One of the prestigious film festivals, Venice International Film Festival, kicked off last week its 73rd edition. Opening with Damien Chazelle's musical La La Land, the world’s oldest film fest is also a launchpad for Hollywood’s awards-season, specially after premièring three major Academy Award winners in a row: Gravity, Birdman and, last year, Spotlight.
The festival is filled with studio titles this year, which means two things; first, the red carpet will be filled with A-list casts and second, Hollywood's talent film-makers targetted the festival as their films' launching platform. Few premieres at Venice already are garnering awards buzz. Here are some of the most anticipated films from the festival's line-up:
Canadian Denis Villeneuve, who initially impressed with the scorching Incendies and continued to make impressive films since 2013. His notable works include Enemy, Prisoners and 2015’s Sicario. These films established him as a prominent talent with a distinct visual style. Arrival features Amy Adams as a linguist who is tasked with communicating with an alien race having taken residence on Earth.
Mel Gibson’s pacifist World War II drama received a roughly 10-minute standing ovation at the premiere, something of a rarity at that particular film festival. Hacksaw Ridge tells the real-life story of Desmond T Doss, a conscientious objector who saved 75 fellow soldiers in Okinawa without firing a single bullet; a pacifist, he in fact refused to even carry a gun.
French director François Ozon’s latest melodrama takes its title from a character long deceased. Set in a post-WW1 Germany and with a hauntingly beautiful black-and-white colour scheme (though some scenes are reported to have been shot in colour) that is warranted by the theme of the past’s lingering effects on the present. Frantz follows two characters who find their lives intertwined at the grave of the titular German soldier.
La La Land
With lovely imagery and memorable music, Whiplash famed Damien Chazelle’s La La Land looks like a cinematic dream come true. Reuniting Crazy Stupid Love co-stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the festival opener features Gosling playing a jazz pianist and Stone playing the actress he falls in love with. Much singing and dancing follows.
Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera had some praise for this as Chazelle’s “definitive, albeit precocious, consecration among the great directors of Hollywood’s new firmament.”
The Bad Batch
Director Ana Lily Amirpour made heads spin with her thrillingly offbeat debut, the feminist Iranian western/vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Tackling the ever-popular dystopia setting and structuring the film as a romance with a cannibalistic backdrop, her second film stars Suki Waterhouse, Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves and Diego Luna. The ensemble, along with a general anticipation to see how Amirpour deals with her second, makes this film as one of the most exciting films of the Venice lineup.
The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez
Winning big awards at Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and countless other distinctions, Wim Wenders still carries enough cachet to make his latest project a must-see. An experimental drama and shot in slightly counterintuitive 3D, the film depicts a summer conversation between a man and a woman that is being observed —or is it imagined?— by a writer. Co-written by frequent collaborator Peter Handke who wrote many of Wenders’ previous works, including Wings of Desire, the film appears to be a proper lament to the passing of the season, as well as a fascinating breakdown of gender politics.
The Light Between Oceans
Director Derek Cianfrance adapts ML Stedman’s novel about a lighthouse keeper and his wife who find and then raise an abandoned baby. From the trailer, it looks to be a film of sweeping melodrama amid high gales. “We were at what felt like one of the windiest places in the world,” Cianfrance said, “in the middle of this pure, rugged, primal landscape.” Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander star as the couple raising the discarded child, before Rachel Weisz shows up as a woman who takes the wind out of the sails of their newly formed family.
It’s been seven years since Tom Ford's directorial debut A Single Man, and he is following up with a film that looks every bit the equal of his debut in terms of glamour, but more ambitious.
The film delivers a stacked cast: Isla Fisher, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, plus the on-a-roll Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. Based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright the film centres on an art gallery owner (Adams) who is haunted by her ex-husband’s (Gyllenhaal) novel, a violent thriller.
The King of the North, Kit Harington, enters the combat of this genre Western alongside Dakota Fanning and Guy Pearce. Directed by Dutchman Martin Koolhoven, making his English-language debut, the film tells the story of Liz (Fanning) who has been accused of a crime she didn’t commit and must go to great lengths in order to protect her daughter.
Voyage of Time
Terrence Malick's latest described as “an examination of the birth and death of the known universe,” the project Malick has been working on for over 30 years.
There are two different versions of the film: a 90-minute long cut narrated by Cate Blanchett, which will screen at Venice; and a 40-minute IMAX version narrated by Brad Pitt. Malick’s scientific advisor on the film was NASA consultant Dr Andrew Knoll, who stated: “In some ways, I think Terry has been building to this film his whole career —and now it seems he has reached that place to which he has always been heading. This is a film you will be thinking about a long time after the lights come up.”