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10 Films To Watch at the 69th Venice Film Festival

10 Films To Watch at the 69th Venice Film Festival

The 69th Venice Film Festival kicks off today, leading into eleven days that feature some of the most anticipated premieres of the year. Indiewire is offering up a list of 10 films to watch (or watch out for, as it’s likely the case if you’re reading this you’re not actually at the Venice Film Festival).

The festival runs through September 8th, closing down with the world premiere of Jean-Pierre Ameris’s “L’homme qui rit.” Check out our picks below:

“At Any Price”
Ramin Bahrani has been a noteworthy American filmmaker ever since his first feature, the skillful neorealist effort “Man Push Cart,” but in subsequent features he has gradually increased his ambition. His progress is unquestionably on display with this drama, which stars Zac Efron as an aspiring race car driver who locks horns with his father (Dennis Quaid), a farmer potentially involved in shady business dealings. Looking beyond the star power, the movie suggests a more thematically complex work than anything else in Bahrani’s career, and the time has certainly come for him to broaden his scope. [Eric Kohn]

“The Company You Keep”
Sundance icon Robert Redford makes a trip to the Venice Film Festival for the world premiere of his latest directorial effort, “The Company You Keep.” Screening out of competition, the film — adapated from Neil Gordon’s 2003 novels — follows a former Weather Underground radical who is flushed out 30 years after his activist youth by a young journalist that discovers his identity. Screening out of competition, the film offers an incredible ensemble cast in Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick and Richard Jenkins. Here’s hoping they can help Redford outdo underwhelming recent efforts like “The Conspirator” and “Lions for Lambs.” [Peter Knegt]

“Dormant Beauty”
French icon Isabelle Huppert has already had a great run this year with strong turns in festival favorites from Hong Sang-Soo (“In Another Country”), Brilliante Mendoza (“Captive”) and Michael Haneke (“Amour”), so it’s with great anticipation that we look forward to catching her latest vehicle, “Dormant Beauty,” which boasts her meatiest role of the four features. In the drama directed by Italian helmer Marco Bellocchio (“Vincere”), Huppert plays a famous singer (and devout Catholic) who spends her days caring in her home for her daughter who is living in a vegetative state. Inspired by the true story of a woman named Eluana Englaro who spurred the euthanasia debate in Italy in 2009 after her passing, “Dormant Beauty” uses this case as a point of departure to examine the controversy via three separate narratives.  [Nigel M. Smith]

“Gebo and the Shadow”
Some people think Manoel Oliveira is a vampire. Others say it’s just the water in Portugal that has enabled this restless 103-year-old filmmaker to continue making movies at such an advanced stage of his career. Whatever he’s doing, he shouldn’t stop; one of more endearing avant garde directors bringing work to major festivals, Oliveira’s “The Strange Case of Angelica” made a lot of top 10 lists in 2010. Now he’s back with “Gebo and the Shadow,” an adaptation of Raul Brandao’s play that follows a patriarch desperately intent on saving his fugitive son. As always with Oliveira, plot only tells you part of the story. Expect something deliciously strange and philosophical from the world’s oldest director, who has already begun prepping another movie to follow this one. Seriously! [Eric Kohn]

“Love Is All You Need”
After winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for her searing drama “In a Better World,” Danish director Susanne Bier has switched gears completely to helm “Love Is All You Need,” a romantic comedy about two families brought together for a wedding in Italy. To those familiar with Bier’s recent output — including the powerful dramas “Open Hearts” and “Brothers” — “Love Is All You Need” might come as a huge surprise, but go back to her breakthrough film, “The One and Only,” and it’s clear Bier has a knack for light-hearted fare too. Reuniting with her “In a Better World” star Trine Dyrholm, “Love Is All You Need” stars Dyrholm as grief stricken woman who heads to Sorento alone to attend her daughter’s wedding, after discovering that her husband had been cheating on her. It’s there that she forms a bond with her daughter’s soon-to-be father-in-law, Philip (Pierce Brosnan). Bier’s frequent star Paprika Sheen also makes an appearance. [Nigel M. Smith]

“The Master”
Now that it has played at a couple of secret screenings to show off its apparently spectacular 70mm cinematography, Paul Thomas Anderson’s cryptic take on Scientology has generated so much buzz it almost sounds like old news. But that’s hardly the case for the countless PTA fans eager to see the maverick director’s latest eccentric American period piece, especially now that a handful of trailers have stoked the hype by previewing dark turns from both Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman to complement a bizarre atmosphere that’s possibly more eerie than Scientology itself. [Eric Kohn]

“Passion”
Brian De Palma is back in kinky “Femme Fatale” mode with his latest, “Passion,” which pairs Rachel McAdams with Noomi Rapace for a loose remake of Alain Corneaus’s final film, “Love Crime,” which starred Kristin Scott-Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier. Judging by the film’s recently unveiled trailer, De Palma’s first film since 2007’s “Redacted” (which won De Palma two awards in Venice including the Silver Lion for Best Director) promises to be a sleazy and highly stylized affair that plays like a sordid mash-up of “Working Girl” and “Fatal Attraction,” with some creepy masks thrown into the mix to keep things exciting. The camp factor and sex quotient look much higher than in the original, singling this out as one of the sure-to-be guilty pleasure of the Fall festival season. The jury’s still out on whether the film will net him an award like his last controversial feature, but you never know. This does mark his third time with a film in the competition (the previous two being “Redacted” and “The Black Dahlia”). [Nigel M. Smith]

“Something In The Air”
Olivier Assayas returns after his epic 2010 “Carlos” (a 330-minute take on terrorist and assassin Carlos The Jackal) with “Something In The Air.”  The film — which stars Clement Metayer, Lola Créton, Dolores Chaplin and Victoria Ley — takes on the story of a teenager reacting to social and political turmoil in early 1970s France. Loosely autobiographical (Assayas was the same age — seventeen — as the lead character was in 1971), the film takes place a few years after the May 1968 events where the largest general strike to date brought the French economy to a virtual standstill. The film will screen on Monday the festival, and it would be surprising if Assayas disappoints critics after a recent track record that includes both “Carlos” and 2007’s “Summer Hours.” [Peter Knegt]

“Spring Breakers”
Thanks to Harmony Korine, none other than Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens will be walking the red carpets at Venice (making the presence Zac Efron and Shia LaBeouf relatively classy). They both star in Korine’s very curious latest film, “Spring Breakers.” Alongside none other than James Franco, the film finds Gomez and Hudgens playing teens who decide to rob a fast food restaurant in order pay for their spring break.  But they land in jail, where a drug and arms dealer (Franco) bails them out and wants them to do some dirty work. One thing’s for sure: This should be a big step away from “Trash Humpers.” [Peter Knegt]

“To The Wonder”
The most shocking thing about Terrence Malick’s “To The Wonder” and the Venice Film Festival has already taken place in the simple fact that it was ready in time. The master auteur is working unusually quickly these days after a previous average of five films in roughly forty years. He’s also working with an impressive cast that includes Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem (and perhaps also Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen and Amanda Peet, but no one knows if — like Rachel Weisz and Jessica Chastain — their scenes were cut in the end).  Affleck plays a philandering man who falls hard for a European woman (Kurylenko), but once their marriage deteriorates he reunites with a former flame (McAdams) from his hometown. Bardem’s role has been said to be that of a Priest who gives Affleck’s character advice. We’ll find out that — and whether Malick can offer the same quality of work when working so quickly — when the film premieres Sunday. [Peter Knegt]

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