At 90, the Venice Film Festival looks more beautiful than ever

Cinema’s biggest stars seem to shine a little brighter at the Venice International Film Festival, which kicks off this week in the northern Italian city.

Cinema’s biggest stars seem to shine a little brighter at the Venice International Film Festival, which kicks off this week in the northern Italian city.

Think Lady Gaga, a woman who never shied away from a grand entrance, even outdoing herself delicately perched on the edge of a moving water taxi and vamping for the cameras like a classic screen siren. Or Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck evoking old Hollywood glamor to make their official debut as a couple last year.

Whether you’re a celebrity gliding down the red carpet in front of hundreds of flashing cameras, or an ocean-going viewer dreaming of Timothée Chalamet’s crystal-embellished Haider Ackermann suit, or that electric moment between Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, which aren’t in a relationship, it’s the kind of occasion that fires the imagination. And that’s all before you even enter the theater.

For director and actress Olivia Wilde, the dream of Venice has been woven into the fabric of her new film, ‘Don’t Worry Darling’. Getting together at the festival became shorthand for the type of film she wanted to make.

“We had multiple studios and streamers that wanted to make this movie and I sat down with each of them and said, ‘The path I see leads us to Venice. Which one of you understands what kind of movie was doing? based on this dream?’ “Wilde said. “For me, a film from Venice is a film that really embraces everything that is ambitious, romantic and beautiful about cinema. And this film is truly a love letter to cinema.

Wilde went with New Line and Warner Bros. and his wish came true: the stylish psychological thriller starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as the perfect couple in a post-war experimental community will make its world debut out of competition on September 5.

Styles, Pugh and Wilde are just some of the stars set to pose on the docks outside the opulent Hotel Excelsior and grace the red carpet outside the Palazzo del Cinema. Their presence, alongside Catherine Deneuve, Hugh Jackman, Tilda Swinton, Penelope Cruz, Chalamet and many others, helped transform Lido, the laid-back beach town across the Venice Lagoon from St. -Marc, in a bastion of glamour. , fantasy and cinema on the Adriatic.

This year’s festival is packed with highly anticipated films and performances in the competition’s main roster: Ana de Armas makes her debut as Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde”; Brendan Fraser’s turn in Darren Aronofsky’s new film “The Whale” is already being hailed as an awards-worthy return; and Cate Blanchett plays a renowned bandleader in “TÁR,” director Todd Field’s first film in more than 15 years.

“Todd Field is as important a film artist as ever,” said Peter Kujawski, president of Focus Features. “And what Cate does with the character, without saying too much, is just something that you don’t see performed at that level very often.”

The festival, which began in 1932 and is heading into its 79th edition, officially kicks off Wednesday night with the premiere of Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s seminal novel “White Noise,” starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig.

“White Noise” is one of four high-profile Netflix movies hoping to make a splash at the festival, which is an important platform not just for the streaming service, but for all Oscar hopefuls. Baumbach’s latest Venice film, “Marriage Story,” earned six Oscar nominations and won one for Laura Dern, who also returns this year in Florian Zeller’s “The Son.” It’s the first of many fall festivals that will sharpen the awards conversation for the rest of the year.

Field, Baumbach, Aronofsky and Zeller are also among a slew of filmmakers with good Oscar records making their first stop in Venice in competition: There’s also Martin McDonagh’s friendship drama Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson “The Banshees of Inisherin”; the comedy “Bardo or false chronicle of a handful of truths” by Alejandro G. Iñárritu; and Luca Guadagnino’s cannibal romance “Bones and All,” which reunites the Italian director with Chalamet.

There are also two first narrative films by documentarians Frederick Wiseman (“Un couple”) and Alice Diop (“Saint Omer”) which are among the 23 films in the running for the Golden Lion. The coveted prize will be decided by a jury led by Julianne Moore and presented at the close of the festival on September 10.

Participant Media CEO David Linde, a 30-year veteran of the festival, wanted Venice specifically for the debut of two high-profile documentaries: ‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’ by Oscar winner Laura Poitras , about photographer Nan Goldin’s fight against the competitively-playing Sackler, and Steve James’ “A Compassionate Spy,” about nuclear physicist Ted Hall.

“The opportunity to bring people to the festival is something I cherish,” Linde said. “It’s really about three great American artists coming to Venice: Laura, Nan and Steve.”

Venice doesn’t always produce the best picture winner, though there are such as ‘Birdman’, ‘Spotlight’, ‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Nomadland’, and many more nominees. But it’s become a reliable launch pad for the eventual Best Director winner, claiming nine in the past decade alone, including Silver Lion winner Jane Campion earlier this year.

The films also go beyond Hollywood, of course, with the entire list featuring works from some 59 countries, including several Oscar contenders, such as Santiago Miter’s ‘Argentina, 1985′ and Romain Gavras’ ‘Athena’.

The festival highlights both the war in Ukraine, with a dedicated day and the premiere of Evgeny Afineevsky’s documentary on the war, as well as the plight of persecuted directors around the world, such as imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi whose film “No Bears” is among the titles of the competition.

And the slate isn’t without potential controversy either: They’ll also host the premiere of ‘Call of God,’ by the late South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, a former Venice winner who has also been accused of assault. sexual.

But after two reduced editions, it is above all excitement in the air. The Venice Film Festival is the kind of place that enchants whether you’re a newbie or an industry veteran.

Perhaps it’s the romance of northern Italy or the sense of occasion that comes with being part of the oldest film festival in the world. It could be the desire to kick things into high gear to bid farewell to the bombshell summer movie season and welcome in the more adult fare of the fall. Or maybe it’s the delicious unpredictability of a festival that one year hands out its first award to “Joker,” helping to establish Todd Phillips’ major studio comic book movie as a strong contender for the awards, and another year at “Happening”, a small French drama about Abortion.

“You come into both with a sense of purpose and excitement for whatever film you bring, but I think all of us in the community share the other aspect that you’re also going giddy as a fan. Everything you might sit and watch will be a thoughtful, meaningful, and truly wonderful cinematic experience,” Kujawski said. “It’s the magic of Venice.”

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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For more information on the Venice Film Festival, visit: www.apnews.com/VeniceFilmFestival

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press