WIN­DOW TO THE OS­CARS

Venice fi lm fes­ti­val kickstarts jousting over Acad­emy Awards

Global Times - - Life -

The 74th Venice fi lm fes­ti­val gets un­der­way Wed­nes­day with Alexan­der Payne’s sci- fi satire Down­siz­ing in the high- profi le open­ing slot that is in­creas­ingly cov­eted as a launch­pad for the Os­cars.

Star­ring Matt Da­mon and Kris­ten Wiig, Side­ways di­rec­tor Payne’s lat­est quirky cre­ation is a tale of a lower mid­dle class cou­ple in the US mid­west.

But the down­siz­ing of the ti­tle is not a ref­er­ence to job losses or sell­ing off the fam­ily house. In­stead the pair are con­sid­er­ing sign­ing up for rad­i­cal new surgery that would al­low them to be shrunk to tiny ver­sions of them­selves, on the prom­ise of a bet­ter life.

Writ­ten by Payne, a twotime Os­car win­ner for his screen­plays, and Jim Tay­lor, the fi lm will be seek­ing to em­u­late the suc­cess of La La Land, Bird­man and Grav­ity, all Venice open­ers in re­cent years which went on to bag a bunch of Acad­emy Awards and other prizes.

Whether it does is likely to de­pend on how crit­ics re­act to the fi lm’s in­trigu­ing plot, which Va­ri­ety de­scribed as “Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a deeper so­cial mes­sage.”

Also be­ing un­veiled on the open­ing day is Nico, a bio- pic fo­cus­ing on the fi nal years of the Vel­vet Un­der­ground singer and Andy Warhol muse which is be­ing shown in the fes­ti­val’s “Hori­zons” sec­tion ded­i­cated to cut­ting- edge pro­duc­tions.

Di­rected by Su­sanna Nic­chiarelli, with Dan­ish ac­tress Trine Dry­holm in the lead role, the story catches up with one of 1970s New York’s iconic fi gures in 1987 and 1988, the last two years of her life.

It fi nds her bat­tling a heroin habit but also fi nd­ing fulfi lment through her mu­sic and her re­la­tion­ship with her son.

Red­ford and Fonda

Down­siz­ing is one of 21 fi lms com­pet­ing for Venice’s top prize, the Golden Lion, which will be handed out on Septem­ber 9, along with a string of other awards in­clud­ing the fi rst for fi lms in a new com­pe­ti­tion for vir­tual re­al­ity pro­duc­tions.

As usual the in­ter­na­tional fi lm line- up at Venice ranges from big- bud­get Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tions, like Ge­orge Clooney’s sixth di­rec­to­rial out­ing Subur­bicon, to new works by in­die fa­vorites An­drew Haigh and War­wick Thorn­ton, via doc­u­men­taries such as Chi­nese artist Ai Wei­wei’s epic look at the global refugee cri­sis Hu­man Flow.

Bri­tish di­rec­tor Haigh will be pre­sent­ing Lean on Pete, his fi rst fi lm since the ac­claimed 45 Years, while Thorn­ton ar­rives in Venice next week to pro­mote Sweet Coun­try, a West­ern set in 1920s Aus­tralia that deals with the treat­ment of the coun­try’s in­dige­nous peo­ples.

In to­tal, 71 new full- length fi lms will be shown over the next 10 days, along with 16 short fi lms and two TV se­ries.

Along with Clooney, the ma­jor stars due on the red car­pet in­clude Robert Red­ford and Jane Fonda, here to pick up life­time achieve­ment awards while plug­ging their new fi lm Our Souls at Night, a Netfl ix drama about an un­con­ven­tional ro­mance be­tween two elderly neigh­bors.

The theme of love af­ter a cer­tain age is also ad­dressed in Leisure Seeker, in which He­len Mir­ren and Donald Suther­land star as an in­de­pen­dent, free- spir­ited cou­ple com­ing to terms with Alzheimer’s.

Blood­ied heart

Span­ish su­per­star duo Javier Bar­dem and Pene­lope Cruz team up again for a new drama about Pablo Es­co­bar, Lov­ing Pablo, in which Bar­dem plays the Colom­bian drug baron and Cruz his longterm mis­tress.

Bar­dem is also to be seen play­ing op­po­site Jen­nifer Lawrence in mother!, a new fi lm by Black Swan di­rec­tor Dar­ren Aronof­sky, that is one of sev­eral thrillers vy­ing for hon­ours.

Pro­moted by a Mother’s Day- re­lease of a poster show­ing Lawrence hold­ing her own blood­ied heart, the fi lm tells the tale of a cou­ple thrown into tur­moil by un­in­vited guests.

An­other spine- chiller fea­tures Ethan Hawke in Paul Schrader’s First Re­formed, which turns around a dark se­cret har­bored by mem­bers of a church who are tor­mented by the deaths of loved ones.

Also ex­pected to make waves, with an out- of- com­pe­ti­tion world pre­miere, is Vic­to­ria & Ab­dul, Stephen Frears’ treat­ment of the true story of the elderly Queen Vic­to­ria’s later- life friend­ship with an In­dian clerk.

Bri­tish di­rec­tor Frears is to be hon­ored on Sun­day for his in­no­va­tive con­tri­bu­tion to cin­ema, ahead of the screen­ing of his new work, in which Judi Dench stars as Vic­to­ria, op­po­site Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Ali Fazal.

Photo: IC

Peo­ple bi­cy­cle past the venue for the 74th Venice fi lm fes­ti­val.

Photo: IC

Staff mak­ing fi nal prepa­ra­tions at the Lido event site ahead of the an­nual Venice fi lm fes­ti­val.

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