Venice 2019: Jokers, Kings and everyone in-between

As the 76th edition of Venice commenced this week, the oldest film festival in the world has entered some choppy waters. First of all, there was a Hollywood Reporter article that slammed Venice as the “Fuck you” festival, essentially ignoring the #MeToo movement and the calls for gender representation which even Cannes has been slowly responding to.

Alberto Barbera was unrepentant of the lack of female directors in competition – only two this year – casting the blame firmly back on the film industry. The inclusion of films by Roman Polanski and Nate Parker as well as a new film starring Johnny Depp, means those accused of assaulting women outnumber the female directors. Likewise, Venice has again provoked the displeasure of distributors by embracing streaming giant Netflix, a strategy that worked last year providing the festival with some of its stand out titles such as Golden Lion winner Roma.

But enough of politics and economics for a moment. Let’s concentrate on the films themselves. Big Hollywood fare comes courtesy of Ad Astra, the hotly anticipated James Gray science fiction epic – the trailer of which features the emotional notes of Interstellar mixed with some of the gee whizz action of Gravity. Todd Phillips’ Joker has to be one of the few superhero movies to make it the Lido – not including Birdman of course. Joaquin Phoenix is more of a pull perhaps than the Hangover director, but it certainly comes with buzz attached.

David Michod’s new film The King (scripted with Joel Edgerton) stars the freshest of talent in Timothée Chalamet as Henry V and his ascension to the throne. It’ll be interesting to see how this explosive star deals with a character that has been played by Olivier and Ken Branagh. Robert Pattinson also stars and his former Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart will also be on the Lido taking the eponymous lead of Seberg, a film about the iconic star of À Bout de Souffle and civil rights activist Jean Seberg.

Big-name European directors include Olivier Assayas, whose Wasp Network features an international cast led by Penélope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez and Gael García Bernal. An espionage thriller, it sees Assayas return to Carlos territory. There are also new films from Pablo Larraín, Noah Baumbach, Steven Soderbergh and Haifaa al-Mansour. Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda will kick off proceedings with The Truth, his first non-Japanese film starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke, in a family drama about an ageing film actress and her daughter.

The Truth, Hirokazu Kore-eda
The Perfect Candidate, Haifaa Al-Mansour
About Endlessness, Roy Andersson
Wasp Network, Olivier Assayas
Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach
Guest of Honour, Atom Egoyan
Ad Astra, James Gray
A Herdade, Tiago Guedes
Gloria Mundi, Robert Guediguian
Waiting for the Barbarians, Ciro Guerra
Ema, Pablo Larrain
Saturday Fiction, Lou Ye
Martin Eden, Pietro Marcello
The Mayor of Rione Sanita, Franco Maresco
The Painted Bird, Vaclav Marhoul
Il Sindaco del Rione Sanita, Mario Martone
Babyteeth, Shannon Murphy
Joker, Todd Phillips
An Officer and a Spy, Roman Polanski
The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh
No. 7 Cherry Lane, Yonfan

Out of Competition – Fiction
The Burnt Orange Heresy, Giuseppe Capotondi
Seberg, Benedict Andrews
No One Left Behind, Guillermo Arriaga
Vivere, Francesca Archibugi
Mosul, Matthew Michael Carnahan
Adults in the Room, Costa-Gavras
The King, David Michod
Volare, Gabriele Salvatores

Out of Competition – Non-Fiction
Woman, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Anastasia Mikova
Roger Waters Us + Them, Sean Evans, Roger Waters
Citizen K, Alex Gibney
Angela’s Diaries – Two Filmmakers. Part Two., Tervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi
Citizen Rosi, Didi Gnocchi, Carolina Rosi
The Kingmaker, Lauren Greenfield
State Funeral, Sergei Loznitsa
Collective, Alexander Nanau
45 Seconds of Laughter, Tim Robbins
Il Pianeta In Mare, Andrea Segre

Out of Competition – Special Screenings
Goodbye, Dragon Inn, Tsai Ming-Liang
Electric Swan, Konstantina Kotzamani
Irreversible- Inversion Integrale, Gaspar Noe
ZeroZeroZero, Stefano Sollima
The New Pope, Paolo Sorrentino
Never Just a Dream: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut, Matt Wells
Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick

Chiara Ferragni – Unposted, Elisa Amoruso
Il Varco, Federico Ferrone, Michele Manzolini
The Scarecrows, Nouri Bouzid
Effetto Domino, Alessandro Rossetto

Horizons Competition
Pelican Blood, Katrin Gebbe (Opening Film)
Blanco en Blanco, Theo Court
Mes Jours de Gloire, Antoine de Bary
Nevia, Nunzia de Stefano
Moffie, Oliver Hermanus
Hava, Maryam, Ayesha, Sahraa Karimi
Rialto, Peter Mackie Burns
The Criminal Man, Dmitry Mamuliya
Giants Being Lonely, Grear Patterson
Revenir, Jessica Palud
Verdict, Raymund Ribay Gutierrez
Just 6.5, Saeed Roustaee
Zumiriki, Oskar Alegria
A Son, Mehdi M. Barsaoui
Shadow of Water, Sasidharan Sanal Kumar
Sole, Carlo Sironi
Madre, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Ballon, Pema Tseden
Atlantis, Valentyn Vasyanovych

The 76th Venice Film Festival takes place from 28 August-7 September.

John Bleasdale | @drjonty