Venice Film Festival Gears Up for a Starry 70th Anniversary

Cuaron’s 'Gravity,' Greengrass’ 'Captain Phillips' are among titles likely to surface at the fall festival

Captain Phillips Venice Film Festival

Although Alberto Barbera opted to slim down the Venice Film Festival lineup when he was appointed artistic director last year, the world’s oldest international sprocket opera appears to be setting a particularly lavish table for its 70th-anniversary edition running Aug. 28-Sept. 7. While the only confirmed title so far is Paul Schrader’s crowdfunded Los Angeles-set noir “The Canyons,” set to premiere out of competition (with Schrader serving as jury president of the fest’s Horizons sidebar), speculation has swirled around any number of potential entries.

It’s a truism of the festival circuit that films that don’t play Cannes in late spring wind up at Venice, Telluride and/or Toronto in the fall. Two big prestige releases that seem likely to follow that trajectory are “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron’s space odyssey starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and “Twelve Years a Slave,” Steve McQueen’s period drama with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. Both Cuaron and McQueen have been in competition at Venice before with 2006’s “Children of Men” and 2011’s “Shame,” respectively.

Also believed to be firmly in the mix are Paul Greengrass’ fact-based drama “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks as the captain of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates; Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin,” starring Scarlett Johansson as a visiting extraterrestrial; and Terry Gilliam’s “The Zero Theorem,” featuring Christoph Waltz as a reclusive computer genius. Other possibilities include Atom Egoyan’s West Memphis Three picture “Devil’s Knot”; Kelly Reichardt’s indie eco-thriller “Night Moves”; and Catherine Breillat’s autobiographical drama “Abuse of Weakness.”

Given that Kim Ki-duk won the festival’s Golden Lion last year for “Pieta,” it seems highly likely that the divisive Asian auteur will return to the Venice competition with his already controversial follow-up, “Moebius.” The film has been banned from South Korean theaters due to its graphic sexual/violent content, reportedly including scenes of self-castration and incest.

A number of films that were once expected to make their premieres at Venice are now likely to surface elsewhere. These include Bennett Miller’s ensemble drama “Foxcatcher,” starring Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum; Spike Jonze’s love story “Her,” with Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams; Oliver Hirschbiegel’s royal biopic “Diana,” toplining Naomi Watts; and Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut, “Snowpiercer.”