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Venice Film Festival: Johnny Depp’s ‘Black Mass’ And New Works From Charlie Kaufman, Alexander Sokurov Expected At 72nd Edition

Pics from prominent auteurs Sokurov, Bellocchio, and Gitai also expected to be bowing from the Lido

ROME – With less than ten days to go before the Venice Film festival reveals its lineup, several high-profile U.S. studio/specialty titles appear to be secured, including Scott Cooper-directed Johnny Depp gangster drama “Black Mass,” from Warner Bros., and Luca Guadagnino’s Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton-starrer “A Bigger Splash, which Fox Searchlight is releasing stateside.

Also likely to be Lido-bound are Charlie Kaufman’s stop motion animation “Anomalisa” and new works from international heavyweight auteurs Alexander Sokurov, Amos Gitai, and Marco Bellocchio, as well as younger directors like Argentinian Pablo Trapero’s hot crimer “The Clan,” which Fox will release in Latin America.

Word on what pics will surface at Venice is more muted than usual this year, with artistic director Alberto Barbera believed to be making down to the wire decisions and several potential contenders, including Sean Penn-directed Liberia-set romance “The Last Face,” thought instead not to be ready.

As previously announced, Baltasar Kormakur’s mountain climbing thriller “Everest” from Universal, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, will open Venice September 2, out-of-competition, a nice coup for Barbera, segueing from “Birdman” as opener last year, and sci-fi thriller “Gravity” in 2013.

“Black Mass” (pictured) is a biopic of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, played by Depp, who became an FBI informant and used this status to eliminate criminal competition during the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s. Pic also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton and Peter Sarsgaard, making for a hefty dose of star power which will help keep global media outlets fed and pacified.

Guadagnino’s “A Bigger Splash” is a thriller about a celebrity couple, a famous rock star and a filmmaker (Matthias Schoenaerts and Swinton), vacationing and recovering on the strange sun-drenched Italian island of Pantelleria, whose lives are disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter (Fiennes and Dakota Johnson). Pic is fully financed by France’s StudioCanal, which in February sold U.S. rights to Fox.

Kaufman’s “Anomalisa” marks the groundbreaking U.S. director’s first foray into animation. The movie, co-directed with Duke Johnson, initiated on Kickstarter with the bulk of financing then coming from Snoot Entertainment and SBI. The synopsis for the film is a man struggling with his inability to connect with other people. It is Kaufman’s first feature since “Synecdoche, New York,” in 2008.

Russian master Sokurov will likely be bowing his hotly awaited “Louvre Under German Occupation,” billed as exploring “the question of relations between art and war,” shot in the real Louvre, and produced by Pierre Olivier Bardet and former Locarno fest topper Olivier Pere, current chief of ARTE France Cinema. “Louvre” is being distributed internationally by Berlin-based sales agent Films Boutique, which handled Sokurov’s previous film, the single-take “Faust.”

Franco-Belgian representation is looking robust, as is often the case at Venice. Former French film journo Nicolas Saada’s “Taj Mahal,” a thriller set against the backdrop 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack seems to be ensconced in a berth. It stars Stacy Martin as a young woman trapped in one of the suites of the Taj Mahal hotel during the assault.

Xavier Giannoli’s drama “Marguerite,” starring Catherine Frot as a wealthy aspiring opera singer with a terrible voice, and Joachim Laos’s “The White Knights” (“Les Chevaliers Blancs”), the Belgian helmer’s follow-up to “Our Children,” are also in the Lido mix. “Knights” is inspired by the 2007 Arche de Zoe case, which involved a French charity that attempted to bring 103 children into France from Chad. It stars Vincent Lindon (“Mea Culpa”) and Valerie Donzelli (“Declaration of War”).

French morality drama “A Decent Man” by Emmanuel Finkiel, known for Holocaust-themed “Voyages,” is also strongly tipped for a Lido launch.

The Italian contingent on the Lido will comprise veteran Bellocchio’s “Blood of my Blood,” a period drama with a vampire twist toplining Alba Rohrwacher as a 17th century noblewoman who after becoming a nun seduces a young army officer and his twin brother, who is a priest. Italo first-timer Piero Messina’s Sicily-set “L’attesa” (“The Wait”), starring Juliette Binoche is also Lido-bound. Messina served as Paolo Sorrentino’s a.d. on “This Must Be The Place” and “The Great Beauty.”

Recently deceased Italo helmer Claudio Caligari’s “Non Essere Cattivo” (“Don’t Be Bad”), a Pasolini-esque look at contempo low life on Rome’s outskirts, is also likely to surface as a special event.

After an exceptionally strong Asian showing at Cannes, word on Asian entries at Venice is particularly quiet.

While Toronto in its push to lure more world preems is certainly encroaching on Lido launches, the two events are set a bit further apart than usual this year – Venice takes place September 2-12 and Toronto September 10-20 – which may make for a less conflictual co-existence.

That said, Toronto has set its most important lineup announcement for July 28, upstaging Venice, which will announce its lineup July 29.

Justin Chang, Peter Debruge, Scott Foundas, Patrick Frater, Guy Lodge, John Hopewell, and Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.

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