For the 79th Venice Film Festival, artistic director Alberto Barbera has put together one of the most well-curated lineups of his career. Both studios and streamers are well represented.
Netflix scored an opening-night coup with Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, with buzz promising that it’ll wow the Lido, alongside Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe biopic, Blonde, with Ana de Armas; Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Mexican epic Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths; and Romain Gavras’ French action thriller Athena.
Studio fare is well represented by Warner Bros.’ Don’t Worry Darling from director Olivia Wilde; Focus has Todd Field’s Tár with Cate Blanchett and Mark Strong; MGM will debut Luca Guadagnino’s Timothée Chalamet-Taylor Russell starrer Bones and All; Searchlight presents The Banshees of Inisherin from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri director Martin McDonagh; and Sony Pictures Classics will be repped by Florian Zeller’s The Son follow-up, The Father, and Oliver Hermanus’ 1950s period drama Living, starring Bill Nighy.
But while all those titles may be spoken for, Venice’s unofficial market will offer a handful of films, both art house and genre titles, that are still up for grabs, with enough hooks and star power to pull in international and domestic buyers.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
DIRECTOR Laura Poitras
THE BUZZ The Oscar-winning doc director (Citizenfour) turns her lens on photographer Nan Goldin, whose artist-led campaign against the Sackler family pharmaceutical dynasty helped expose America’s opioid crisis and revealed how the family profited off the addictions and deaths of half a million Americans. Poitras’ name — and the subject matter — should have bespoke buyers scrambling to get a look at the film.
STARS Walton Goggins, Zooey Deschanel, Casey Affleck
DIRECTOR Bill Pohlad
THE BUZZ True stories and music documentaries are hot sellers at the moment, making a strong case for this feature, Pohlad’s follow-up to the sleeper hit Love & Mercy, a pop music biopic on Brian Wilson. This time, Pohlad takes on a lesser-known musical tale: the story of brothers Donnie and Joe Emerson (Goggins and Affleck), who threw their entire savings into the production of the groundbreaking 1979 debut Dreamin’ Wild, an album that was rediscovered during the late 2000s.
SALES CAA Media Finance
STARS Fumino Kimura, Kento Nagayama, Atom Sunada
DIRECTOR Kōji Fukada
THE BUZZ This Japanese melodrama marks Fukada’s first entry into Venice’s main competition (he won Un Certain Regard’s jury prize at Cannes with his 2016 feature Harmonium). Inspired by J-pop star Akiko Yano’s 1991 ballad “Love Life,” the film explores the romantic journey of a young married couple in the wake of a family tragedy. The film’s deft handling of its multilayered material should attract buyers hoping to repeat the success of 2021 sensation Drive My Car.
SALES MK2 Films
STARS Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sakura Ando, Masataka Kubota
DIRECTOR Kei Ishikawa
THE BUZZ Based on the novel by Japanese author Keiichiro Hirano, A Man follows a troubled lawyer (Tsumabuki) who is drawn into a web of mystery when a former client asks him to investigate the shady past of her deceased husband. The film reunites Ishikawa with Tsumabuki, star of his well-received Venice Orizzonti entry Traces of Sin (2016), while also featuring a soulful Ando, star of Hirokazu Koreeda’s Palme d’Or winner, Shoplifters.
SALES The Match Factory, Shochiku (for Asia)
DIRECTOR Niccolò Falsetti
THE BUZZ A low-key title that could win over art house buyers willing to take a bet on a debut director, this comedy-tinged, partly autobiographical story is set in the sleepy Tuscan city of Grosseto and tells the story of a passionate trio of Italian punk rockers who are forced to battle their provincial surroundings in their quest to organize a gig for one of their favorite American bands.
STARS Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver
DIRECTOR Paul Schrader
THE BUZZ Just one year after his slow-burn stunner The Card Counter, Schrader is back in Venice with his 22nd directorial feature, Master Gardener, starring Edgerton, Weaver and Quintessa Swindell (In Treatment). Conforming to Schrader’s self-pioneered “man in a room” genre (think Taxi Driver, Light Sleeper or The Card Counter), the film follows Edgerton as Narvel Roth, the meticulous horticulturist of Gracewood Gardens, a historic estate owned by wealthy dowager Mrs. Haverhill (Weaver). When Mrs. Haverhill demands that Roth take on her wayward great-niece Maya as a new apprentice, chaos enters his spartan existence, unlocking dark secrets from a buried violent past. Venice is also bestowing Schrader with a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement this year.
STARS Trace Lysette, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Browning
DIRECTOR Andrea Pallaoro
THE BUZZ After scooping Venice’s best actress honor for Charlotte Rampling with Hannah in 2017, California-based Italian director Pallaoro returns to the Lido with this family drama starring Lysette as a trans woman who returns home to care for her estranged dying mother (Clarkson). This slow-burning drama could be a solid play for upscale art house audiences worldwide.
SALES The Exchange, UTA Independent Film Group
DIRECTOR Jafar Panahi
STARS Jafar Panahi, Mina Kavani
THE BUZZ The latest drama from Iranian master Panahi (Taxi, Offside, The Circle), which was shot in secret to circumvent Tehran’s ban on the dissident director’s work, No Bears tells two parallel love stories of partners thwarted by hidden obstacles. The film is certain to find a home among discerning distributors worldwide.
SALES Celluloid Dreams
DIRECTOR Oliver Stone
THE BUZZ Stone may have hit pause on his narrative-feature career, but the always provocative filmmaker continues to churn out docs that still find an audience among specialty buyers. His latest is an impassioned argument in favor of nuclear energy as the solution to the climate crisis. Streamers, as well as doc distributors, could warm to it.
SALES The Gersh Agency
STARS Kayije Kagame, Guslagie Malanga
DIRECTOR Alice Diop
THE BUZZ The feature debut of acclaimed documentarian Diop, whose nonfiction We won the Encounters award at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival, is a courtroom drama about a young novelist forced to confront her personal traumas while following the trial of a young mother accused of infanticide. It could fit nicely into the schedules of art house distributors.
SALES Wild Bunch International
This story first appeared in the Aug. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.