Venice cagey about auteur-heavy lineup

De Hadeln: 'Wait and see,' but others say fest filling fast

As Cannes winds down, the major fall events are starting to come together, with Venice fest chief Moritz de Hadeln working to assemble a heavyweight lineup for the event’s 60th edition, running Aug. 27-Sept. 6.

Negotiations are proceeding to secure films by Robert Altman, Bernardo Bertolucci, Theo Angelopoulos, Marco Bellocchio, Emir Kusturica, Jacques Rivette and Catherine Breillat.

“I prefer to be rather cautious,” de Hadeln told Variety. “Many people keep talking about many big films, but let’s just wait and see if they are ready in time. Some of them should have been ready for Cannes but weren’t, so nothing is certain.”

Despite de Hadeln’s caution, insiders say Venice’s main competition is fast filling up, with only a handful of slots remaining available.

Uncertainty still hangs over some key U.S. titles, originally considered to be in the mix for Cannes, among them Jane Campion’s “In the Cut” and the Coen brothers’ “Intolerable Cruelty,” while Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” almost certainly will not be completed in time.

In addition to Altman’s “The Company,” de Hadeln confirms he is negotiating for Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men,” with Nicolas Cage, and Peter Weir’s Russell Crowe starrer, “Master and Commander.” However, industry sources report that the latter title is not expected to be completed until shortly before its November release.

Other titles likely to figure on de Hadeln’s radar include Wong Kar-wai’s “2046” and Ingmar Bergman’s return to directing, “Saraband.” The fest chief says that Italian veteran Ermanno Olmi’s period pirate saga “Singing Behind the Screens,” which previously was believed to be Venice bound, may not complete post in time.

Contrary to his reticence on confirmed titles, de Hadeln is more than willing to gripe about Montreal fest director Serge Losique, who has moved the dates of the Canadian event this year to conflict directly with Venice and overlap with Toronto. Both de Hadeln and Toronto chief Piers Handling have filed an official complaint with international producers association FIAF, which regulates film fests.

Insiders say Losique shifted the Montreal dates unilaterally without consulting FIAF or the other fests, in a bid to undercut Toronto by securing titles immediately following their Venice preem.

“There’s a whole big mess with the scheduling of film festivals and it’s about time somebody established some order,” he fumes. “There are four or five major festivals in the world and they must be protected. Losique’s is not one of them; he’s become the Al Capone of Montreal.”

While several Venice directors before him have tried to introduce a market into the Venice fest with minimal success, de Hadeln says this year he is making concrete overtures toward the establishment of a more significant structure. The Venice Screenings have been allocated 500 square meters of space in the upscale Excelsior Hotel for tradester stands, for which market chief Laura Marcellino reportedly is already receiving bookings.

Five screening rooms have been designated for market use, with film promotion agency Italia Cinema supplying additional plasma screens.

In the longer term, de Hadeln says he hopes to proceed with plans to transform a large hangar — on the tip of the Lido island where the fest takes place — into a market facility, linked by shuttle service to the main venues. Industry resistance, however, to the additional expense of setting up a market presence so close to Mifed and Toronto is an obstacle that remains to be overcome.

One development in place for this year’s edition is outdoor screenings on the beach end of the Grand Viale, which will play a mix of the more crowd-pleasing titles from various fest sections.

Returning for his second year after a generally well regarded debut edition in 2002, de Hadeln says the fest’s problems have been aggravated this year by government cutbacks and deficit concerns that shrunk the financing originally allocated from parental arts council org the Biennale. Organizers now are scrambling to bridge a budget gap of $500,000 to $600,000 through sponsors.

This year’s retrospective program at Venice recaps the work of leading Italian film producers from 1945-75, such as Dino De Laurentiis, Carlo Ponti and the late Franco Cristaldi. De Hadeln says discussions are under way with both De Laurentiis and Ponti to attend.

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