The hottest ticket at Venice Film Festival this year must be for Roman Polanski directing John Cleese in his latest film The Palace playing out of competition in the 80th edition that runs on the Lido from 30 August to 9 September 2023.
The last time the controversial Polish born filmmaker came to Venice Film Festival he won the Silver Lion Grand Jury prize – amongst others – with his enlightening drama about another polemical figure Alfred Dreyfus, wrongly accused of treason and ostracised by society. Polanski’s outsider portraits are his stock in trade, arguably the most memorable being The Tenant so The Palace, described as a ‘dark comedy’, is set to be one of the jewels in the crown of this year’s glittering line-up and is co-written by the his close friend Polish Great Jerzy Skolimowski, and takes place in the magnificent Gstaad Palace in Switzerland.
Talking of comedies, Woody Allen, the king of them all, is back, also out of competition, with Coup de chance, a romantic look at love and infidelity set in Paris, and Woody’s first film in French, with an star cast of Lou de Laage, Valerie Lemercier and – of course – the tousled Melvil Poupard, with Gregory Gabedois, no doubt doing the funnies.
Texan luminary Wes Anderson has not one, but two films on the major festival circuit this summer: his latest The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, albeit a short at 37 minutes, follows hot on the heels of Asteroid City and is adapted from a Roald Dahl story. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley and Benedict Cumberbatch and will go directly to Netflix. Anderson’s previous outing The Fantastic Mr Fox was also a Dahl adaptation.
A biopic of Leonard Bernstein’s, or – more accurately – his wife, is another hotly anticipated competition feature from actor now director Bradley Cooper who got no less than eight nominations for his debut A Star is Born. Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Todd Phillips are putting their money behind Cooper’s competition title Maestro so that’s a good enough endorsement in most people’s minds, especially when Carey Mulligan has the leading role.
Michael Fassbender has been keeping his powder dry on the festival circuit for a while now but he’s back with The Killer playing an assassin in crisis in this latest thriller from David Fincher. Taking inspiration from the French graphic novel series of the same name it follows on from Fincher’s murderous repertoire of Seven, Zodiac and Mindhunter.
Adam Driver made such a success of his tousled Italian hero Maurizio Gucci in House of Gucci he has now landed the leading role of Enzo Ferrari in Michael Mann’s biopic about the motor racing entrepreneur. This time Penelope Cruz plays his wife and Shailene Woodley his mistress, Lina Lardi.
Poor Things is another hotly anticipated title at this year’s Mostra. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos will be on the Lido with his latest – a Frankenstein fantasy remake starring Emma Stone – although the film will not get a release until Christmas time due to the Hollywood strikes. Maybe an Oscar is in the pipeline for him this time around.
Elvis Presley was the focus of attention at last year’s Cannes but this year the spotlight is on his wife Priscilla in a feature directed by Sofia Coppola (Marie Antoinette) who explores her story as a teenager and young adult. Austin Butler is back as ‘the King’.
Meanwhile cinema du look director Luc Besson graces the competition lineup with Dogman a film not all that dissimilar from Matteo Garrone’s 2018 outing of the same title – with a focus on man’s best friend. This one stars the incendiary Caleb Landry Jones (Nitram) alongside the serene Marisa Berenson (Barry Lyndon).
Not to be outdone on the assassin theme Richard Linklater joins the party with Hitman a Houston based police thriller about an undercover Charles Bronson style law enforcer who turns the table on his clients.
The Promised Land must be the most popular title for a film but despite this acclaimed Danish scriptwriter and now director Nikolaj Arcel (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has chosen it for his Venice competition title that stars Mads Mikkelsen, in Denmark film is called Bastarden giving a hint to its drift
Two year’s ago at Venice Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco made a fabulous little thriller called Sundown with regular Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It was sadly underrated on release but this year he’s back with Memory about a couple dealing with the hot potato of the moment dementia.
William Friedkin is a faithful Venice supporter with his generous appearances on the red carpet; he’s easy to talk to and doesn’t stand on ceremony, even at 87. This year he comes with his first fiction feature since Killer Joe in the shape of a morally complex piece entitled The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial starring Jason Clarke and Kiefer Sutherland and based on Herman Wouk’s original stage play.
The Night Porter director Liliana Cavani, now 90, has a new drama entitled L’Ordine del tempo. Based on the recent bestseller by Carlo Rovelli it follows a group of friends meeting for what may be the last time on their annual get together.
Chilean auteur Pablo Larraín is another Venice hard hitter with his previous titles No, The Club and Spencer. This year he makes an appearance with El Conde a bizarre imagined horror outing that sees the onetime dictator Augusto Pinochet reimagined as a vampire who has decided to hang up his fangs – whatever next…
Meanwhile in the VENICE DAYS sidebar Isabelle Huppert makes an appearance in literary romantic drama Sidonie in Japan that sees her embark on an affair with a Japanese publisher whilst on a book tour.
Catalan actor Lola Duenas has made a real splash with her portrayals of strong women – in Fabrice du Welz’s horrifying thriller Alleluia (2014) and in Lucrecia Martel’s coruscating historical piece Zama. Here she is again in Victor Iriarte’s competition entry Foremost by Night.
Fans of Peter Sarsgaard can see him in two films. In the Out of Competition title, he stars in Coup! Set during the time of the infamous Spanish flu outbreak in 1918 it centres on a rebellious servant who leads a revolt against his wealthy employee. There’s more to come so stay tuned MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | 30 AUGUST – 9 SEPTEMBER 2023