The Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia, also known as the Venice International Film Festival, is the oldest event of its kind in the world and still one of the most important. Held every fall on the Lido, a narrow island off the coast of one of Italy's most beautiful and historic cities, it has long been a magnet for hype and glamour, art and cinephilia, Hollywood stars and international auteurs.
Some editions of the festival have been more lustrous than others, but this year's prospects look especially enticing. In its 75th year, the festival will host the world premieres of everything from "First Man," Damien Chazelle's follow-up to "La La Land," to Bradley Cooper's directorial debut, "A Star Is Born" (that star being pop-music icon Lady Gaga).
Themaincompetitionslate includes new works by "Call Me by Your Name" director Luca Guadagnino (a remake of "Suspiria" for Amazon), Alfonso Cuarón (the semi-autobiographical "Roma") and, in the biggest surprise, Joel and Ethan Coen. The brothers' latest, the western "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" — which was shot partially in Nebraska — began life as a limited anthology series but has now been reconceived as a feature film (running 132 minutes, according to the festival's website) and will receive a U.S. theatrical release later this year.
"Roma" and "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" both hail fromNetflix, as does another competition entry, "22 July," Paul Greengrass' dramatic reconstruction of the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway. In fact, marking a stark contrast with this year's Cannes film festival, Venice has welcomed six Netflix titles into its lineup with open arms.
Last year's event furthered Venice's reputation as an awards-season incubator by hosting the world premieres of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and "The Shape of Water." The latter title ended up winning the festival's top prize, the Golden Lion, en route to Oscar glory.
Among the competition entries this year, anticipation is running high for "The Favourite," an 18th century British costume drama from the gifted Greek satirist Yorgos Lanthimos ("The Lobster"), and Cuarón's family drama "Roma." (He was last in Venice with 2013's "Gravity," for which he won the directing Oscar.)
As already announced last week, Chazelle's space-race drama "First Man," starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, will officially open the festival in competition on Aug. 29. (Chazelle also kicked off the festival two years ago, with "La La Land" — and went on to win the directing Oscar.)
Other touted contenders for the Golden Lion include "The Sisters Brothers," a comicwestern starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, and "Suspiria," a grisly remake of Dario Argento's horror classic from Italian filmmaker Guadagnino.
Also competing are "Peterloo," anepic re-creation of a bloody 1819massacre from British director Mike Leigh, who won the Golden Lion in 2004 for "Vera Drake"; Olivier Assayas' "Non-Fiction," a Juliette Binoche-starring drama set in the Paris publishing world; and "Sunset," a pre-World War I drama from the Oscar-winning Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes ("Son of Saul").
One of the festival's most hotly anticipated titles isn't even playing in the competition: Cooper's "A Star Is Born," the latest iteration of that well-worn Hollywood touchstone, casts the firsttime filmmaker opposite six-time Grammy winner and one-time Oscar nominee Lady Gaga. Also playing out of competition: the Mel Gibson-Vince Vaughn cop thriller "Dragged Across Concrete," from the rising grindhouse auteur S. Craig Zahler, whose "Brawl in Cell Block 99" memorably enlivened Venice last year.
By giving Netflix perhaps its most robust, high-profile festival showing, Venice is sending a hard-to-miss statement: Unlike the younger but more hidebound Cannes, this festival will gladly break with tradition and embrace a new cinematic reality of less rigidly defined distribution methods. But if Venice is stealing a bit more of Cannes' thunder than usual, it also stands to reap some of the same scrutiny — and criticism — that Cannes has weathered over the years.
Only one of this year's 19 competition titles is directed by a woman: "The Nightingale," a revenge thriller from Australian director Jennifer Kent, who scored a major critical success years ago with "The Babadook." Female filmmakers are better represented outside the competition, includingMary Harron, who will bring her Charles Manson drama "Charlie Says," and the Italian French filmmaker Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who will premiere her family drama "The Summer House." Latin American cinema will have a decent competition showing with "Roma"; "Nuestro Tiempo," from Mexico's Carlos Reygadas; and "Acusada," from Argentina's Gonzalo Tobal, though only one competition title, Shin'ya Tsukamoto's samurai thriller "Zan (Killing)," is directed by an Asian filmmaker.
Outside the competition, however, the festival will feature new Asian-directed titles such as "Shadow," from China's Zhang Yimou; "Your Face," a nonfiction work from Taiwan's Tsai Ming-liang; and "Graves Without a Name," a documentary portrait of life under the Khmer Rouge from Cambodia's Rithy Panh ("The Missing Picture").