A robust roster of awards contenders, including Brad Pitt space odyssey “Ad Astra” and Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded financial scandal comedy “The Laundromat,” will launch from the Venice Film Festival, which features a bit less high-wattage Hollywood fare this year but no shortage of hotly anticipated world premieres and stars.
The four U.S. pics in the Lido’s 21-title competition are all high-profile entries, starting with Fox’s “Ad Astra,” directed by James Gray, which features Pitt as an astronaut on a mission to save the solar system from imminent destruction. Netflix continues its strong track record on the Lido (where “Roma” debuted last year) with Noah Baumbach’s intimate divorce drama, “Marriage Story,” with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple in conflict, and “The Laundromat,” which stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas in a tale based on the Panama Papers exposé. Warner Bros. is launching “Joker,” directed by Todd Philips and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro in what is expected to be a deliciously dark and gritty R-rated comic-book movie.
Amazon will be in Venice with out-of-competition entry “Seberg” (previously titled “Against All Enemies”), toplining Kristen Stewart as actress Jean Seberg. The political thriller directed by Benedict Andrews centers on attempts by the FBI to discredit Seberg through its Cointelpro program in retaliation for her support of the Black Panther Party.
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Australian helmer David Michod’s Netflix title “The King,” an adaptation of several Shakespeare plays with an ensemble cast including Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, and Lily-Rose Depp, is also launching out-of-competition.
The competition slate features only two films directed by women: Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate” and the directorial debut of Australia’s Shannon Murphy, “Babyteeth.” “The Perfect Candidate” is a comedic drama about a young Saudi female physician who maneuvers through her conservative, male-dominated society to run in municipal elections. “Babyteeth” is a comedy involving a couple whose seriously ill teenage daughter has fallen madly in love with a drug dealer.
French auteur Olivier Assayas will compete with his English-language spy thriller, “Wasp Network,” which stars Penelope Cruz and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Other entries from France vying for a Golden Lion are “Gloria Mundi,” set in Marseille and directed by Robert Guediguian, and Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy,” starring Jean Dujardin as the French army officer who works to get to the bottom of the Dreyfus Affair, a notorious case of anti-Semitism in France. Polanski’s arrival on the Lido is likely to cause a stir in the wake of his expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The in-competition opener, as previously announced, is French-Japanese co-production “The Truth,” from Palme d’Or-winner Hirokazu Kore-eda, starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke and marking the helmer’s first work set outside his native Japan.
Asia has a strong competition presence besides “The Truth.” With berths in the lineup are veteran Hong Kong director Yonfan’s animation debut, “No. 7 Cherry Lane,” a love triangle involving a university student, a single mother and her teenage daughter, and Chinese director Lou Ye’s black-and-white thriller “Saturday Fiction,” starring Gong Li as an iconic actress in 1941 Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. But whether the latter film gets its “Dragon Seal” release permit, and then whether it remains in Chinese authorities’ good graces all the way to the screen, is not certain.
South American helmers have scored two competition slots. Chilean director Pablo Larrain (“Jackie”) is back with “Ema,” starring Garcia Bernal as a dancer in a marriage crisis, and Colombia’s Ciro Guerra (“Embrace the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage”) with his adaptation of J.M. Coetzee’s prize-winning novel “Waiting for the Barbarians.” It stars Johnny Depp, Mark Rylance and Robert Pattinson.
Veteran Swedish auteur Roy Andersson, who won the 2014 Golden Lion with “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” will be back in competition on the Lido with his similarly absurdist “About Endlessness.” Czech director Vaclav Marhoul will compete with his adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s Holocaust novel “The Painted Bird,” with an ensemble cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Julian Sands and Harvey Keitel.
The Italian titles in the running for a Lion are all set in southern Italy. Mario Martone (“Capri Revolution”) is back with “The Mayor of Rione Sanità,” a contemporary adaptation of the play about organized crime by late Neapolitan playwright Eduardo De Filippo. Pietro Marcello’s “Martin Eden” is an adaptation of Jack London’s novel about a young self-taught American sailor struggling to become a writer, with the story and setting transposed to a fable-like 19th century Naples. And Sicily’s Franco Maresco has landed a slot with “La Mafia non è più quella di una volta” (which translates as “The Mafia Isn’t What It Used to Be”), billed as a grotesque look at present-day Palermo through the eyes of famed photographer Letizia Battaglia, who chronicled Palermo’s Mafia wars in the 1970s and ’80s.
Two high-end Italian TV skeins, Paolo Sorrentino’s new limited series, “The New Pope,” and Stefano Sollima’s cocaine-trafficking drama, “ZeroZeroZero,” are getting a Venice bow, out of competition. Both are produced by Sky Studios.
Also granted an out-of-competition slot is the directorial debut of U.S. screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan (“World War Z”), “Mosul,” based on journalist Luke Mogelson’s stories in the New Yorker about his time embedded with a SWAT unit as they fought against ISIS on the front lines in northern Iraq.
As previously announced, Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel will preside over the jury, and Julie Andrews and Pedro Almodovar will be honored with Golden Lions for lifetime achievement, following the pattern of Venice awarding career prizes to an actor and a director.
The festival also features a competitive virtual-reality section.
The 76th Venice Film Festival runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7.
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP
“The Truth,” Kore-eda Hirokazu (France, Japan) – OPENING FILM
“The Perfect Candidate,” Haifaa Al-Mansour (Saudi Arabia, Germany)
“About Endlessness,” Roy Andersson (Sweden)
“Wasp Network,” Olivier Assayas (France, Belgium)
“Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach (U.S.)
“Guest of Honor,” Atom Egoyan (Canada)
“Ad Astra,” James Gray (U.S.)
“A Herdade,” Tiago Guedes (Portugal, France)
“Gloria Mundi,” Robert Guediguian (France)
“Waiting for the Barbarians,” Ciro Guerra (Italy)
“Ema,” Pablo Larrain (Chile)
“Saturday Fiction,” Lou Ye (China)
“Martin Eden,” Pietro Marcello (Italy, France, Germany)
“La Mafia non è più quella di Una Volta,” Franco Maresco
“The Painted Bird,” Vaclav Marhoul (Czech Republic)
“The Mayor of Rione Sanità,” Mario Martone (Italy, France)
“Babyteeth,” Shannon Murphy (Australia)
“Joker,” Todd Philips (U.S.)
“An Officer and a Spy,” Roman Polanski (France)
“The Laundromat,” Steven Soderbergh (U.S.)
“No. 7 Cherry Lane,” Yonfan (Hong Kong)
OUT OF COMPETITION – Fiction
“The Burnt Orange Heresy,” Giuseppe Capotondi (U.K., Italy) – CLOSING FILM
“Seberg,” Benedict Andrews (U.S.)
“Vivere,” Francesca Archibugi (Italy)
“Mosul,” Matthew Michael Carnahan (U.S.)
“Adults in the Room,” Costa-Gavras (France, Greece)
“The King,” David Michod (U.K., Hungary)
“Tutto il mio folle amore,” Gabriele Salvatores (Italy)
OUT OF COMPETITION – Non-Fiction
“Woman,” Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Anastasia Mikova (France)
“Roger Waters: Us + Them,” Roger Waters (U.K.)
“I Diari di Angela – Noi Due Cineasti. Capitolo Secondo. Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi (Italy)
“Citizen K,” Alex Gibney (U.K., U.S.)
“Citizen Rosi,” Didi Gnocchi, Carolina Rosi (Italy)
“The Kingmaker,” Lauren Greenfield (U.S.)
“State Funeral,” Sergei Loznitsa (The Netherlands, Lithuania)
“Collective,” Alexander Nanau (Romania, Luxembourg)
“45 Seconds of Laughter,” Tim Robbins (U.S.)
“Il pianeta in mare,” Daniele Segre (Italy)
OUT OF COMPETITION – Special Screenings
“No One Left Behind,” Guillermo Arriaga (Mexico)
“Electric Swan,” Konstantina Kotzamani (France, Greece, Argentina)
“Irreversible – Inversion Integrale,” Gaspar Noe (France)
“ZeroZeroZero,” (Episodes 1 and 2) Stefano Sollima (Italy, France)
“The New Pope” (Episodes 2 and 7) Paolo Sorrentino (Italy, U.S.)
“Never Just a Dream: Stanley Kubrick And Eyes Wide Shut,” Matt Wells (U.K.)
“Eyes Wide Shut,” Stanley Kubrick (U.S., U.K.)
“Pelican Blood,” Katrin Gebbe (Germany, Bulgaria)
“Zumiriki,” Oskar Alegria (Spain)
“Bik Eneich – Un Fils,” Mehdi M. Barsaoui (Tunisia, France, Lebanon, Qatar)
“Blanco en Blanco,” Theo Court (Spain, Chile, France, Germany)
“Mes Jours de Gloire,” Antoine De Bary (France)
“Nevia,” Nunzia De Stefano (Italy)
“Moffie,” Oliver Hermanus (South Africa)
“Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” Sahara Karimi (Afghanistan)
“Rialto,” Peter Mackie Burns (Ireland)
“The Criminal Man,” Dmitry Mamuliya (Georgia, Russia)
“Revenir,” Jessica Palud (France)
“Giants Being Lonely,” Great Patterson (U.S.)
“Balloon,” Pema Tseden (China)
“Verdict,” Raymund Ribas Gutierrez (Philippines)
“Just 6.5,” Saeed Roustaee (Iran)
“Shadow of Water,” Sasidharan Sanal Kumar (India)
“Sole,” Carlo Sironi (Italy)
“Madre,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Spain, France)
“Atlantis,” Valentyn Vasyanovych (Ukraine)