Must-See Movies at Venice Film Festival 2023

05:25 29.08.2023

The 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival is facing significant challenges this year as continuing strikes by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America have left the festival without the star power it is known for. The actors' union has instructed its members not to do press for any studio movies until the strike against those companies is resolved, leaving Venice in a bind as it is regarded as one of the best places for Hollywood to unveil star-studded awards-season titles. As a result, few major actors will be permitted to attend this year's festival.

The strike has already affected the festival's lineup, with Luca Guadagnino's sexy tennis romance, "Challengers," being delayed to the spring due to MGM's hopes that lead actress Zendaya will be allowed to promote it once the strikes are resolved. In its place, a low-profile Italian film will be opening the festival. Additionally, several starry fall films that were originally earmarked for Venice have opted for the Telluride Film Festival instead, which is less driven by photo ops and news conferences.

However, despite these limitations, Venice still boasts an enticing lineup. The festival has a strong focus on auteur directors, with films featuring directors nearly as famous as their leads. The program includes two films about assassins-for-hire, David Fincher's The Killer starring Michael Fassbender, and Richard Linklater's Hit Man featuring Glen Powell. Yorgos Lanthimos's off-kilter comedy Poor Things starring Emma Stone as a sexually curious Frankenstein's monster and Bradley Cooper's second directorial effort, "Maestro," in which he plays the composer Leonard Bernstein opposite Carey Mulligan as Bernstein's wife, Felicia, are also highlights.

Sofia Coppola brings her unique perspective to the story of Elvis Presley's wife with "Priscilla," featuring Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley and Jacob Elordi as the singer. Ava DuVernay tackles racism and systemic oppression in her adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson's book Caste with the film "Origin," starring Aunjanue Ellis. Michael Mann's Ferrari has secured a guild exemption, allowing the cast to promote it in Venice, while Wes Anderson presents a shorter project, "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar," a 37-minute Roald Dahl adaptation for Netflix.

The festival also includes directors taking risks and pushing boundaries. Harmony Korine returns to Venice with "Aggro Dr1ft," a mysterious film shot solely using infrared photography and starring rapper Travis Scott. Pablo Larra?­n, known for films like Jackie and "Spencer," ventures into the supernatural with "El Conde," a black-and-white fable reimagining Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a vampire. Venice itself is also taking chances by premiering films from controversial directors such as Luc Besson, Roman Polanski, and Woody Allen.

In addition to the challenges faced by the festival, Venice will also serve as an elegy for the late director William Friedkin, whose final film "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial," adapted from Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, will premiere posthumously. The film stars Jake Lacy and Kiefer Sutherland.

While the strikes have undoubtedly affected the star power and promotional opportunities at the Venice Film Festival this year, the lineup still promises a diverse and compelling selection of films from renowned directors. Despite the absence of major celebrities, Venice has shown its ability to adapt and still deliver captivating cinema, as demonstrated by its successful smaller edition amidst the pandemic in 2020, which premiered the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner, "Nomadland.".

/ Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 5:25 AM /

themes:  Hollywood

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