The 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival has begun amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, which would mean less spotlight glittering red carpet shenanigans and modest star power at the Lido. Still, one of the most important and respected film festivals in the world, it will run from 30 August to 9 September 2023. Given the impressive array of international titles in the lineup this year, here are 10 picks that we can’t wait to watch. (Also read: Stranger Things to Deadpool 3: List of movies and web series put on hold due to the SAG-AFTRA strike)
1. Stolen: India’s sole entry at the Venice Film Festival this year is this 90 minute-long film that will be showcased at the World Premiere section. Starring Abhishek Banerjee, Stolen tells the gripping tale of a five-month-old baby abducted from her mother, a downtrodden woman named Jhumpa Mahato. It is directed by debutant filmmaker Karan Tejpal.
2. The Killer : David Fincher returns to form with this psychological action thriller starring Michael Fassbender as a globe-trotting professional hitman who fears he’s losing his mind the longer he waits for his next target. Based on the French graphic novel series by Alexis Nolent and adapted by screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, The Killer also stars Tilda Swinton and Charles Parnell. Fight Club and Seven stars have reason to rejoice.
3. Priscilla : If you thought last year that Baz Luhrmann’s biopic on Elvis starring Austin Butler was the definitive spotlight on the King of Rock and Roll, then wait till Sofia Coppola corrects that standpoint with her Priscilla, starring Jacob Elordi as Elvis. But this is a story told through the perspective of his wife, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (played by Cailee Spaeny) and is based on her 1985 memoir Elvis and Me.
4. Evil Does Not Exist : Secrecy surrounds Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s next, that quietly popped out in the main competition lineup this year. The Japanese director’s last feature, Drive My Car vowed Cannes a few years ago and went on to claim Oscars glory. Evil Does Nor Exist Anymore tells the story of a big Tokyo corporation that plans to build camp accommodation near the village where the protagonist lives. Yet the populace who live there are not ready to leave their home so soon.
5. Origin : Ava DuVernay has already made history by becoming the first Black woman to ever be selected for the Venice Film Festival’s Official Competition and eyeing the top prize, the Golden Lion. Based on the 2020 bestseller Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Pulitzer Prize-winning Isabel Wilkerson, Origin stars Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor stars as Wilkerson and Jon Bernthal as her husband Brett to take on the subjects of racism and class.
6. El Conde : Chilean director Pablo Larraín is back to the Lido after premiering a bunch of his psychological dramas including Jackie and Spencer, with his next billed as a black comedy horror film, titled El Conde. This time, the director focuses on Chilean military commander Augusto Pinochet, and the years surrounding the orchestrated coup to seize power over President Salvador Allende. The only twist here? Pinochet is a 250-year old vampire living in a rundown rural mansion after faking his death.
7. Maestro : Will Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose finally inch him closer to Oscars glory? The nine-time nominee returns after A Star is Born to write and direct the highly-anticipated biopic Maestro, taking on the role of acclaimed conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. Carey Mulligan stars as his partner Felicia Montealegre. Reports added that Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg were initially attached to direct the film, until Spielberg handpicked Bradley for the part. It releases on Netflix on December 20, 2023.
8. Poor Things : If the trailer and poster releases are anything to go by, trust Yorgos Lanthimos to do no wrong. The Greek auteur teams with The Favourite‘s Emma Stone to direct a surreal science-fantasy feature based on the 1992 novel by Alasdair Gray. Stone stars as Bella Baxter, who is brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist by the name Dr. Godwin Baxter, played by Willem Dafoe. Expectations are sky high on this one!
9. The Beast : Although Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) wishes to be rid of emotions, she meets Louis (George MacKay), and together their whirlwind relationship threatens to spill matters out of proportion. Loosely based on Henry James’ famous novella, The Beast sees writer-director Bertrand Bonello expand the character’s universe from the Paris floods of 1910 to the future in 2044. This one has got us intrigued!
10. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar : Wes Anderson is back just a few months after the release of this year’s Asteroid City, that premiered at Cannes to much acclaim. Premiering out of competition at Venice, the short film sees the whimsical director try an adaptation of the Roald Dahl short story. Cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar, Ralph Fiennes as Roald Dahl, along with Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, Rupert Friend and Richard Ayoade.