VENICE 2023 Competition / Out of Competition Fewer Hollywood stars and more high-quality films from all over the world will grace the Venice agenda
by Camillo De Marco, Cineuropa
The festival is celebrating its 80-year anniversary with a jam-packed programme and zero defections by independent productions
There’s no Plan B: Venice won’t be reduced to a pan-European festival, a scenario which has been superstitiously envisaged over the past few days by its very own director Alberto Barbera, faced with the threat of Hollywood films failing to show up as a result of the screenwriters’ strike, which has now been embraced by actors from the Screen Actors Guild too.
The only film scrubbed from the line up of the 80th Venice Film Festival is the opening movie, Challengers, directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Zendaya, which MGM and Amazon Studios have withdrawn and whose release has now been pushed back. “There’ll be a few stars missing but all of our independent productions will be there”, Barbera reassured us at the beginning of the press conference presenting the line-up. There’ll be no shortage of prominent North American authors either, namely Michael Mann,David Fincher,Woody Allen, Frederick Wiseman, Bradley Cooper andSofia Coppola.
23 films (perhaps too many) are set to screen in the Official Competition of ‘Venice 80’, as was also the case last year, 15 of which are carried by authors selected for Venice for the very first time. It all begins with Edoardo De Angelis’ opening film Comandante, a huge Italian productive effort set during the Second World War and toplined by Pierfrancesco Favino. It’s followed by Bastarden / The Promised Land by Nikolaj Arcel, who previously won Berlin’s Silver Bear for A Royal Affair and who’s continuing his collaboration with Mads Mikkelsen, who plays an ex-Swedish army officer in the 18th century. French films in the offing include DogMan by Luc Besson, an action movie set in New Jersey and a “monument to actor Caleb Landry Jones”, in Barbera’s words; La Bête by Bertrand Bonello, which is loosely based on a story by Henry James and which tackles the highly topical reality of artificial intelligence;Hors-Saison by Stéphane Brizé, following a couple played by Guillaume Canet and Alba Rohrwacher sixteen years on from their separation.
Matteo Garrone’s highly anticipated movie Io Capitano is also on the agenda, charting the odyssey of two African youngsters who leave Dakar for Europe by way of “simple and direct storytelling”.Enea, meanwhile, Pietro Castellitto’s second film after The Predators (awarded the Orizzonti Prize for Best Screenplay in 2020), is a cynicism-drenched foray into the maelstrom of Rome, “a Great Ugliness, of sorts”. Saverio Costanzo is returning to the world of film after his successful series My Brilliant Friend with Finalmente l’Alba, a huge productive commitment courtesy of Wildside. Great expectations likewise surround Lubo by Giorgio Diritti, while Adagio by Stefano Sollima looks set to fully confirm the director’s talent for international action films and TV series.
InThe Green Border, which was pretty much shot undercover, Agnieszka Hollandfocuses on the tragic and little known ups and downs of illegal Belorussian immigrants who are regularly rejected by Poland, while Woman Of by Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englertexplores the hostility and bureaucratic hurdles facing a transsexual in a country considered to be one of the most transphobic nations in Europe: Poland.Holly by Belgian director Fien Troch, who scooped a trophy in Orizzonti 2016 for Home, also shows promise, examining adolescent malaise through the story of a young woman endowed with strange, extrasensory powers.Die Theorie von Allem, which is Timm Kroger’s first work, is a gothic nightmare digging down beneath a mountain of German cinema, while the latest film by the brilliant Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things, reworks themes typical to gothic cinema in an extraordinarily fanciful way and thrusts Emma Stone into the shoes of some sort of female version of Frankenstein.
Among the various American filmmakers mentioned, Bradley Cooper’s second directorial effort after AStar Is Born - Maestro, a biography of musical genius Leonard Bernstein - is definitely long-awaited in Venice, while Sofia Coppola’sPriscilla, co-produced by Italian firm The Apartment together with Zentropa, attempts to tell the story surrounding Elvis Presley’s very young wife. Much anticipation also surrounds The Killer, a thriller starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton and produced by Netflix, which will see David Fincher returning to Venice 24 years after his presentation of Fight Club. Michael Mann will also be returning to the festival after many years of absence with his ambitious project Ferrari, starring Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz and homing in on a crucial moment in motor racing. Origin by Ava DuVernay, based on a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, will likewise grace the agenda.
Other movies not to be underestimated in the race for the Golden Lion include El Conde by Chile’s Pablo Larraín, which is a baroque reinterpretation of the vampire genre, featuring a reanimated version of Pinochet,Memory by Michel Franco, which is set in New York and stars Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard, and Evil Does Not Exist by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who won an Oscar for Drive My Car.
Noteworthy films screening Out of Competition, meanwhile, include Roman Polanski’s highly anticipated movie The Palace, written alongside Jerzy Skolimowski; the latest four-hour-long documentary by (93-year-old) Frederick Wiseman, Menus Plaisirs - Les Troisgros, which journeys behind the scenes of a mysterious, top-class French restaurant;Coup de Chance by Woody Allen; andSocietyof the Snow by JA Bayona.
D’argent et de sang (Episodes 1-12), Xavier Giannoli, Fredéric Planchon (France/Belgium) I Know Your Soul (Episodes 1-2), created by Jasmila Zbanic, Damir Ibrahimovic, directed by Alen Drjeviæ, Nermin Hamzagic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Out of competition – Non-fiction
Amor - Virginia Eleuteri Serpieri (Italy/Lithuania) Frente A Guernica (Uncut Version) -Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi (Italy) Hollywoodgate - Ibrahim Nash’at (Germany/USA) Ryuichi Sakamoto — Opus - Neo Sora (Japan) Enzo Jannacci Vengo Anch’io - Giorgio Verdelli (Italy) Menus Plaisirs - Frederik Wiseman (France)
Out of competition – Fiction
Society of the Snow - JA Bayona (Spain/Uruguay/Chile) – Closing film Coup de Chance - Woody Allen (France/UK) The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar - Wes Anderson (USA) The Penitent - Luca Barbareschi (Italy) L’ordine del tempo - Liliana Cavani (Italy) Vivants - Alix Delaporte (France/Belgium) Welcome to Paradise - Leonardo di Constanzo (Italy) DAAAAAALI! - Quentin Dupieux (France) The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial - William Friedkin (USA) Making of - Cédric Kahn (France) Aggro Dr1ft - Harmony Korine (USA) Hit Man - Richard Linklater (USA) The Palace - Roman Polanski (Poland/France/Italy/Switzerland) Snow Leopard - Pema Tseden (China)