Venice 2017: Our festival highlights

Celebrated American director Alexander Payne’s high concept sci-fi comedy Downsizing will open the 74th Venice International Film Festival (30 August-9 September) in a spot that has become a great launchpad for Oscars success (see Gravity, Birdman and La La Land).

Downsizing stars Matt Damon who also turns up in George Clooney’s Suburbicon, co-penned by the Coen brothers, which will hopefully wipe out any lingering memories of The Monuments Men. Darren Aronofsky has had a mixed festival history from being booed for The Fountain to winning with The Wrestler, the Requiem for a Dream director returns with Jennifer Lawrence-led horror story mother!, a film which was not expected to make it to the festival. It will go up against horror maestro Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, a Cold War-set fantasy.

In Bruges director Martin McDonagh is back with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as is Abdellatif Kechiche. Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno is the follow-up to the triumphant Blue Is the Warmest Colour – the Palme d’Or which Kechiche sold in order to complete his adaptation of Francois Begaudeau’s novel. Hirokazu Kore-eda leaves his more familiar familial territory for a crime film The Third Murder while Chinese artist Ai Weiwei takes on the refugee crisis with his Amazon-backed Human Flow. Britain is unusually present in Venice with films in (Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete) and out of competition (Stephen Frear’s Victoria & Abdul), as well as a documentary featuring Michael Caine and the opening film of the Critic’s Week sidebar – Deborah Haywood’s gothic tale of girls in the suburbs, Pin Cushion. Edgar Wright and Rebecca Hall will also take their seats on the jury, under new President of the Jury Annette Benning.

Netflix continues to make its presence felt with an original Italian made TV series Suburra and a new Errol Morris hybrid series Wormwood. Further evidence that the world’s oldest festival is looking to the future can be seen in the first Virtual Reality section to be judged by John Landis and including a number of short VR films such as Laurie Anderson’s La Camera Insabbiata and Tsai Ming-liang’s The Deserted. Out of Competition and the Horizons sidebars look rich with possibility. Many will be eagerly awaiting Brawl in Cell Block 99, S. Craig Zahler’s follow-up to Bone Tomahawk, while at the other end of the emotional range lifetime Achievement Award recipients Jane Fonda and Robert Redford will appear together once more in Our Souls at Night. Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano will conclude proceedings with the concluding chapter of his epic Outrage series, Outrage: Coda.

Human Flow, Ai Weiwei
Mother!, Darren Aronofsky
Suburbicon, George Clooney
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro
The Insult, Ziad Doueiri
La Villa, Robert Guediguian
Lean on Pete, Andrew Haigh
Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno, Abdellatif Kechiche
The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda
Jusqu’a la Garde, Xavier Legrand
Ammore e Malavita, Manetti Brothers
Foxtrot, Samuel Maoz
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh
Hannah, Andrea Pallaoro
Downsizing, Alexander Payne
Angels Wear White, Vivian Qu
Una Famiglia, Sebastiano Riso
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Sweet Country, Warwick Thornton
The Leisure Seeker, Paolo Virzi
Ex Libris – The New York Public Library, Frederick Wiseman

Out of Competition
Our Souls at Night, Ritesh Batra
Il Signor Rotpeter, Antonietta de Lillo
Victoria & Abdul, Stephen Frears
La Melodie, Rachid Hami
Outrage Coda, Kitano Takeshi
Loving Pablo, Fernando Leon de Aranoa
Zama, Lucrecia Martel
Wormwood, Errol Morris
Diva!, Franceso Patierno
Le FIdele, Michael R. Roskam
Diva!, Franceso Patierno
Il Colore Nascosto Delle Cose, Silvio Soldini
The Private Life of a Modern Woman, James Toback
Brawl in Cell Block 99, S. Craig Zahler

Out of Competition (Documentaries)
Cuba and the Cameraman, Jon Alpert
My Generation, David Batty
Piazza Vittorio, Abel Ferrara
The Devil and Father Amorth, William Friedkin
This Is Congo, Daniel McCabe
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, Stephen Nomura Schible
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. The Story of Jim Carrey, Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton, Chris Smith
Happy Winter, Giovanni Totaro

Special Events
Casa d’Altri, Gianni Amelio
Michael Jackson’s Thriller 3D, John Landis
Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983), Jerry Kramer

Disappearance, Ali Asgari
Especes Menacees, Gilles Bourdos
The Rape of Recy Taylor, Nancy Buirski
Caniba, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel
Les Bienheureux, Sofia Djama
Marvin, Anne Fontaine
Invisible, Pablo Giorgelli
Brutti e Cattivi, Cosimo Gomez
The Cousin, Tzahi Grad
The Testament, Amichai Greenberg
No Date, No Signature, Vahid Jalilvand
Los Versos del Olvido, Alireza Khatami
The Night I Swam, Damien Manivel, Igarashi Kohei
Nico, 1988, Susanna Nicchiarelli
Krieg, Rick Ostermann
West of Sunshine, Jason Raftopoulos
Gatta Cenerentola, Alessandro Rak, Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Dario Sansone
Under the Tree, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson
La Vita in Comune, Edoardo Winspeare

For our full coverage of this year’s 74th Venice Film Festival simply follow this link.

John Bleasdale | @drjonty

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