76th Venice International Film Festival

Polanski, Gray, Soderbergh, Kore-eda, Assayas, Martone and Larrain feature among the biggest names at the festival, which will take place from 28 August-7 September

The condition of women in the world seen through a new sensibility; the reconstruction of past events in order to understand the present; a cinema which investigates reality, rather than building alternative worlds. Such are the “recurrences” identified by director Alberto Barbera in his presentation of the programme of the 2019 edition of the Venice International Film Festival, which will take place from 28 August-7 September. Yet genre films are not lacking — thrillers, war movies, sci-fi, animation — in a selection that sees the number of young filmmakers exceed that of the established authors who return to the Lido every year. Nevertheless, ten Oscar winners can be counted among the guests, and as for the most anticipated big names, it is enough to mention James Gray, Roman Polanski, Steven Soderbergh, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Olivier Assayas, Mario Martone, Pablo Larrain. “Martin Scorsese? It is a dream we all cherished, but the film isn’t ready, we’re talking of late November,”  Barbera explains, regarding the potential presence of The Irishman.

Barbera has made his biggest coup with Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy, which promises to be a masterpiece. “A great Polanski. At more than 80 years old, he signs an accurate and precise reconstruction of the spine-chilling Dreyfus case, which so marked French society. Jean Dujardin is chilling good”, Barbera points out. Also at the cast are Emmanuelle Seigner and Louis Garrel. With the entertaining The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh meanwhile reconstructs the more recent events of the Panama Papers, this model of the big scam that is high finance, with Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep. Most awaited is Ad Astra, James Gray’s new film, his first produced by a major studio (Fox) and his first venture into genre (sci-fi). Brad Pitt, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones are in a dystopian future in which an astronaut travels to the confines of the solar system to find his father and solve a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. Equally anticipated is Todd Phillips’s Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro: “Warner accepted to enter the competition with this darker but also very different prequel to The Dark Knight, which highlights the contradictions of contemporary metropolises.”

But let us process in order, following the director’s presentation delivered this morning in Rome. After the already announced opening film, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke, here comes Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female director from Saudi Arabia, who returns to the Lido with The Perfect Candidate, the story of a young doctor who runs for mayor of an ultra conservative town. Another welcome return is that of the Swede Roy Andersson with About Endlessness, after his Golden Lion for A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence in 2014. An excellent return also for the french Olivier Assayas, who brings with him Wasp Network, focused on a group of special agents from the Cuban government of Castro who, in the 1990s, passed for refugees in order to enter the United States and prevent retaliatory actions against Cuba. The cast features Penélope Cruz and Gael García Bernal. Bernal is also in the cast for Ema, the portrait of an “inciendary woman” from fiery Chilean director Pablo Larraín who has discovered an exceptional actress, Mariana Di Girolamo.

A sort of family nightmare, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story follows a divorce that extends between New York City and Los Angeles, with Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. Father-and-son relationships and feelings of guilt are the themes dear to Armenian director Atom Egoyan, who returns with Guest of Honour, shot in Canada like his earlier films, and featuring David Thewlis, Luke Wilson and Rossif Sutherland. Of great epic scale, A Herdade, from the Portuguese Tiago Guedes and produced by Paulo Branco, centres on a family of landowners on the Tagus river in the 1940s. With Gloria Mundi, Robert Guédiguian is faithful to his usual cast (Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin…) and expresses in his cinema an always great bitterness, pain, and hopelessness for French society. Adapted from the novel of the same name by 2003 Nobel Prize winner J. M. Coetzee, chased for years by producer Michael Fitzgerald and directed by the always surprising Colombian director Ciro Guerra, Waiting for the Barbarians features a stellar cast: Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson, Greta Scacchi. Saturday Fiction by Lou Ye see the return of the great Gong Li, with her character — an actor and a spy — moving through Shanghai in 1941.

The line-up features three Italian films. The ambitious Martin Eden, by Pietro Marcello, a transposition of Jack London’s masterpiece: the director plays with chronology and geography, shifting the story to Italy. La mafia non è piu quella di una volta is a grotesque and provocative anthropological survey of Palermo by Franco Maresco, with the great photographer Letizia Battaglia and Ciccio Mira, character from his previous film Belluscone [+] (in Venice in 2014). Mario Martone for his part returns to the Lido with The Mayor of Rione Sanità, based on a text by Eduardo De Filippo that was brought to the theatre two years ago in a modern version and which is now transformed into a film.

Taken from a novel by Being There author Jerzy Kosiński, The Painted Bird — from relatively unknown director and producer from Prague Václav Marhoul — brings together a cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands. From Australia arrives Babyteeth by Shannon Murphy, “the only film about illness that has ever moved me or made me laugh”, Barbera says. Concluding the competition lineup is No. 7 Cherry Lane by Yonfan, who returns to Venice with an animated film.

The selection for this year’s edition:


The TruthHirokazu Kore-eda (France/Japan) (opening film)
The Perfect CandidateHaifaa Al-Mansour (Saudi Arabia/Germany)
About EndlessnessRoy Andersson (Sweden/Germany/Norway)
Wasp NetworkOlivier Assayas (France/Belgium)
Marriage StoryNoah Baumbach (US)
Guest of HonourAtom Egoyan (Canada)
Ad AstraJames Gray (US)
A herdadeTiago Guedes (Portugal/France)
Gloria MundiRobert Guédiguian (France/Italy)
Waiting for the BarbariansCiro Guerra (US/Italy)
EmaPablo Larraín (Chile)
Saturday Fiction (Lan xin da ju yuan)Lou Ye (China)
Martin EdenPietro Marcello (Italy/France)
La mafia non è più quella di una voltaFranco Maresco (Italy)
The Painted BirdVáclav Marhoul (Czech Republic/Ukraine/Slovakia)
Il sindaco del Rione SanitàMario Martone (Italy)
BabyteethShannon Murphy (Australia)
JokerTodd Phillips (US)
An Officer and a SpyRoman Polanski (France/Italy)
The LaundromatSteven Soderbergh (US)
No. 7 Cherry Lane (Ji yuan tai qi hao)Yonfan (Hong Kong)

By: Cineuropa.org