ROME — The Venice Film Festival on Thursday unveiled a refreshingly rich mix of established auteurs and lesser-known helmers in its lineup of 71 world preems marked by prominent U.S. and European contingents, but also ample Asian entries, and even robust representations from rarely represented countries such as Egypt and India.
In a year in which Yank titles were thin in Cannes, there are six entries flying the stars and stripes in Lido competish berths, and 17 spread around the official selection.
U.S. pics vying for a Golden Lion are Michael Moore’s global meltdown docu “Capitalism: A Love Story”; John Hillcoat’s “The Road,” an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron; Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant” makeover “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” with Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes; Todd Solondz’s long-in-gestation “Life During Wartime,” a sequel of sorts to “Happiness”; horrormeister George Romero’s “Survival of the Dead”; and former Gucci creative director Tom Ford’s helming debut “A Single Man,” toplining Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.
Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!,” toplining Matt Damon as an agri biz price fixer, will bow out-of-competition, along with Grant Heslov’s military mind-control satire “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges; Joe Dante’s 3-D horror pic “The Hole,” and Oliver Stone’s “South of the Border” docu, about radical Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, are among non-competing U.S. fare.
“Everybody thought that the writers’ strike and the economic crisis had created a stall in American cinema; instead this year, like never before, we found such ample offerings coming from the U.S.; both from established directors like Steven Soderbergh and first-timers like Tom Ford,” Mueller said at a packed press conference in Rome’s Excelsior Hotel on the Via Veneto.
But Mueller, now at his sixth year at the Lido helm, also underlined that Venice during his tenure has never seen so many countries represented — there are 25 this year — and also such a high number of first and second works, also a total 25 — 16 debuts and nine sophomore pics.
First works at the fest include Egyptian helmer Ahmed Maher’s competition entry “El Mosafer” (The Traveler), which marks Omar Sharif’s return to filmmaking in Egypt since the early 1990s, one of three Egyptian entries on the Lido. Another from Egypt is Yousry Nasrallah’s new cut of his “Scheherezade Tell Me a Story,” which stirred local controversy earlier this year for its realistic depiction of women, including their sexuality.
The rich Euro roster includes the customary copious contingents from Gaul and Italy, but also sees Germany competing with Venice newcomer Fatih Akin’s comedy “Soul Kitchen,” shot in his native Hamburg, and Austria with Jessica Hausner’s “Lourdes,” about a skeptical crippled woman who travels to the famous holy shrine in Southern France.
Hot sci-fier “Mr. Nobody” marks the English-language debut of Belgian helmer Jaco van Dormael (“Toto the Hero”) and stars Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley and Jared Leto, flying the French flag.
As previously announced, the fest will kick off with “Baaria,” Giuseppe Tornatore’s big-budget Sicilian epic, the Lido’s first Italo opener in two decades, in competition.
Other Italo pics looking to be Lionized are Michele Placido’s 1968-themed “Il Grande Sogno” (The Big Dream), Naples-set drama “Lo spazio bianco” (The White Space) by Francesca Comencini, and first-timer Giuseppe Capotondi’s psychological thriller “La doppia ora.”
Gallic goods getting a Lido bow include experimental auteur Jacques Rivette’s Gallic-Italo co-prod “36 vues du Pic Saint Loup” with Italian actor Sergio Castellitto playing alongside Jane Birkin; Claire Denis’ Cameroon-set “White Material,” starring Isabelle Huppert and Christophe Lambert; and Patrice Chereau’s love triangle drama “Persecution” with Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Spain is repped by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s “REC 2” their followup to cult chiller “REC,” out-of-competition.
As for Asia, Mueller managed to secure a clutch of promising, mostly genre, Far East pics in competish: Hong Kong helmer Cheang Pou-Soi’s thriller “Accident,” produced by Johnnie To; hot Japanese helmer/thesp Shinya Tsukamoto’s “Tetsuo the Bullet Man,” the third installment in his cult “Tetsuo” series, and his first pic shot in English; Hong Kong helmer Yonfan’s “Prince of Tears,” set in Taiwan during the 1950s anti-Communist period known there as “White Terror”; and “Between Two Worlds” from Sri Lankan auteur Vimukthi Jayasundara (“The Forsaken Land”).
Japanese anime auteur Rintaro will unveil his 3-D “Yona Yona Penguin,” among the biggest animation projects to emerge recently from Asia, out-of-competition.
The Middle East sees Iranian-America visual artist Shirin Neshat’s first feature film “Women Without Men,” developed at the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab, and Samuel Maoz’s “Lebanon,” based on the Israeli helmer’s own experiences, follows 24 hours in the life of four Israeli soldiers at the outset of the 1982 invasion.
Highlights of the more cutting-edge Horizons section, which is becoming more high-profile this year and being equipped with its own red carpet, include “Repo Chick,” Blighty bad boy helmer Alex Cox’s “Repo Man” sequel of sorts, set 25 years later, during the credit crunch with Jaclyn Jones in the lead and stars Karen Black and Rosanna Arquette; “Buried Secrets” from Tunisian helmer Raja Amari (“Satin Rouge”), starring Hafsia Herzi (“The Secret of the Grain”); and Italo helmer Luca Guadagnino’s “Io sono l’amore” (I Am Love), toplining Tilda Swinton as a high-society dame who falls in love with a cook.
66TH ANNUAL VENICE FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP COMPETITION
“36 vues du Pic Saint Loup,” Jacques Rivette (France)
“Accident,” Cheang Pou-Soi (China-Hong Kong)
“Baaria,” Giuseppe Tornatore (Italy) – Opening Film
“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” Werner Herzog (U.S.)
“Between Two Worlds,” Vimukthi Jayasundara (Sri Lanka)
“Capitalism: A Love Story,” Michael Moore (U.S.)
“La doppia ora,” Giuseppe Capotondi (Italy)
“Il grande sogno,” Michele Placido (Italy)
“Lebanon,” Samuel Maoz (Israel)
“Life During Wartime,” Todd Solondz (U.S.)
“Lo spazio bianco,” Francesca Comencini (Italy)
“Lourdes,” Jessica Hausner (Austria)
“Mr. Nobody,” Jaco van Dormael (France)
“Persecution,” Patrice Chereau (France)
“Prince of Tears,” Yonfan (Hong Kong)
“The Road,” John Hillcoat (U.S.)
“A Single Man,” Tom Ford (U.S.)
“Soul Kitchen,” Fatih Akin (Germany)
“Survival of the Dead,” George Romero (U.S.)
“Tetsuo the Bullet Man,” Shinya Tsukamoto (Japan)
“The Traveler,” Ahmed Maher (Egypt)
“White Material,” Claire Denis (France)
“Women Without Men,” Shirin Neshat (Germany)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“Anni Luce,” Francesco Maselli (Italy)
“Chengdu, I Love You,” Fruit Chan, Cui Jian (China) – Closing Film
“The Hole,” Joe Dante (U.S.)
“The Informant!,” Steven Soderbergh (U.S.)
“The Men Who Stare at Goats,” Grant Heslov (U.S.)
“Napoli Napoli Napoli,” Abel Ferrara (Italy)
“L’oro di Cuba,” Giuliano Montaldo (Italy)
“Prove per una tragedia Siciliana,” John Turturro, Roman Paska (Italy)
“REC 2,” Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza (Spain)
“Scheherazade Tell Me a Story,” Yousry Nasrallah (Egypt)
“South of the Border,” Oliver Stone (U.S.)
“Yona Yona Penguin,” Rintaro (Japan)
“Gulaal,” Anurag Kashyap (India)
“Dev D,” Anurag Kashyap (India)
“Brooklyn’s Finest,” Antoine Fuqua (U.S.)
“Delhi-6,” Rakeysh O. Mehra (India)
“Valhalla Rising,” Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark)
GOLDEN LION FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
JOHN LASSETER AND THE DISNEY/PIXAR DIRECTORS
“Toy Story 3-D” (New Version), John Lasseter (U.S.)
“Toy Story 2-D” (New Version), John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon (
“Francesca,” Bobby Paunescu (Romania) – Opening Film
“One-Zero,” Kamla Abou Zekri (Egypt)
“Buried Secrets,” Raja Amari (Tunisia)
“Tender Parasites,” Christian Becker and Oliver Schwabe (Germany)
“Adrift,” Bui Thac Chuyen (Vietnam)
“Crush,” Petr Buslov, Aleksei German Jr., Borisd Khlebnikov, Kirill Serebrennikov, Ivan Vrypayev (Russia)
“Repo Chick,” Alex Cox (U.K.)
“Engkwentro,” Pepe Diokno (Philippines)
“The Man’s Woman and Other Stories,” Amit Dutta (India)
“Paraiso,” Hector Galvez (Peru)
“Io sono l’amore,” Luca Guadagnino (Italy)
“Cow,” Guan Hu (China)
“Judge,” Liu Jie (China)
“Pepperminta,” Pipilotti Rist (Switzerland)
“Tris di donne e abiti nunziali,” Martina Gedeck (Italy)
“Insolacao,” Daniela Thomas and Felipe Hirsch (Brazil)
“1428,” Du Haibin (China)
“I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You,” Marcelo Gomes and Karim Ainouz (Brazil)
“Once Upon a Time Proletarian: 12 Tales of a Country,” Guo Xiaolu (China)
“Villalobos,” Romuald Karmakar (Germany)
“Il colore delle parole,” Marco Simon Puccioni (Italy)
“The One All Alone,” Frank Scheffer (The Netherlands)
“Toto,” Peter Schreiner (Austria)
“The Death of Pentheus,” Philip Haas (U.S.)
“Faces of Soul,” Gina Kim (U.S.)
“La Boheme,” Werner Herzog (U.K.)
“Mudanza,” Pere Portabella (Spain)
“Deserto rosa – Luigi Ghirri,” Elisabetta Sgarbi (Italy)
“Reading Book of Blockade,” Aleksander Sokurov (Russia)
“Armando testa – povero ma moderno,” Pappi Corsicato
“La danse – Le Ballet de l’Opera de Paris,” Fredrick Wiseman (U.S.)
“Hugo en Afrique,” Stefano Knuchel (Switzerland)
“Via della croce,” Serena Nono (Italy)
“Poeti,” Toni D’Angelo
“Negli occhi,” Francesco del Grosso
“Il compleanno,” Daniele Anzellotti, Marco Filiberti
“Dieci inverni,” Valerio Mieli
“Cosmonauta,” Susanna Nicchiarelli
“Hollywood sul Tevere,” Marco Spagnoli
“Il piccolo,” Maurizio Zaccaro
CONTROCAMPO ITALIANO EVENTS
“Giuseppe De Santis,” Carlo Lizzani
“Lola,” Giulio Questi
“Hotel Courbet,” Tinto Brass