For the first time in the history of the Venice Film Festival, all films competing for the 2006 Golden Lion will have their world premiere at the festival, which opens on August 30, with a screening of Brian DePalma’s crime drama The Black Dahlia, starring Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, and Hilary Swank.
A few of the other competing entries are:
Stephen Frears‘ The Queen, from a screenplay by Peter Morgan depicting a tug-of-war between Queen Elizabeth II and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair following the death of Princess Diana. The film stars Helen Mirren as the queen, Michael Sheen as Blair, James Cromwell as Prince Philip, and veteran Sylvia Syms as the Queen Mother.
Gianni Amelio’s La stella che non c’è / The Missing Star, adapted by Amelio and Umberto Contarello from a novel by Ermanno Rea, follows an Italian engineer (Sergio Castellitto) who, out of work after his factory is bought by Chinese businessmen, sets out to China in order to fix a defective piece of machinery. Tai Ling is the Chinese interpreter who accompanies him in his journey along the Yangtze River. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Amelio wins the Golden Lion this year, considering that his loss a couple of years ago - for Le Chiavi di casa / The Keys to the House - outraged the Italian press. And considering that Amelio is one of the greatest Italian filmmakers ever, the award would most likely be justified.)
Set in the year 2027, a time when human beings - due to some sort of genetic glitch - can no longer procreate (and when non-humans everywhere are heaving a collective sigh of relief), Children of Men is the story of how one miraculously pregnant woman is taken to an isolated island so scientists can try to save the human race. Why bother? Well, that’s apparently the film’s big mystery. Alfonso Cuarón directs from a script he co-wrote with several other hands, and that is based on a novel by P.D. James. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Charlie Hunnam star.
Taken from Alan Ayckbourn’s play, Petites peurs partagées / Private Fears in Public Places revolves around the emotional travails of a group of disparate people played by Sabine Azéma, Lambert Wilson, André Dussollier, Pierre Arditi, and Laura Morante. Petites peurs partagées was directed by Alain Resnais, winner of the 1961 Golden Lion for Last Year in Marienbad. Resnais turned 84 this past June.
Joachim Lafosse’s third film, Nue propriété, tells the story of a woman who inherits a country home in Belgium. Once there, she and her two sons don’t quite know how to handle the house, or how to deal with one another. Isabelle Huppert plays the mother, while real-life brothers Yannick Renier and Jérémie Renier play her sons. The French title, Nue propriété, means the owners’ rights to do what they please with their property.
Paul Verhoeven’s Zwartboek / Black Book is the tale of a German Jewish girl who, after surviving World War II, sets out to discover who betrayed her family while they were trying to flee the Nazis. Written by Verhoeven and Gerard Soeteman, Zwartboek stars Carice van Houten, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, and Sebastian Koch.
The Venice festival will also present an homage to forgotten Russian classics, "The Secret History of Russian Cinema," which consists of 18 titles, among them Grigorij Aleksandrov’s Volga-Volga (1938) and Vesna / Spring (1947).
Also, a retrospective of Brazilian director Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s films will screen six features and eight shorts, including the utterly mystifying sociopolitical satire Macunaíma / Jungle Freaks (1969). Now, why the soccer documentary Garrincha, Alegria do Povo (literally, "Garrincha, the People’s Happiness," 1963) has been translated as Garrincha: Hero of the Jungle is as mystifying as any of de Andrade’s films.
The 63rd Venice Film Festival runs from Aug. 30 to Sep. 9.