Venice Film Festival 2023: The most anticipated films, from David Fincher’s The Killer to Michael Mann’s Ferrari
As the ripples of the Sag-Aftra strike continue to disrupt Hollywood, Venice – a preferred showcase for Oscar-targeting productions – unveils the schedule for its 80th edition. The film that was originally slated to open the event, Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, was pulled at the last minute by its studio MGM/Amazon, casting doubts over the participation of American productions. However, the Biennale, the longest-running film festival globally, is more than just a “festival”: it’s an international exhibition of cinematic art, and today’s confirmation of US studios’ commitment to the event, despite the ongoing strike, is a testament to its importance.
This year’s selection promises also to be a celebration of movie legends. The Lido is set to witness the premiere of works from Frederick Wiseman (93), Roman Polanski (90), Lilliana Cavani (90), William Friedkin (88), Woody Allen (87) and Michael Mann (80).
We have delved into the programme and singled out what we believe will be the stand-out films of this year’s festival.
Coup de Chance – Woody Allen
Genius writer-director Woody Allen debuts with a French language picture, Coup de Chance, that’s already making waves. The film tells the story of Fanny and Jean, a seemingly perfect Parisian couple. However, their tranquil existence is disrupted when Fanny unexpectedly encounters Alain, a former high school friend. As the two grow closer, their relationship casts a shadow over Fanny and Jean’s life, ushering in a whirlwind of emotions.
Poor Things – Yorgos Lanthimos
A darling of the Lido, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos returns with Poor Things, boasting an ensemble cast that includes Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe. This film charts the journey of Bella (Stone), a young woman resurrected by Dr Godwin Baxter (Dafoe). She embarks on a worldly adventure with a debauched lawyer, shedding her naïveté and advocating for equality and liberation.
The Palace – Roman Polanski
A collaboration between Roman Polanski and Jerzy Skolimowski, The Palace offers a biting satire of the superficiality of high society. Set in a luxury hotel in the Swiss Alps on New Year’s Eve 1999, the film highlights the shallowness of its characters amidst a lavish celebration. With these two masters at the helm, expect a firework display of social critique and dark humour.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – Wes Anderson
While The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar may be just a short film, in the hands of Wes Anderson – known for his unorthodox narrative forms and fondness for anthology works – it’s likely to be a fully-fledged cinematic experience. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel and Ben Kingsley, bringing to the silver screen some of Roald Dahl’s lesser-known tales. The narrative unfolds across four parts, culminating in the titular story of Henry Sugar, promising a classic Andersonian visual and thematic feast.
Memory – Michel Franco
Memory from director Michel Franco, despite its tight-lipped narrative, is already a must-watch on our list. With the likes of Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard leading the cast, the film brings high expectations despite the secretive plot. Known only as a drama shot in New York City, this entry is cloaked in intrigue yet will no doubt be a movie to remember.
Ferrari – Michael Mann
Following years of anticipation, Michael Mann’s Ferrari is finally set to release. Filmed on location in Modena, the film stars Adam Driver as the iconic car racer and maker, Enzo Ferrari. It depicts the struggle to stave off bankruptcy as well as the personal hurdles, climaxing with a high-stakes gamble on the 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race. This film promises to offer a compelling glimpse into the man behind the legendary entrepreneur and the tumultuous period that defined his life and career.
The Killer – David Fincher
David Fincher’s The Killer, after a lengthy gestation period, finally comes to fruition. Based on a French graphic novel, the film features Michael Fassbender as an assassin wrestling with his conscience after a botched job. With Fincher reuniting with Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, and a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, it’s primed to deliver a thrilling blend of tension, visual splendour and moral quandaries.
Aku Wa Sonzai Shinai (Evil Does Not Exist) – Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
While gathering accolades for Drive My Car, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi was already crafting his next project. With Evil Does Not Exist, the auteur delves into a societal conflict in Japan, where plans for a glamping site by a mountain meet with strong, yet typically civil, environmental opposition from the local population. Clocking in at 106 minutes, this film reinforces Hamaguchi’s reputation for insightful narratives that dissect the intricacies of contemporary Japanese society.
Priscilla – Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla brings to life the memoir of Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me. This biographical drama traces the life and relationship of Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny) with the legendary musician Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi). With Coppola’s refined storytelling and a captivating real-life tale, Priscilla is set to enthrall audiences with a striking blend of music, romance and drama.
Hit Man – Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater brings us Hit Man, a gripping thriller set against the backdrop of Houston’s underworld. With Glen Powell and Adria Arjon leading the cast, the film explores the trials and tribulations of an undercover police officer posing as a reliable hitman. His life takes a turn when he chooses to protect a woman in distress, straying from his original mission.
The Green Border – Agnieszka Holland
Agnieszka Holland’s The Green Border is a harrowing depiction of the recent humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border. Focusing on a Syrian refugee family, an English teacher from Afghanistan and a young border guard caught in a brutal cycle of rejection, the film offers an unflinching view of the plight of refugees and the indifference of EU countries. Shot almost clandestinely due to its contentious theme, it’s a powerful exploration of a pressing global issue.
Maestro – Bradley Cooper
Maestro, a biopic detailing the life of Leonard Bernstein, with Bradley Cooper as the renowned composer and conductor, primarily examines Bernstein’s complicated relationship with Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). Produced by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Todd Phillips, this film promises a poignant exploration of their complex love and a moving tribute to New York.
Origin (also known as Caste) – Ava DuVernay
Adapting Isabel Wilkerson’s New York Times bestseller, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Ava DuVernay presents Origin. Starring Aunjanue Ellis, Niecy Nash-Betts, Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga, the film explores the social stratifications (and racial implications) in the US, likening it to a caste system. Drawing parallels with India and Nazi Germany, it delves into the deep-seated impacts of caste on society, offering a piercing examination of societal norms and prejudices.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
The 80th Venice International Film Festival will take place from 30th August to 9th September 2023. For more information visit here.