As the Venice Film Festival was approaching its 80th birthday, a lot of naysayers were swept ashore at the Lido predicting that it would not get the feast it deserves. Festival director Alberto Barbera proved them wrong in every department. Venice will be bigger and better than ever, with a fair proportion of female directors, first time filmmakers, festival veterans and risky subjects from all the continents, representing 54 countries.
SAG President Fran Drescher will not be present. But major directors and independent actors and actresses will flock to the most romantic city in the world bringing the joy of cinema for 10 days. Hungary, for one, will be prominently featured in all the main categories from College Movies (Dorka Vermes’s Arni) to Orrizonti Competition (Gabor Reisz’s Explanation of Everything) to Main Competition (Ildiko Kemeny, producer/director Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things).
Barbera and his team carefully picked the movies before the actors/writers’ strike descended on Hollywood, betting on the directors’ strength to stick to their promise to bring their films to the festival even if their stars will not be able to attend. Sure, he also had some luck. Luc Besson got ready with Dogman, Woody Allen offered Coup de Chance, Polanski pitched in with Palace, and Wes Anderson was putting the final touch on The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Calling in loyalty to this festival, a rare commodity in this industry, also helped Barbera when Venice veterans Sofia Coppola added Priscilla and Yorgos Lanthimos promised to unspool his Poor Things on the Lido. The icing on the cake came from the Italian producing couple Monica Baccardi and Andrea Iervolino steeled with producer John Lesher rolling in Michael Mann’s Ferrari to complete the cast of players that also includes Michel Franco (Memory), Richard Linklater (Hit Man) and Harmony Gold (Aggro Dr1ft).
The biggest birthday gifts came from Netflix. The streamer was denied access in Cannes, and in the bag of goodies prepared for Venice you find David Fincher’s The Killer, Ava DuVernay’s Origin and Bradley Cooper’s Maestro.
None of the above went back on his or her word to Venice after the SAG-AFTRA strike hit Hollywood. And Maestro may even see the British leading lady Carey Mulligan walk the red carpet… while the media will find it fascinating to hear director Bradley Cooper talk and actor/writer Bradley Cooper stay mum on his commitment to Leonard Bernstein at the press conference.
For the full list of Venice premieres go to: https://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/2023/lineup