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Venice Thoughts...
Posted on Friday July 31, 2009, 15:04 by Damon Wise

I must confess to being pleasantly surprised by the line-up of this year's Venice film festival; last year's was, quite frankly, awful. A seemingly wilfully self-sabotaging selection, it seemed as though the selectors were actually giving up the ghost and saying: “Look, this is all that's out there!” At the end of the festival – at which one of the mainstream 'highlights' was a children's film, Ponyo, to my mind Hayao Miyazaki's worst film by miles – the only relief came with a 1-2-3 courtesy of our American allies, when The Hurt Locker, Rachel Getting Married and The Wrestler emerged from the murk.

This year is a much more Empire-friendly festival than last, and I'll start with the obvious ones. There's Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!, a Richard Lester-style screwball comedy about an Insider-type whistle-blower, with an unexpectedly goofy Matt Damon in the lead. And staying with conspiracies, Grant Heslov finally unveils his George Clooney-starring adaptation of Jon Ronson's non-fiction book The Men Who Stare At Goats. For me, though, the two to look out for are a) Werner Herzog's long-awaited remake of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, starring Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes, and b) John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, with Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron. God knows if either will be any good, but I know darn well I'll be there.

Michael Moore will be stumping up Capitalism: A Love Story, which is ironic in itself, since the Lido is notorious for hiking its prices up for the duration of the festival. An interesting inclusion, too, is Jaco Van Dormael's time-spanning epic Mr Nobody, which stars Inglourious Basterds star Diane Kruger and was right royally snubbed by Cannes, apparently. In the midnight slot, Nicolas Winding Refn will be premiering his Viking adventure Valhalla Rising (pictured) and, although I can't seem to find out exactly where it's screening, it seems George Romero will be there too with his latest under-the-radar zombie flick Survival Of The Dead (*Update!* Yes, it's there). And in the wait for Toy Story 3, Pixar will also be using the festival as a platform for 3D-enhanced reissues of the previous two instalments.

The main line-up is as follows...

COMPETITION

Baaria (Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy)
*Soul Kitchen (Fatih Akin, Germany)
La Doppia Ora (Giuseppe Capotondi, Italy)
Yi ngoi (Accident) (Cheang Pou-Soi, China/Hong Kong)
Persecution (Patrice Chereau, France)
White Space (Francesca Comencini, Italy)
*White Material (Claire Denis, France)
**Mr. Nobody (Jaco van Dormael, France)
*A Single Man (Tom Ford, US)
Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, Austria)
***Bad Lieutenant: Port Of New Orleans (US, Werner Herzog)
***The Road (John Hillcoat, US)
Between Two Worlds), Vimukhti Jayasundara, Sri Lanka)
The Traveller) Ahmed Maher, Eqypt)
Lebanon (Samuel Maoz, Israel)
***Capitalism: A Love Story (Michael Moore, US)
Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat, Germany)
Il Grande Sogno (The Big Dream), Michele Placido, Italy)
36 Vues Du Pic Saint Loup (Jacques Rivette, France)
**Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz, US)
*Tetsuo The Bullet Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, Japan
Prince of Tears (Yonfan, China/Taiwan/Hong Kong)

OUT OF COMPETITION

*[Rec ] 2 (Paco Plaza,Jaume Balaguero, Spain
Chengdu, I Love You (Fruit Chan, Cui Jian,China
**The Hole (Joe Dante, US
***The Men Who Stare At Goats (Grant Heslov, US
Scheherazade, Tell Me A Story (Yousry Nasrallah, Egypt
Yona Yona Penguin (Rintaro, Japan)
***The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh, US)

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

Gulaal (Anurag Kashyap, India)
Dev D (Anurag Kashyap, India)
Brooklyn’s Finest (Antoine Fuqua, US)
Deli 6 (Mehra Rakeysh Omprakash, India)
***Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn, Denmark)
*Toy Story 3-D (John Lasseter, US)
**Toy Story 2 3-D (John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon, US)

Key:

* Ooh!

** Ooh! Ooh!

*** Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!

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