It could be the beachfront venues, the nearby canals drawing people from all over the world, or simply the history behind the place. Whatever it is, there’s something about the Venice Film Festival that always commands attention. The oldest festival of its kind in the world kicks off for the 72nd time on 2nd September, offering eleven days of anticipated releases, intriguing discoveries and returning classics.
The opening film has had Oscar pedigree recently. Last year kicked off with Birdman, the year before with Gravity. There’s continuity here as Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón steps in to lead the Jury, taking over from Alexandre Desplat in 2014. What about the film though? This time around, it’s Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest, a big budget disaster film screening out of competition. Set on the eponymous mountain and with a cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin and Keira Knightley to name but a few, it’s big and starry, in keeping with the Venice experience.
There’s no shortage of Hollywood glamour to be found out of competition this year. Johnny Depp starring Irish gangster thriller Black Mass premieres, and there’s space for Spotlight, Thomas McCarthy’s Boston Globe expose of local Catholic church child molestation that features an ensemble cast of Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton. There’s also Go With Me, a Pacific Northwest thriller from Swedish director Daniel Alfredson, starring Anthony Hopkins and Julia Stiles to sink teeth into.
The stars are out in force in the competition category as well, competing against several of the big names of world cinema for the Golden Lion. Eddie Redmayne goes for a consecutive year of awards glory as transgender Lili Elbe in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. Also starring Alicia Vikander (what doesn’t this year); it’s expected to feature big come awards season.
One of the talking points of the festival is the inclusion of Beasts of No Nation, Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of the 2005 novel of the same name about child warriors in West Africa. Headlined by Idris Elba, the controversy comes from the distribution model, with Netflix having bought the rights. Intriguing in a different way, Charlie Kaufman makes a long-awaited return, co-directing stop-motion Anomalisa with Duke Johnson. Expect crippling anxiety, awkwardness, and, if we’re lucky, his unique brand of brilliance.
From outside the US, Luca Guadagnino finally follows up 2009’s I Am Love with A Bigger Splash. In English this time, it follows a rock star and filmmaker unexpectedly meeting an old friend with dire results while on holiday. Alongside Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson, it also reunites Guadagnino with Tilda Swinton. If one of Italy’s big hitters is back, so is former Golden Lion winner Aleksandr Sokurov. He made off with the prize in 2011 for Faust, and returns here with Francofonia heading this time to the Louvre.
There are plenty of other veterans in town like Jerzy Skolimowski with 11 Minutes, Atom Egoyan with Remember and Amos Gitai with Rabin, the Last Day, up against interesting propositions such as Pablo Trapero’s kidnapping drama The Clan, Drake Doremus’ sci-fi romance Equals and an intriguing second feature in Emin Alper’s political thriller Frenzy.
It’s not the most gender diverse competition line-up around, but there is at least the joy of new work from experimental artist Laurie Anderson, a first in a decade, with Heart of a Dog, and Australian director Sue Brooks’ family drama Looking for Grace.
Away from the main category, a number of intriguing titles appear including post-apocalyptic thriller Man Down, Danish drama A War from the team that gave us A Hijacking and Borgen, and The Childhood of a Leader, a historical mystery drama loosely based on stories from Jean-Paul Sartre and John Fowles, and starring Robert Pattinson as the tyrannical leader of tomorrow as his views are shaped by the 1918 Treaty of Versailles . And that’s before you even dip into the classics section bringing Powell and Pressburger back to the big screen alongside the likes of Sergey Eisenstein and Orson Welles.
It’s going to be an exhausting week and a half, but one that looks to be worth the effort.
Frenzy, dir. Emin Alper (Turkey, France, Qatar)
Heart of a Dog, dir. Laurie Anderson (US)
Blood of My Blood, dir. Marco Bellocchio (Italy, France, Switzerland)
Looking for Grace, dir. Sue Brooks (Australia)
Equals, dir. Drake Doremus (US)
Remember, dir. Atom Egoyan (Canada, Germany)
Beasts of No Nation, dir. Cary Fukunaga (US)
Per amor vostro, dir. Giuseppe M. Gaudino (Italy, France)
Marguerite, dir. Xavier Giannoli (France, Czech Republic, Belgium)
Rabin, the Last Day, dir. Amos Gitai (Israel, France)
A Bigger Splash, dir. Luca Guadagnino (Italy, France)
The Endless River, dir. Oliver Hermanus (South Africa, France)
The Danish Girl, dir. Tom Hooper (UK, US)
Anomalisa, dir. Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson (US)
L’attesa, dir. Piero Messina (Italy, France)
11 Minutes, dir. Jerzy Skolimowski (Poland, Ireland)
Francofonia, dir. Aleksandr Sokurov (France, Germany, Netherlands)
The Clan, dir. Pablo Trapero (Argentina, Spain)
From Afar, dir. Lorenzo Vigas (Venezuela)
L’hermine, dir. Christian Vincent (France)
Behemoth, dir. Zhao Liang (China, France)
11 Minutes (2015)
A Bigger Splash (2015)
A War (2015)
Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Black Mass (2015)
De Palma (2015)
For Your Love (2015)
From Afar (2015)
Go With Me (2015)
Heart of a Dog (2015)
Looking for Grace (2015)
Rabin, the Last Day (2015)
The Clan (2015)
The Danish Girl (2015)
Frenzy – Emin Alper Interview (Venice 2015)