Venice Film Festival 2016: Films to look out for
After a disastrous summer it’s festival season, which couldn’t be more welcome. The Venice Film Festival is the world’s oldest and one of the most prestigious; it’s a major launching pad for both the latest from European auteurs and some of the first heavyweight awards contenders. During the past editions, Venice regularly delivered the Academy Award winners for best picture and best direction.
Major movies provide some exciting diversity this year: everything from Mel Gibson’s Second World War drama Hacksaw Ridge to the Natalie Portman-starring Jackie Kennedy biopic look set to shape the face of the long but enticing road to the Oscars.
Here are a few films to look out for:
La La Land
Taking the coveted opening night slot, Damien Chazelle’s follow up to Whiplash already seems destined for awards glory, not least because it ploughs the same vein of nostalgia that made The Artist so popular. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star (and sing) in a swooning throwback to the Golden Age Hollywood musical.
Having revitalised a genre with the hard-hitting Sicario, Denis Villeneuve is back with Arrival, an alien thriller shaped like a militarised version of Close Encounters. Its credible cast may well endear the film to the kind of audiences usually averse to all things science-fiction.
The Light Between Oceans
This eagerly anticipated project from Derek Cianfrance looks typically novelistic in scope, with potentially award-winning performances from Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as a couple who raise a baby they find in an adrift rowboat. Expect multi-generational drama and crying. Lots of crying.
Tom Ford brings us an intriguingly noirish thriller, set in both the LA art scene and the Texan criminal underworld. With a healthy cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, it might even have more depth than his pretty Colin Firth drama A Single Man.
The Bad Batch
“A dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.” That is the premise for Ana Lily Amirpour’s second feature, following the hugely promising A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It stars Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey. It will clearly be the best film ever made.
Voyage of Time
Few directors are quite as divisive as Terrence Malick, but this long-gestating documentary looks like it will play to his strengths. Bar a Cate Blanchett voiceover, there’ll be little in the way of narrative to distract from a series of genuinely awesome visuals. Essentially the world’s best episode of Natural Geographic with philosophical questions worthy of Bertrand Russell.
On the other end of the spectrum is the debut feature from Alice Lowe, best known for her presence in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers. Written, directed by and starring Lowe as a homicidal mother-to-be, it promises to depict pregnancy as a “vivid, almost sci-fi experience.” Exciting.
Jesus VR – The Story of Christ
Possibly the weirdest film of the festival, this simulation of the life of Jesus Christ is an indication of Venice’s willingness to accommodate new technologies into their programme. Taking spectators on a journey from the nativity to the crucifixion, it will be interesting to see what critics make of the controversial viewing format.