From Charlie Kaufman’s first animation to a restored Pasolini classic, these are the must-watch flicks at this year’s Venice Film Festival
The Venice Film Festival kicks off this week in Italy, with the island of the Lido hosting a hotly anticipated selection the film world will be eyeing for awards season contenders. Jake Gyllenhaal has donned climbing boots for Baltasar Kormakur’s 3D disaster pic Everest, which opens the fest. King of 80s stylised excess Brian de Palma, who gave the world Scarface (1983) and Dressed to Kill (1980), will be honoured with a tribute. That’s the need-to-know, but here’s what is getting us hot under the collar.
A BIGGER SPLASH
When Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) wrapped, Dakota Johnson launched into shooting another erotic drama – A Bigger Splash from I Am Love (2009) director Luca Guadagnino. Heavy on jealousy and intrigue, it’s a remake of 60s French film La Piscine (1969). Tilda Swinton plays a rock star whose high-profile marriage hits messville when Johnson crashes the couple’s holiday on a remote island in Italy.
In a future society, peaceful stability has come at a high price: the genetic deactivation of all its citizens’ deep emotions. The first shots out from sci-fi Equals from Drake Doremus – who also directed Sundance-winner Like Crazy (2011) – show a stylised world of clean lines and austere whites. But control isn’t total. When disease strikes illustrator Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and his writer co-worker Nia (Kristen Stewart) they find themselves falling in love – and at risk of being outcast.
THE DANISH GIRL
Danish transgender woman Lili Elbe had sex reassignment surgery in 1930 – one of the first in the world to undergo it. She was married to fellow Copenhagen illustrator Gerda Wegener, and had started to wear women’s clothing after filling in for one of her models. Tom Hooper’s biodrama The Danish Girl is adapted from the book by David Ebershoff. After much casting speculation, Eddie Redmayne goes auburn as Lili and Alicia Vikander plays Gerda.
BLOOD OF MY BLOOD
An anarchist who made radical films in the 60s, Italian director Marco Bellocchio avoided burning out young like his friend Pasolini. His latest Blood of My Blood is an eerie, elegantly gloomy vampire drama spanning centuries. Alba Rohrwacher stars as a young nun who, endeavouring to seduce a priest and his twin army officer brother, is condemned to be walled up alive in an ancient prison.
Charlie Kaufman is back with his first film in seven years – and his first animation. The brilliantly loopy mind of the screen-writer and sometime director, which came up with such headfucks as Being John Malkovich (1999), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Synecdoche, New York (2008), has now crafted a stop-motion puppetry tale about a motivational speaker whose self is depleted the more he transforms others, until the voice of a girl one day sparks a revitalisation.
Arthouse maestro Alexander Sokurov’s 2002 film Russian Ark in which a ghost drifts through centuries of Russian history was a technical feat, shot in a single take in St Petersburg’s Winter Palace. His latest hugely ambitious project Francofonia was shot in another of the world’s most revered museums, the Louvre in Paris. A reflection on the relation between art and power that spans centuries, it opens in occupied France when Nazi leaders had their eyes on the gallery’s collection and sent an officer to case out the treasures.
THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER
Brady Corbet, who has starred in some of the most memorable indies of recent years from Mysterious Skin (2004) to Simon Killer (2012), makes his directing debut with the loose adaptation of a short story by French existentialist thinker Jean-Paul Sartre. Set at the start of the last century, it depicts what happens in the childhood of a future fascist leader that causes his ego to inflate. Robert Pattinson and Nymphomaniac’s Stacy Martin star.
Mexico’s leading living director Arturo Ripstein broke into movies assisting avant-garde master Luis Buñuel, and has since made many films of surreal melodrama about luckless characters subsisting in life’s seamy underbelly. Based on a true crime mystery, his latest Bleak Street sees two ageing, beleaguered prostitutes set for a night out celebrating victory in the ring by two midget wrestlers – then accused of poisoning them, after the men wind up dead in a hotel.
IN JACKSON HEIGHTS
Jackson Heights in the NYC borough of Queens is one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in the US. This new film from doc-making legend Frederick Wiseman was shot over eight weeks last summer, and is a snapshot of the lives of some of the many immigrants – some with green cards, some undocumented – who have made the area their home. It explores the tension between the ties of tradition from countries of origin and the demands of assimilation.
SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM
A lot of films are made to shock, but few have pulled off their scandalous intent like Pasolini’s Salo. Intensely controversial on its 1975 release, it’s lost none of its stomach-churning force. Based on a book by the Marquis de Sade – the aristocrat whose name the term ‘sadism’ derives from – it’s a vision of the total nihilism of fascism, depicted through the vile pursuits of a bunch of libertines in a palace in wartime 1944. The fast-living auteur had just finished shooting the notorious classic when he was murdered. The festival will world premiere a restored print.
The Venice Film Festival runs from September 2 - 12