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Venice Film Festival lines up an impressive array of international stars

Los Angeles : New works by Darren Aronofsky, Andrew Dominik, Alejandro J. Inarritu, Luca Guadagnino, Joanna Hogg and Laura Poitras are among the rich roster of titles that will launch from the Lido and compete for a Golden Lion at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, which is set for a standout stellar 79th edition.

Artistic director Alberto Barbera has unveiled a luscious, politically infused line-up comprising a slew of hotly anticipated films from the US and elsewhere around the world, featuring scores of stars.

Olivia Wilde, Penelope Cruz, Ana de Armas, Cate Blanchett, Timoth�e Chalamet, Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Christoph Waltz, Sigourney Weaver and Mia Goth are some top talents expected to be on the Palazzo Del Cinema’s red carpet during the August 31-September 10 event, reports ‘Variety’.

Aronofsky, a Venice aficionado whose ‘Black Swan’ was the Lido’s opener in 2010, is back with ‘The Whale’, an adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play about a morbidly obese recluse, played by Brendan Fraser and also starring Sadie Sink and Samantha Morton.

Meanwhile, Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe drama ‘Blonde’ starring de Armas as the Hollywood icon is one of four Netflix original films in the 23-title competition section.

Also getting a Venice launch from the streaming giant, which is clearly gunning for more Oscars after ‘Power of the Dog’, which premiered on the Lido last year – is the fest’s previously announced opener, Noah Baumbach’s ‘White Noise’, with Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver and Jodie Turner-Smith, which is based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, reports ‘Variety’.

‘White Noise’ marks the first time a Netflix film has landed in Venice’s opening slot.

As anticipated by Variety, other Netflix originals in the Venice competition are Inarritu’s ‘Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths’, which chronicles the story of a Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker who returns home and works through an existential crisis as he grapples with his identity and family relationships, and Romain Gavras’ modern tragedy ‘Athena’, co-written by the French ‘The World is Yours’ director with ‘Les Miserables’ filmmaker Ladj Ly.

Netflix will also be bowing Nicholas Winding Refn’s neon-noir ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’ TV series, which will screen out of competition in the second half of the festival.

Guadagnino, who first made a splash in Venice with Tilda Swinton-starrer ‘I Am Love’, is back on the Lido with ‘Bones and All’ featuring ‘Call Me By Your Name’ star Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell as cannibal lovers on a road trip across America in the 1980s.

Amazon is also bowing its first Argentinian original film from Venice, the political drama ‘1985’, directed by auteur Santiago Mitre. It is the true story of how public prosecutor Julio Strassera, a young lawyer, and his inexperienced legal team dared to prosecute the heads of Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship in a battle against odds and a race against time, braving bomb and death threats.

Florian Zeller’s ‘The Son’, starring Vanessa Kirby, Laura Dern and Hugh Jackman, is also vying for a Golden Lion, as is Wales-set ‘The Eternal Daughter’ starring Tilda Swinton, which is directed by her old friend, ‘The Souvenir’ helmer Joanna Hogg.

Focus Features will be on the Lido with Todd Field’s ‘Tar’. Blanchett is a Venice regular who presided over the festival’s main jury in 2020.

Martin McDonagh’s ‘The Banshees Of Inisherin’, the Irish director’s follow-up to ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. ‘Banshees’ centers on the dynamics of lifelong friends on a remote Irish island and reunites McDonagh with his “In Bruges” stars Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell.

Hollywood titles bowing in Venice’s out-of-competition section comprise steamy psychological thriller ‘Don’t Worry Darling’, which is Olivia Wilde’s second directorial effort and stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles.

US director Bill Pohlad will be launching his indie biopic ‘Dreamin’ Wild’, about real-life musical duo Donnie and Joe Emerson and the tumult that followed the success of their self-recorded pop-funk album of the same name. It stars Casey Affleck, Zooey Deschanel and Walton Goggins.

Israeli-American director Evgeny Afineevsky, who was in Venice in 2015 with ‘Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom’ is now back with ‘Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom’.

Late South Korean auteur Kim Ki-Duk’s mysterious posthumous work ‘Call of God’, which is a three-way co-production between Estonia, Kirghizistan, and Lettonia, is also ensconced in an out-of-competition berth.

Besides ‘Copenhagen Cowboy’, this year Venice will premiere another TV series by a name auteur, the third and final instalment in Lars von Trier’s cult ‘The Kingdom’ TV series trilogy, set in the neurosurgical ward of Denmark’s main hospital.

Back to the competition, similar to Cannes, Iran has a strong Lido presence with four films across the selection. Among them is a new film from recently re-incarcerated auteur Jafar Panahi, whose drama ‘No Bears’ reportedly interweaves two parallel love stories both thwarted by obstacles that reflect life in Iran these days.

Also screening is ‘Beyond The Wall’ by Vahid Jalilvand whose ‘No Date, No Signature’ was in Venice Horizons in 2017.

Italian director Andrea Pallaoro is looking to be lionized with his Ohio-set English-language drama ‘Monica’ starring transgender actor Trace Lysette as a woman who returns home to the Midwest to care for her dying mother, played by Patricia Clarkson.

And competing from Italy is Gianni Amelio’s ‘Il Signore Delle Formiche’, a biopic of Italian poet, playwright and director Aldo Braibanti, who was jailed in 1968 due to a Fascist-era anti-gay law, starring Elio Germano and Luigi Lo Cascio.

Competing from Asia is Japanese director Koji Fukada’s “Love Life,” which follows a happily married woman who decides to care for her son’s long-lost father when he reappears, deaf, ill and homeless.

The French competition contingent, which is a bit thinner than usual, comprises Rebecca Zlotowski’s drama ‘Les Enfants Des Autres’, about making a connection with a child that isn’t your own, and stars Virginie Efira, Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni; Alice Diop’s fiction feature debut ‘Saint Omer’, based on the true story of a Senegalese woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter by abandoning her to the rising tide on a beach in northern France; and Roschdy Zem’s family dynamics drama “Our Ties” with a cast comprising Maiwenn.

Opening Venice’s Horizons section will be Italian director Roberto De Paolis’ “Princess,” about a young African woman who is a victim of the sex trade.

Other highlights in the Lido’s more cutting-edge parallel competitive section include Penelope Cruz-starrer ‘On The Fringe’, an economic crisis-themed drama by Juan Diego Botto; French director Jean-Paul Salom�’s thriller ‘The Sitting Duck’; and ‘Innocence’, a new doc by Oscar-nommed Israeli filmmaker Guy David.

The 79th edition of Venice will run August 31-September 10.

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