year, fest topper Marco Mueller has made sure this event will feed the global movie media beast.

After kicking off with Giuseppe Tornatore’s big-budget Sicilian epic “Baaria,” which will get the paparazzi started with a bevy of Italo stars, Mortensen will be on hand Thursday for John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”; Cage and Mendes are making the trek for Warner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant” makeover “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” which unspools Friday; and Tilda Swinton is Lido-bound with Italo helmer Luca Guadagnino’s “I Am Love,” in Horizons on Saturday.

Moore brings his latest docu, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” on Sunday, which is also the fest’s Disney/Pixar 3-D day, with John Lasseter and his team to be Lionized with a collective career nod.

“I was not expecting Michael (Moore) to choose Venice with one of his most ambitious, complex, symphonic films,” Mueller said. He added that  Moore and Paramount Vantage’s decision to launch “Capitalism” on the Lido proved that for high-profile American films that aren’t blockbusters, “Venice has really become the perfect platform to underline that a film is very seductive.”

Meanwhile, the fenced-off building site for the Palazzo del Cinema adjacent to the Casino, due for completion by 2012, has prompted Biennale prexy Paolo Baratta and Mueller to make additions and modifications to the space available this year. 

The Casino’s door by the Lido lagoon dock has been restored to its former Fascist-era splendor and is now the only entrance to the fest’s main hub.

A temporary 450-seat venue, the Sala Perla 2, has been built in front of the Casino, mainly for use by the independently run Venice Days and Critics’ Week sections. 

Working to become more user-friendly, the fest has arranged for local eateries to stay open late and to keep price hikes to a minimum. Moves are also under way to reduce hotel costs — an age-old Lido sore spot.

“Finally, we can prove that the new palazzo is not just an idea, and that the change is much more than just a new venue, but the (change) of a whole system,” Mueller said. “Of course, new screens will be built; but more than anything, what counts is the possibility of making the experience a more pleasurable one.”

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