Star-driven Venice unrolls red carpet

Clooney's 'March' starts festivities

The 68th Venice Film Festival kicks off Wednesday with George Clooney’s political drama “The Ides of March” world preeming on the Lido, where boatloads of A-list talent are set to disembark, bolstering the fest’s status as an international media magnet and awards season catalyst.

Though exact figures for attending journos are still being tallied, fest topper Marco Mueller told Variety he is “pleasantly surprised” by the uptick in press accreditations, indicating that U.K. media are back en masse thanks to the unusually strong presence of Brit pics.

These include the adaptation of John Le Carre bestseller “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” helmed by Tomas Alfredson; Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights” and Steve McQueen’s sexually charged “Shame.”

There is also a stronger Canadian media presence, underscoring the fact that Venice managed to curtail Toronto’s appetite for virgin pics. The Lido has 65 world preems this year.

More than 100 Chinese-language media outlets have signed-up, drawn by ample Asian offerings, spearheaded by big-budget epic “Warriors of the Rainbow: Sediq Bale,” unspooling Thursday, helmed by Taiwanese box office champ Wei Te-sheng (“Cape No. 7”), and also by Western star power.

Attending opening-night talent for “Ides,” besides Clooney, are Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Also expected on the Venice red carpet are Madonna, Monica Bellucci, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Colin Firth, Al Pacino, Michael Fassbender, Willem Dafoe, John Hurt and James Franco, in a year marked by a slew of English-language pics.

But one big name certain to be absent is Roman Polanski, whose snarling comedy “Carnage” unspools Thursday, with stars Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly in tow.

Alongside “Ides,” Venice opens also with hotly anticipated documentary “Vivan las Antipodas!,” set in four places in the world located precisely opposite each other, helmed by Russia’s influential Victor Kossakovsky.

And before the fest even started, Mueller piled-on pre-openers, including episodes of HBO’s mini “Mildred Pierce,” helmed by Todd Haynes, and Andre Techine’s Venice-set “Unforgivable.” Both helmers are Venice jurors.

On Tuesday the fest also tested out the Palazzo del Cinema’s revamped Sala Grande by unspooling Italy’s first new-generation 3D pic, commercial laffer “Box Office 3D,” helmed by and starring TV comic Ezio Greggio, a spoof of Hollywood blockbusters including “Gladiator,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “Avatar.”

Having “Box Office 3D” break in the Lido’s refurbished temple of high art cinema sparked some customary Venice controversy in the Italian press — surely just an antipasto of more rumbles to come in the local media.

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