Venice 2021 Preview

September 1, 2021
The 78th edition of Biennale Cinema, taking place in the iconic Italian city of Venice, will premiere a number of highly anticipated feature films and documentaries.

As the Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday, certain stars will have multiple films to promote. After Penelope Cruz appears in the opening film Parallel Mothers, where the Spanish star reunites with director, Pedro Almodovar, she moves on to plug Official Competition alongside her buddy and fellow Almodovar regular Antonio Banderas.

Cruz’s husband, Javier Bardem, may well walk the red carpet on Friday too, for his supporting role in Dune, by far the biggest film at the festival and probably the most exciting blockbuster of the year. Though one hears that the press conference will be virtual, so, few of the stars are likely to be in attendance.

Of course, Oscar Isaac will be there as he has three projects at the festival. Besides Dune, he appears in the high profile series Scenes from a Marriage, HBO’s reworking of Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 classic, directed by Israeli series supremo Hagai Levi (The Affair, In Treatment) and co-starring Jessica Chastain. Isaac also stars in Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter.

We are, of course, eagerly anticipating the festival’s Australian competition entry, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, an AU-UK-NZ-Netflix co-production starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Australia’s Kodi Smit-McPhee. Filmed in New Zealand and set in 1920s Montana, the usually lovable Cumberbatch takes a mean turn, playing a ranch owner who launches a campaign against a young widow who marries his brother. Dunst and Plemons, who play the couple, are together in real life.

Besides The Power of the Dog, Netflix will likewise premiere Paolo Sorrentino’s highly personal story The Hand of God in competition and the streaming giant also has the Brazilian film 7 Prisoners in the Horizons sidebar.

Disney’s The Last Duel, directed by Ridley Scott, will play out of competition at the end of the festival. An adaptation of Eric Jager’s account of courtly intrigue in medieval France, the film, which was co-written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener, stars Jodie Comer alongside Damon and Affleck as well as Adam Driver.

Universal Studios has Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller Last Night in Soho starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie, as well as David Gordon Green’s Halloween Kills starring Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis will receive a career tribute, as will Italian director-writer-actor Roberto Benigni.

Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart as the Princess of Wales during her most difficult period, looks likely to be an Oscar contender as was the director’s 2016 film Jackie starring Nathalie Portman.

Cannes jury member Maggie Gyllenhaal will present her directing debut The Lost Daughter in competition. Given that Gyllenhaal’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel is being released in the US in December, it seems a likely awards contender. The family drama stars Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris and Gyllenhaal’s husband, Peter Sarsgaard.

Charlotte Gainsbourg will most likely have a family gathering too, as her partner Yvan Attal has directed her and their son, Ben Attal, in the out of competition entry Les Choses humaines. Interestingly, it follows a young man accused of rape. Gainsbourg also stars with Tim Roth in Michel Franco’s simmering, suspenseful family drama Sundown, about a man who tries to abandon his life while vacationing in Acapulco.

Also from France, is Thomas Kruithof’s Promises, which stars Isabelle Huppert as a fearless mayor in a town near Paris who is approached to become a government minister and must question her sense of commitment to her constituents. The film screens in the Horizons section.

Luca Rea’s Django & Django screens out of competition and features an extensive interview with Quentin Tarantino, who espouses the virtues of Sergio Corbucci, the second most famous Italian spaghetti western director. Corbucci has exerted a huge influence on Tarantino’s movies.

Musicians are being given a festival focus in three documentaries: Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song; Giuseppe Tornatore’s Ennio, a comprehensive portrait of two-time Oscar winner Ennio Morricone; and Becoming Led Zeppelin, which follows members of the iconic band as they move from the British music scene in the 1960s to become the number one band in the world in the 1970s.

Venice International Film Festival runs 1-11 September, 2021

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