Venice Film Fest 2019: Star Studed, Oscar Contenders Premieres

A high-profile list of Oscar awards contenders, including Brad Pitt space odyssey “Ad Astra” and Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded financial scandal comedy “The Laundromat,” will launch at the Venice Film Fest.

The four U.S. pictures in the main competition are all high-profile entries, starting with Fox’s “Ad Astra,” directed by James Grey, which features Pitt as an astronaut on a mission to save the solar system from imminent destruction.

Netflix continues its strong track record on the Lido (where “Roma” debuted last year) with Noah Baumbach’s intimate divorce drama, “Marriage Story,” with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple in conflict.

“The Laundromat,” which stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas in a tale based on the Panama Papers exposé, will also debut there.

Warner is launching “Joker,” directed by Todd Philips and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro in a dark and gritty R-rated comic-book movie.

Amazon will be in Venice with the out-of-competition entry “Seberg” (previously titled “Against All Enemies”), toplining Kristen Stewart as the late actress Jean Seberg. The political thriller directed by Benedict Andrews centers on attempts by the FBI to discredit Seberg through its Cointelpro program in retaliation for her support of the Black Panther Party.

Australian helmer David Michod’s Netflix title “The King,” an adaptation of several Shakespeare plays with an ensemble cast including Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, and Lily-Rose Depp, is also launching out-of-competition.

The competition slate features only two films directed by women: Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate” and the directorial debut of Australia’s Shannon Murphy, “Babyteeth.”

“The Perfect Candidate” is a serio comedy drama about a young Saudi female physician who maneuvers through her conservative, male-dominated society to run in municipal elections.

“Babyteeth” is a comedy involving a couple whose seriously ill teenage daughter has fallen madly in love with a drug dealer.

French auteur Olivier Assayas will compete with his English-language spy thriller, “Wasp Network,” which stars Penelope Cruz and Gael Garcia Bernal.

Other entries from France are “Gloria Mundi,” set in Marseille and directed by Robert Guediguian, and Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy.”

An Officer and a Spay stars Jean Dujardin as the French army officer who works to get to the bottom of the Dreyfus Affair, a notorious case of anti-Semitism in France. Polanski’s arrival on the Lido is likely to cause a stir in the wake of his expulsion from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The in-competition opener is French-Japanese co-production “The Truth,” from Palme d’Or-winner Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”), starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke and marking the helmer’s first work set outside his native Japan.

Asia has a strong competition presence besides “The Truth.” With berths in the lineup are Hong Kong director Yonfan’s animation debut, “No. 7 Cherry Lane,” a love triangle involving a university student, a single mother and her teenage daughter, and Chinese director Lou Ye’s black-and-white thriller “Saturday Fiction,” starring Gong Li as an iconic actress in 1941 Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. But whether the latter film gets its “Dragon Seal” release permit, and then whether it remains in Chinese authorities’ good graces all the way to the screen, is not certain.

Chilean helmers have scored two competition slots. Pablo Larrain (“Jackie”) is back with “Ema,” starring Garcia Bernal as a dancer in a marriage crisis.

Ciro Guerra (“Embrace the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage”) has adapted J.M. Coetzee’s prize-winning novel “Waiting for the Barbarians,” starring Johnny Depp, Mark Rylance and Robert Pattinson.

Veteran Swedish auteur Roy Andersson, who won the 2014 Golden Lion with “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” will be back in competition on the Lido with his similarly absurdist “About Endlessness.” Czech director Vaclav Marhoul will compete with his adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s Holocaust novel “The Painted Bird,” with an ensemble cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Julian Sands and Harvey Keitel.

The Italian titles include Mario Martone (“Capri Revolution”) is back with “The Mayor of Rione Sanità,” a contemporary adaptation of the play about organized crime by late Neapolitan playwright Eduardo De Filippo.

Pietro Marcello’s “Martin Eden” is an adaptation of Jack London’s novel about a young self-taught American sailor struggling to become a writer, with the story and setting transposed to a fable-like 19th century Naples. And Sicily’s Franco Maresco has landed a slot with “La Mafia non è più quella di una volta” (which translates as “The Mafia Isn’t What It Used to Be”), billed as a grotesque look at present-day Palermo through the eyes of famed photographer Letizia Battaglia, who chronicled Palermo’s Mafia wars in the 1970s and ’80s.

Two high-end Italian TV skeins, Paolo Sorrentino’s new limited series, “The New Pope,” and Stefano Sollima’s cocaine-trafficking drama, “ZeroZeroZero,” are getting a Venice bow, out of competition.

Also granted an out-of-competition slot is the directorial debut of U.S. screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan (“World War Z”), based on journalist Luke Mogelson’s stories in the New Yorker about his time embedded with a SWAT unit as they fought against ISIS on the front lines in northern Iraq.

Acclaimed Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel will preside over the main jury.

Julie Andrews and Pedro Almodovar will be honored with Golden Lions for lifetime achievement, following the pattern of Venice awarding career prizes to an actor and a director.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter