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Dec. 2, 2023

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Venice Film Festival unveils A-list lineup with ‘Priscilla,’ ‘Ferrari,’ ‘Maestro’ amid strikes

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This image released by Netflix shows Michael Fassbender in a scene from "The Killer." (Netflix via AP)
This image released by Netflix shows Michael Fassbender in a scene from "The Killer." (Netflix via AP) Photo Gallery

Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein drama “Maestro,” Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla Presley movie, Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” David Fincher’s “The Killer” and Ava DuVernay’s “Origin” will make their world debuts at the Venice International Film Festival this fall.

Organizers announced the lineup Tuesday for the 80th edition of the festival, which — despite the flashy names behind the films — could have a little less Hollywood glamour than usual gracing its picturesque docks and red carpet come September if the Hollywood actors and writers strikes stretch on. As part of the strike, actors cannot promote projects from the studios and streamers with whom the union is negotiating.

The prestigious film festival already lost one high-profile premiere to the labor disputes in the U.S. in Luca Guadagnino’s tennis drama “Challengers, “ starring Zendaya, which had been set to play in the opening night slot but has now been pushed to 2024. But Alberto Barbera, the director of the Venice Film Festival, said Tuesday that the strikes’ effects on the festival lineup had otherwise been minimal.

“Priscilla,” an A24 film based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir “Elvis and Me,” stars Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi and was widely expected to be in the festival. Coppola also launched “Somewhere” in Venice in 2010. “Priscilla” will be competing for the Golden Lion alongside “Ferrari,” the buzzy racing drama starring Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, and Penélope Cruz as his wife Laura, based on Brock Yates’ biography.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ highly anticipated “Poor Things,” with Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo, will also have its bow on the Lido. Lanthimos previously launched “The Favorite” at Venice in 2019; it would go on to score 10 Oscar nominations and win one.

DuVernay’s film, “Origin,” meanwhile, is based on the book “Caste” and the life of its author, Pulitzer winner Isabel Wilkerson. The movie stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor.

Netflix will once again have a big presence at the festival with “Maestro,” directed by and starring Cooper as the legendary composer, opposite Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre, and Fincher’s “The Killer,” with Michael Fassbender playing an assassin. The streamer is also bringing Pablo Larraín’s “El Conde,” a dark comedy in which Augusto Pinochet is a vampire, as part of the competition titles.

Another buzzy competition title is Michel Franco’s “Memory,” with Jessica Chastain and Peter Skarsgaard.

Venice has never been a festival to shy away from controversial directors and has programmed new films from both Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.

Polanski is back for the first time since 2019 with “The Palace,” about a New Year’s Eve in 1999 in a Swiss hotel, with John Cleese and Mickey Rourke. Allen is debuting his first French movie, “Coup de Chance.” Luc Besson, who was recently cleared of charges in a rape case, will also be on the Lido with “Dogman,” starring Caleb Landry Jones.

The jury presiding over the main competition this year is full of high-profile directors, including Damien Chazelle, Jane Campion, Martin McDonagh and last year’s Golden Lion winner Laura Poitras.

In addition to the Polanski and Allen films, also playing out of competition are Wes Anderson’s Roald Dahl-inspired “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” with Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel and Ralph Fiennes; Harmony Korine’s “Aggro Dr1ft”; Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man”; Frederick Wiseman’s “Menus Plaisirs – Les Troisgros”; and William Friedkin’s “The Caine Mutiny Court-Marshall.”

Venice is a top launching ground for awards hopefuls and has, in recent years, debuted Oscar-nominated films like “The Whale,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Tár,” “The Power of the Dog,” “A Star is Born” and “La La Land.” It’s also the first major stop of the busy fall film festival season, with Toronto, Telluride and the New York Film Festivals close behind.

Like the Cannes Film Festival, celebrity is a huge part of the Venice iconography: Think of Lady Gaga perched on the side of a water taxi in her black Jonathan Simkhai bustier dress, or Timothée Chalamet vamping in that backless red halter top by Haider Ackermann. Last year there were also viral moments aplenty thanks to the cast of “Don’t Worry Darling” and the alleged “spit-gate,” in which internet spectators wondered if Harry Styles had spit on his co-star Chris Pine at the film’s premiere.

It remains unclear whether any Hollywood talent will be able to make the journey this year. Barbera said at this point that some actors and actresses will not be able to attend but, without getting specific, said that talent from independent fare will be able to grace the red carpets and press conferences.

The Venice Film Festival runs from Aug. 30 through Sept. 9.

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