Despite the ongoing SAG-AFTRA actors and WGA writers strike, the Venice Film Festival unveiled a star-studded and A-list heavy lineup on Tuesday of films that will premiere at the 2023 Biennale, including the movies competing for this year’s Golden Lion.
With the strike preventing top U.S. talent from doing promotional work, there were concerns this year’s Venice lineup could look substantially different than it would have just two weeks ago. But those fears did not pan out, with Venice festival director Alberto Barbera presenting a program that included some of the most hotly-anticipated features of the year, including new movies from Bradley Cooper, Sofia Coppola, Yorgos Lanthimos, Michael Mann and Ava DuVernay.
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Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, a ménage à trois tennis drama starring Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist, was set to open the 2023 Venice Festival in an out-of-competition slot but was pulled last week, after MGM announced it was pushing the release of the R-rated tennis drama to April 26, 2024. Instead, Comandante, an Italian period drama from director Edoardo De Angelis starring Pierfrancesco Favino (The Traitor) will open the fest on August 30. Society of the Snow, J.A. Bayona’s survival thriller, produced for Netflix, will close the 2023 Venice Film Festival on September 9.
Barbera said the program for the 80th festival had already been finalized ahead of the strike, but that the impact of the labor action on the final lineup “has been quite modest” with only Challengers pulling out.
“The other American movies we had invited and have been confirmed and will be present,” he said. He noted that the SAG-AFTRA strikes will mean some “actors and actresses” will not attend but that talent from independent films will be able to come, meaning that the red carpet “will not be empty.”
The competition lineup certainly looks impressive. Maestro, Bradley Cooper’s second directorial effort, after the blockbuster success of A Star is Born — which premiered in Venice in 2018 — will grace the Lido this year, though if the SAG-AFTRA strike is still ongoing, it’s unclear whether Cooper, who also stars as legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, alongside Carey Mulligan as Bernstein’s wife Felicia Montealegre, will be able to attend. Another Netflix feature, David Fincher’s The Killer, will get a Venice competition slot. The thriller stars Michael Fassbender, Arliss Howard and Tilda Swinton.
Ava DuVernay will become the first African American woman to compete on the Lido with her new feature, Origin, another Netflix title, which follows the true-life journey of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson in her quest to find the origins of injustice. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Connie Nielsen and Jon Bernthal are among the film’s all-star cast. A fourth Netflix film, El Conde from Chilean director Pablo Larraín (Spencer, Jackie), also scored a competition slot. The genre-tinged title imagines Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has survived as a vampire but, after 250 years living on evil he has decided to reform.
Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek king of disturbing surrealism, who scored his biggest crossover hit in Venice with 2018’s The Favourite, returns to the Lido with Poor Things, a steampunk, rom-com period drama starring The Favourite‘s Emma Stone as a woman brought back to life by a 19th-century scientist. The film features an ensemble cast including Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael and Margaret Qualley.
Also competing for the Golden Lion this year will be Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, a look at Priscilla Presley’s one-of-a-kind relationship with the King of Rock and Roll, based on Presley’s memoir “Elvis and Me”, will premiere in Venice. Cailee Spaeny stars as Priscilla, with Jacob Elordi as Elvis. Fremantle’s The Apartment produced the film, with A24 distributing in the U.S.. As previously announced, Ferrari, Michael Mann’s hotly-anticipated biopic, based on Brock Yates’ biography of Italian race car driver legend Enzo Ferrari, is racing towards a Venice premiere. Adam Driver plays Enzo, heading a cast that includes Shailene Woodley and Penélope Cruz.
Barbera noted that some films could get special dispensation from SAG-AFTRA to allow actors to do promotional work.
Further competition titles include Michel Franco’s Memory featuring Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard and Io Capitano, a coming-of-age adventure drama focused on the refugee crisis from Italian art house maestro Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah). The drama about two young men — played by Seydou Sarr and Moustapha Fall — who leave Dakar, Senegal in search of a better life in Europe, arrives just as Italy, and the rest of the EU, debate new laws to regulate asylum seekers, making the film particularly timely and appealing for a Venice bow. Fellow Italian, Stefano Sollima, also secured a Venice competition slot with Agadio, featuring Italian stars Favino and Toni Servillo.
Out of competition, Venice has picked Woody Allen’s Coup de Chance, the controversial director’s first French-language movie. The feature stars Gallic A-listers Lou de Laage, Valerie Lemercier, Melvil Poupaud and Niels Schneider. Metropolitan has set a Sept. 27 French release date for the film.
If hosting Allen weren’t enough to generate scandal, Venice is doubling down on online controversy by also inviting Roman Polanski to screen his new feature, The Palace in an out-of-competition slot. Venice premiered Polanski’s An Officier and A Spy in 2019 (and handed the film the runner-up Jury Prize Silver Lion), so has no problem with the sort of controversy the Polish director generates. Polanski co-wrote the feature, about a wild 1999 New Year’s Eve in a luxurious Swiss hotel, with EO filmmakers Jerzy Skolimowski and Ewa Piaskowska. The film’s international cast includes John Cleese, Luca Barbareschi, Oliver Masucci, Fanny Ardant and Mickey Rourke.
Wes Anderson, fresh off the Cannes premiere of Asteroid City, will be in Venice for the out-of-competition premiere of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, a short film inspired by a tale from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl. The film, which Barbera described as “pure Wes Anderson” co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Rupert Friend, Dev Patel and Ralph Fiennes.
In competition, Luc Besson, another director who has been dogged by scandal of late, will premiere his new, potential comeback feature, DogMan, a drama starring Caleb Landry Jones.
Finally Dawn (Finalmente l’alba), written and directed by Saverio Costanzo (My Brilliant Friend), starring Lily James, Rebecca Antonaci, Alba Rohrwacher and Willem Dafoe, will also be in Venice competition this year, as will The Promised Land, a Danish period drama starring Mads Mikkelsen from A Royal Affair director Nikolaj Arcel. Stephane Brize’s feature Hors-Saison with Alba Rohrwacher and Guillaume Canet and La Bete from Bertrand Bonello, featuring Lea Seydoux and George MacKay also made the competition cut. As did the mafia feature Enea from director Pietro Castellitto, the immigrant drama The Green Border from Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, and Evil Does Not Go Away, the new feature from Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi. Also certain to attract attention is the Polish drama Woman Of, a transgender story from Never Gonna Snow Again directors Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert.
Aggro Dr1ft from Spring Breakers helmer Harmony Korine secured an out-of-competition slot, as did Daaaaaali! from French director Quentin Dupieux, whose 2014 feature Reality screened in Venice’s Horizons section. His latest is the story of a French journalist and his relationship with iconic, Surrealist artist Salvador Dali and features an all-star French cast, including Pierre Niney, Anaïs Demoustier, Gilles Lellouche and Alain Chabat. Veteran director William Friedkin will bring The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, his first feature in 6 years, to Venice, in an out-of-competition slot. The film features Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Clarke, and Jake Lacy. And Richard Linklater’s Hit Man, an action comedy starring Glen Powell of Top Gun: Maverick as an investigator who impersonates a hit man to catch people trying to order assassinations, will have its world premiere out of competition on the Lido.
Damien Chazelle, who premiered La La Land and First Man in competition in Venice, heads up this year’s international jury, with directors Jane Campion, Martin McDonagh, and Laura Poitras also judging the main competition titles.
Venice’s Horizons sidebar will include such highlights as Behind the Mountains, a Tunisian drama from director Mohamed Ben Attia, The Red Suitcase, the debut feature from Nepalese filmmaker Fidel Devkota, and Tatami, the new film co-directed by Israel’ Guy Nattiv and Iranian actress-turned-director Zar Amir Ebrahimi (Holy Spider) which tells the true story of an Iranian Judo champion who refused to fight an Israeli competitor.
City of Wind, the feature film follow-up of last year’s Horizons short film winner Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir (Snow in September) will get its world premiere in the Horizons lineup, alongside Hesitation Wound from director Selman Nacar, Simone Massi’s Invelle, The Featherweight by director Robert Kolodny and Heartless, a Brazilian feature from directors Nara Normande and Tiao.
U.S. documentarians Bill and Turner Ross will present their feature debut, Gasoline Rainbow in Horizons. Housekeeping for Beginners from North Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolevski, En Attendant La Nuit from French director Celeine Rouzet and Shadow of Fire by Japanese director Shin’ya Tsukamoto (Killing, Kotoko) will also screen in the sidebar.
The Horizons Extra section will include the Ukrainian feature Forever Forever from director Anna Buryachkova, the drama Bota Jone from Luana Bajrami, and the Day of the Fight, the directorial debut of actor Jack Huston, a boxing drama starring Ron Perlman, Joe Pesci and John Magaro.
Liam Neeson-starrer In the Land of Saints and Sinners, an Irish-set thriller from director Robert Lorenz, Olma Schnabel’s Pet Shop Boys featuring Willem Dafoe, Jack Irv and Peter Saarsgard, and Indian feature Stolen from director Karan Tejpal, have also secured a Horizons Extra bow.
Also in the lineup are Micaela Ramazzotti’s Felicita, the drama L’Homme D’Argile from Anais Tellenne.
Out of competition, Venice will screen 10 episodes of the French TV series D’Argent et de Sang from directors Xavier Giannoli and Frederic Planchon, featuring Vincent Lindon and Niels Schneider and two episodes of Bosnian drama I Know Your Soul, co-created by Oscar-nominated director Jasmila Zbanic (Quo vadis, Aida?).
Also out of competition, Italian artist Virginia Eleuteri Serpieri will screen the experimental work Amor, the documentary Hollywoodgate, from German director Ibrahim Nash’at, which looks at the first year in Afghanistan under the new rule of the Taliban, and Ryuichi Sakamoto Opus, a look at the late, Oscar-winning composer of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and The Revenant by his son, Neo Sora. Menus Plaisirs – Les Troisgros, a look at life in a three-star Michelin restaurant from legendary documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman (City Hall, Welfare) also secured a Venice slot.
Venice had been hoping to outshine Cannes with its 80th edition, a tall order, strike or no strike, given the French fest set a high bar this year, with an official selection that included Harrison Ford blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Wes Anderson’s star-studded Asteroid City and Todd Haynes’s May December, as well as a doubling down on international auteurs, with new films from Ken Loach (The Old Oak), Wim Wenders (Perfect Days) and Hirokazu Kore-eda (Monster).
Barbera has more than held his own in recent years. His 2022 selection included several award contenders — Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale with the eventual best actor Oscar winner Brendan Fraser, Todd Field’s Tár, Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin — and plenty of splashy scandals, around the likes of Andrew Dominik’s drama Blonde, starring Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, and Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling with the infamous “spit-gate” incident between stars Chris Pine and Harry Styles.
But it will be a challenge to generate the same level of excitement with Hollywood’s A-list off the red carpet and on the picket line.
The full lineup for the 2023 Venice International Film Festival is below.
Comandante, dir: Edoardo de Angelis (opening night film)
Adagio, dir: Stefano Sollima
La Bête, dir: Bertrand Bonello
DogMan, dir: Luc Besson
El Conde, dir: Pablo Larrain
Enea, dir: Pietro Castellitto
Evil Does Not Exist, Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Ferrari, dir: Michael Mann
Finalmente L’Alba, dir: Saverio Costanzo
The Green Border, dir: Agnieszka Holland
Holly, dir: Fien Troch
Hors-Saison, dir: Stéphane Brizé
Io Capitano, dir: Matteo Garrone
The Killer, dir: David Fincher
Lubo, dir: Giorgio Diritti
Maestro, dir: Bradley Cooper
Memory, dir: Michel Franco
Origin, dir: Ava DuVernay
Poor Things, dir: Yorgos Lanthimos
Priscilla, dir: Sofia Coppola
The Promised Land, dir: Nikolaj Arcel
Die Theorie Von Allem, dir: Timm Kroger
Woman Of, dirs: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert
Out of Competition
Aggro Dr1ft, dir: Harmony Korine
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, dir: William Friedkin
Coup de Chance, dir: Woody Allen
Daaaaaal!, dir: Quentin Dupieux
Hit Man, dir: Richard Linklater
L’Ordine del Tempo, dir: Liliana Cavani
The Palace, dir: Roman Polanski
The Penitent, dir: Luca Barbareschi
Snow Leopard, dir: Pema Tseden
Vivants, dir: Alix Delaporte
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, dir: Wes Anderson (short)
Welcome to Paradise, dir: Leonardo Di Costanzo
Amor, dir: Virginia Eleuteri Serpieri
Enzo Jannacci Vengo Anch’io, dir: Giorgio Verdelli
Frente a Guernica (Version Integrale), dirs: Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi
Hollywoodgate, dir: Ibrahim Nash’at
Menus Plaisirs – Les Troisgros, dir: Frederick Wiseman
Ryuichi Sakamoto Opus, dir: Neo Sora
D’Argent et de Sang (episodes 1-12), dirs: Xavier Giannoli, Frederic Planchon
I Know Your Soul (episodes 1-2), dirs: Alen Drljevic, Nermin Hamzagic
La Parte del Leone: Una Storia della Mostra, dirs: Baptiste Etchegary, Guiseppe Bucchi
En Attendant la Nuit, dir: Céline Rouzet
Behind the Mountains, dir: Mohamed Ben Attia
A Cielo Abierto, dirs: Mariana Arriaga, Santiago Arriaga
City of Wind, dir: Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir
Dormitory, dir: Nehir Tuna
El Paraiso, dir: Enrico Maria Artale
Explanation for Everything, dir: Gabor Reisz
The Featherweight, dir: Robert Kolodny
Gasoline Rainbow, dirs: Bill Ross, Turner Ross
Heartless, dirs: Nara Normande, Tiao
Hesitation Wound, dir: Selman Nacar
Housekeeping for Beginners, dir: Goran Stolevski
Invelle, dir: Simone Massi
Paradise Is Burning, dir: Mika Gustafson The Red Suitcase, dir: Fidel Devkota Shadow of Fire, dir: Shinya Tsukamoto
Una Sterminata Domenica, dir: Alain Perroni
Tatami, dirs: Guy Nattiv, Zar Amir Ebrahimi
Bota Jone, dir: Luana Bajrami
Day of the Fight, dir: Jack Huston
Felicita, dir: Micaela Ramazzotti
Forever Forever, dir: Anna Buryachkova
L’Homme d’Argile, dir: Anais Tellenne
In the Land of Saints and Sinners, dir: Robert Lorenz
Pet Shop Boys, dir: Olmo Schnabel
Stolen, dir: Karan Tejpal
The Rescue, dir: Daniela Goggi
Un Altra Italia Era Possibile, Il Cinema Di Guiseppe De Santis, dir: Stefano Della Casa
Bill Douglas My Best Friend, dir: Jack Archer
Dario Argento Panico, dir: Simone Scafidi
Frank Capra: Mr America, dir: Matthew Wells
Ken Jacobs From Orchard Street to the Museum of Modern Art, dir: Fred Riedel
Le Film Pro-Nazi d’Hitchcock, dir: Daphne Baiwir
Landrian, dir: Ernesto Daranas Serrano
Michel Gondry Do It Yourself, dir: François Nemeta
Thank You Very Much, dir: Alex Braverman
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