They’ll be joined by big names and exciting new talent, including Pedro Almodóvar, Ana Lily Amirpour and Pablo Larraín.
With a successful Cannes still glimmering in our rearview mirror, the Venice Film Festival is now very visible on the horizon. Venice went ahead in a slightly scaled back version in 2021, but this year, they – as with Cannes – are drawing on the mega logjam of arthouse gems that have been held back in the hope of receiving a glitzy premiere at one of the major festivals.
This year sees five women directors in competition, which is a decent showing, even if it’s a downturn of three since last year. And, unlike Cannes, the screening rooms on the Lido will not be filled to capacity – they will be at 50 per cent as a way to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Already announced is the new film by Pedro Almodóvar, Parallel Mothers, which will open the festival and sees the director reuniting with one of his modern muses, Penélope Cruz. Interesting that Almodóvar has chosen to present this film in Venice, as he’s one of Cannes’ favourite sons – maybe the fact that he’s been overlooked for the Palme too many times has led him to seek his fortunes elsewhere.
One of the big out of competition slots is Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel with Ben Affleck and Adam Driver, which has been in the can for a fair while now (his Gucci film is not going to play here, which seems sad considering the subject matter). And there’s also Denis Villeneuve’s take on the classic Frank Herbert tome, Dune, along with David Gordon Green’s horror sequel, Halloween Kills. Another biggie is Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, which has been described as a horror-musical hybrid which offers a new take on swinging London.
In competition, we’re probably most excited about Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter with Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish, which is the writer/director’s follow-up to 2017’s First Reformed. We also have the return of Ana Lily Amirpour with Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, a New Orleans-set tale of a girl with strange powers. Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín is in town with Spencer, his portrait of Princess Diana which stars Kristen Stewart in the lead. On paper, it all sounds a bit strange, and brings back memories of the disastrous 2013 Diana movie with Naomi Watts. But if he brings us another Jackie, we’ll be more than happy.
Netflix are set to debut a brace of big new titles: Jane Campion returns with The Power of the Dog starring Benedict Cumberbatch, while Paolo Sorrentino has made a film billed as his most personal and introspective yet, called The Hand of God. The starriest cast of the festival goes to Maggie Gyllenhaal whose directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, screens in competition and which features Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckly, Dakota Johnson, Paul Mescal and more. France’s Stéphane Brizé returns with Another World, which continues his recent focus on issues of labour relations, L’Événement by Audrey Diwan is the first film in competition by a French-Lebanese woman and is on the subject of abortion.
Venice is best experienced as a festival of discovery, and part of the fun is going along to see films you know little or nothing about and to be surprised by them. Sometimes you’re met with disappointment, but occasionally, you might accidentally stumble on to the next big thing. One film we’re really looking forward to in the competition is Michelangelo Frammartino’s Il Buco, which is his long-gestating follow-up to 2011’s incredible doc-fiction hybrid, Le Quattro Volte. And one title that plays in the Orrizonti strand that we’re looking forward to is the second film by British director Harry Wootliff, called True Things. We loved her debut, Only You, so here’s hoping that this one takes her up to the next level of cinematic recognition.
Here’s the full 2021 competition line-up:
The Card Counter, Paul Schrader
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, Ana Lily Amirpour
Another World, Stéphane Brizé
The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion
Latin America, Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo
L’Événement, Audrey Diwan
Official Competition, Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn
Spencer, Pablo Larraín
Il Buco, Michelangelo Frammartino
Sundown, Michel Franco
Lost Illusions, Xavier Giannoli
The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Freaks Out, Gabriele Mainetti
Qui Rido Io, Mario Martone
On the Job: The Missing 8, Erik Matti
Leave No Traces, Jan Matuszynski
Captain Volkonogov Escaped, Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov
The Hand of God, Paolo Sorrentino
Reflection, Valentyn Vasyanovych
La Caja, Lorenzo Vigas
The 78th Venice International Film Festival runs from 1-11 September.
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