As mentioned yesterday, the Venice Film Festival will open on September 1 with Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan and close on September 11 with Julie Taymor's The Tempest. Today, Venice Days, an independent section running alongside the Big Show, has announced its official selection and two series, Italy: Portraits and Landscapes and Cinema Under the Sky.
Today's also seen the announcement of the first round of titles slated for the Toronto International Film Festival, opening on September 9 with the world premiere of Michael McGowan's Score: A Hockey Musical and closing on September 19. Twitch has the press release with the titles and short plot synopses; look for updates on what else we know about these films so far throughout the day.
One "interesting part of today's announcement was the World/North American premiere designations," notes Peter Knegt. "Essentially, Toronto just gave us a big suggestion of what's going to be screening in Venice based on what's not world premiering at their own festival."
You'll find plot synopses of Venice Days' entire lineup here. All twelve films in the official selection are either world or international premieres, while the Italy series is comprised of four world premieres. Venice Days will open with Bertrand Blier's The Clink of the Ice and, as Eric Lavallee notes at Ioncinema, other highlights include Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, Danis Tanovic's Cirkus Columbia (also headed to Toronto; see below) and Antonio Capuano's L'amore buio.
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. "The dark tale with psychological twists stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a technically brilliant ballerina whose life takes some strange turns after being picked as the lead in a New York City production of Swan Lake," reports Susan Wloszczyna for USA Today. "Pressures mount as her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) pushes her to succeed and her manipulative dance master (Vincent Cassel) commands her to be more seductive and loose in her performance. Complicating matters is the arrival of Lily (Mila Kunis), a sultry dancer who exhibits all the innate ease and sexuality that Nina lacks. Nina begins to fixate on the newcomer as the two forge an unusual relationship."
Julie Taymor's The Tempest. Taymor's second Shakespeare adaptation after Titus (1999). This time around, her cast features Helen Mirren (Prospera), Russell Brand (Trinculo), Alfred Molina (Stephano), Djimon Hounsou (Caliban), Chris Cooper (Antonio), Alan Cumming (Sebastian), David Strathairn (Alonso), Ben Whishaw (Ariel), Tom Conti (Gonzalo) and Felicity Jones (Miranda).
TORONTO - GALA PRESENTATIONS
Steven Silver's The Bang Bang Club. World premiere. The official synopsis: "The Bang Bang Club was the name given to four young photographers, Greg Marinovich, Kevin Carter, Ken Oosterbroek and Joao Silva, whose photographs captured the final bloody days of white rule in South Africa and the final demise of apartheid. The film tells the remarkable and sometimes harrowing story of these young men — and the extraordinary extremes they went to in order to capture their pictures. The film stars Ryan Phillippe, Malin Akerman, Taylor Kitsch, Neels Van Jaarsveld and Frank Rautenbach."
Richard J Lewis's Barney's Version. North American premiere. Based on the novel by Mordecai Richler. "Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) is a seemingly ordinary man who lives an extraordinary life. Barney's candid confessional spans four decades and two continents, and includes three wives (Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver and Rachelle Lefevre), one outrageous father (Dustin Hoffman) and a charmingly dissolute best friend (Scott Speedman)."
Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Premiering in Venice; see above.
George Hickenlooper's Casino Jack. World premiere. Kevin Spacey as Jack Abramoff. And that's the trailer up there.
Robert Redford's The Conspirator. World premiere. The official synopsis: "While an angry nation seeks vengeance, a young union war hero must defend a mother accused of aiding her son in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.... [S]tars James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood and Tom Wilkinson."
John Madden's The Debt. North American premiere. Synopsis: "Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington star in this thriller about three Israeli Mossad agents on a 1965 mission to capture a notorious Nazi war criminal. Thirty years later, secrets about the case emerge."
Im Sang-Soo's The Housemaid. North American premiere. See the Cannes roundup.
David M Rosenthal's Janie Jones. World premiere. Synopsis: "Aspiring recording artist Ethan Brand gets a stunning surprise on the opening night of a tour - a strung out former groupie appears unexpectedly, pleading with him to care for their daughter while she pulls herself together. Enter Janie Jones." Played by Abigail Breslin. With Elizabeth Shue.
Tom Hooper's The King's Speech. North American premiere. From the Cinematic Intelligence Agency: "The poignant and uplifting story of the unorthodox relationship between England's reluctant King George VI (Colin Firth), plagued by a nervous stammer, and the irreverent Australian speech therapist who cures him. The king's speech is based on the true story of Queen Elizabeth II's father and his remarkable friendship with maverick therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). As the second son of George V, Prince Bertie was not expected to ascend to the throne, but when his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) chose to abdicate to marry Wallis Simpson, Bertie was his successor and in 1936 was crowned King George VI."
Guillaume Canet's Little White Lies. World premiere. Synopsis: "Despite a traumatic event, a group of friends decides to go ahead with their annual beach vacation. Their relationships, convictions, sense of guilt and friendship are sorely tested. They are finally forced to own up to the little white lies they have been telling each other." With François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Jean Dujardin, Laurent Lafitte, Valérie Bonneton and Pascale Arbillot. A report (in French) on the film's making: Parts 1 and 2.
Barry Blaustein's Peep World. World premiere. Synopsis: "On the day of their father's 70th birthday party, four siblings come to terms with the publication of a novel written by the youngest sibling that exposes the family's most intimate secrets."
François Ozon's Potiche. North American premiere. Synopsis: "A bourgeois housewife (Catherine Deneuve) takes on a rough union leader (Gérard Depardieu) in François Ozon's sparkling comic war between the sexes, and the classes." Keep an eye on Ozon's own site for more soon.
Ben Affleck's The Town. North American premiere. Site. Synopsis: "In the Boston neighbourhood of Charlestown, Doug MacCray [Affleck] is the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers. But everything changed on the gang's last job when they took bank manager Claire Keesey [Rebecca Hall] hostage. Questioning what she saw, Doug seeks out Claire. As their relationship deepens, Doug wants out of this life and the town, but now he must choose whether to betray his friends or lose the woman he loves." With Jeremy Renner.
Emilio Estevez's The Way. World premiere. Synopsis: "Martin Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to St Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago. Driven by his profound sadness and desire to understand his son better, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage." Update, 8/9: TIFFReviews has pix, a poster and trailer in Spanish.
Andy De Emmony's West Is West. World premiere. Synopsis: "Manchester, Northern England, 1976. The now much-diminished, but still claustrophobic and dysfunctional, Khan family continues to struggle for survival. Sajid, the youngest Khan, is under heavy assault both from his father's tyrannical insistence on Pakistani tradition, and from the fierce bullies in the schoolyard. His father decides to pack him off to Mrs. Khan No 1 and family in the Punjab, the wife and daughters he had abandoned 30 years earlier. The sequel to East is East, West is West is the coming of age story of both 15-year-old Sajid and of his father, 60-year-old George Khan."
TORONTO - SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS
Mike Mills's Beginners. World premiere. Synopsis: "When his 71-year-old father (Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) must explore the honesty of his own relationships. From the director of Thumbsucker."
Eric Lartigau's The Big Picture. World premiere. Adapted from the novel by Douglas Kennedy. Synopsis: "Paul Exben is a success story. He has a great job, a glamorous wife and two wonderful sons, except that this is not the life he has been dreaming of. A moment of madness is going to change his life, forcing him to assume a new identity that will enable him to live his life fully." With Romain Duris, Marina Foïs, Niels Arestrup and Catherine Deneuve.
Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine. From an April roundup: "No movie I've seen at Sundance this year conjures the possibilities — or the current, gloom-and-doom marketplace environment — of independent film more powerfully than Blue Valentine." Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman: "A lushly touching, wrenching, and beautifully told story, directed by Derek Cianfrance with a mood of entwined romantic dreams and romantic loss, it stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as Dean and Cindy, a young, semi-working-class couple who meet, fall in love, get married, raise a little daughter, and lose their spark, though not necessarily in that order." The problem: "How many moviegoers today, even those who seek out independent films, are going to want to spend two hours tasting the bittersweet vibe of this sad, troubled marriage?" In fact, for Ella Taylor, blogging for NPR, "hands are wrung too often, to too little effect." More from Logan Hill (New York), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Karina Longworth (Voice), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe), Nathan Rabin (AV Club) and ST VanAirsdale (Movieline). Interviews with the makers: indieWIRE, Kevin Kelly (Cinematical) and Anne Thompson.
Rowan Joffe's Brighton Rock. World premiere. Based on Graham Greene's 1938 novel. The Playlist: "Starring Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren and John Hurt the film follows an, up-and-coming gangster (Riley) in 1964, who marries a naive waitress (Riseborough) after she stumbles onto evidence linking him to a murder. Hurt and Mirren play an older couple trying to save Riseborough's character from her marriage. It's a great story, and even though it's already been adapted into a well regarded 1947 film starring Richard Attenborough and Carol Marsh, we're definitely excited to see what this take has in store."
Rodrigo Cortés's Buried. It "opens with a contract truck driver (played by Ryan Reynolds) lying in a sand-covered coffin in an Iraq desert," wrote Noel Murray for the AV Club from Sundance in January. "In the box with him: a lighter, a cell phone and a few other goodies waiting to be discovered. For the next 90 minutes, we watch Reynolds make and field calls, in hopes of getting found — or of appeasing the natives who kidnapped and buried him in the first place.... Reynolds is terrific, and Cortés and [screenwriter Chris] Sparling overlay a preposterous premise with familiar modern complaints. Buried is as much about dropped calls, getting sent to voicemail, and being openly lied to by our institutions as it about being buried alive by terrorists."
Tony Goldwyn's Conviction. World premiere. Synopsis: "Conviction is the inspirational true story of a sister's unwavering devotion to her brother. When Betty Anne Waters' (two-time Academy® Award winner Hilary Swank) older brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is arrested for murder and sentenced to life in 1983, Betty Anne, a Massachusetts wife and mother of two, dedicates her life to overturning the murder conviction."
Danis Tanovic's Cirkus Columbia. International premiere. "After twenty years of exile, a husband returns to his hometown in Herzegovina to settle some scores with his ex-wife, armed with a new Mercedes, a sexy new girlfriend and a mangy black cat."
Kiran Rao's Dhobi Ghat. World premiere. Synopsis: "In the teeming metropolis of Mumbai, four people separated by class and language are drawn together in compelling relationships. Shai, an affluent investment banker on a sabbatical, strikes up an unusual friendship with Munna, a young and beautiful laundry boy with ambitions of being a Bollywood actor, and has a brief dalliance with Arun, a gifted painter. As they slip away from familiar moorings and drift closer together, the city finds its way into the crevices of their inner worlds."
Will Gluck's Easy A. World premiere. Synopsis: "After a little white lie about losing her virginity gets out, a clean-cut high school girl (Emma Stone) sees her life paralleling Hester Prynne's in The Scarlet Letter, which she is currently studying in school — until she decides to use the rumour mill to advance her social and financial standing."
Malcolm Venville's Henry's Crime. World premiere. Synopsis: "After serving three years in prison for a bank robbery he did not commit, an amiable but aimless man decides to rob the bank for real. His plan involves infiltrating a local theatre company, but his scheme gets complicated when he falls for the company's lead actress. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, James Caan, Fisher Stevens, Peter Stormare, Danny Hoch and Bill Duke."
Susanne Bier's In a Better World. International premiere. Synopsis: "The story traces elements from a refugee camp in Africa to the grey humdrum of everyday life in a Danish provincial town. The lives of two Danish families cross each other, and an extraordinary but risky friendship comes into bud. But loneliness, frailty and sorrow lie in wait. Soon, friendship transforms into a dangerous alliance and a breathtaking pursuit in which life is at stake."
Kim Ji-woon's I Saw the Devil. International premiere. Trailer's at the site. It's "a tale of bloody vengeance against a dangerous psychopath who has committed a gruesome series of murders." From the director of The Good, the Bad, the Weird and A Tale of Two Sisters.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's It's Kind of A Funny Story. World premiere. Synopsis: "Stressed-out teenager Craig checks himself into a mental health clinic — where he finds himself in the adult ward. Sustained by friendships on both the inside and the outside, Craig learns more about life, love and the pressures of growing up. The comedy-drama stars Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts and Zach Galifianakis." From the directors of Half Nelson and Sugar.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's Jack Goes Boating. See the Sundance roundup.
Pierre Thoretton's L'amour fou. World premiere. Synopsis: "Yves Saint Laurent built one of fashion's most celebrated empires. This moving documentary chronicles his rise, his lifelong partnership with Pierre Bergé and their decision to auction off a lifetime of precious art and objects."
Andrew Lau's The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. North American premiere. From the substantial Wikipedia entry: "The film is a continuation of the 1995 television series Fist of Fury, with Donnie Yen reprising his role as Chen Zhen, a role made famous by Bruce Lee in the 1972 film Fist of Fury. Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is set during Japanese-occupied Shanghai, seven years after the events of the series."
Andrucha Waddington's Lope. World premiere. Synopsis: "Andrucha Waddington brings famed Spanish playwright Lope de Vega's passionate life to the screen. The young poet returns to Madrid from war and gets his foot in the door of Madrid's most important theatre troupe — quickly charming his boss's daughter. His childhood friend, Isabel de Urbina, also falls under the spell of his poems. So much seduction eventually brings misfortune and he must flee Madrid."
Alain Corneau's Love Crime. International premiere. Synopsis: "Dangerous Liaisons meets Working Girl in this deliciously caustic tale of office politics. Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as mentor and ingénue, Love Crime is a remorseless clash of two competing egos."
Nigel Cole's Made in Dagenham. World premiere. Synopsis: "Sally Hawkins stars as Rita O'Grady, the catalyst for the 1968 Ford Dagenham strike by 187 sewing machinists which led to the advent of the Equal Party Act. Working in extremely impoverished conditions for long, arduous hours, the women at the Ford Dagenham plant finally lose their patience when they are reclassified as 'unskilled.' With humour, common sense and courage, they take on their corporate paymasters, an increasingly belligerent local community, and finally the government itself. The film also stars Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Geraldine James and Rosamund Pike."
Julian Schnabel's Miral. North American premiere. Synopsis: "From the director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Before Night Falls and Basquiat, comes Miral, the visceral, first-person diary of a young girl growing up in East Jerusalem as she confronts the effects of occupation and war in every corner of her life. Schnabel pieces together momentary fragments of Miral's world — how she was formed, who influenced her, all that she experiences in her tumultuous early years — to create a raw, moving, poetic portrait of a woman whose small, personal story is inextricably woven into the bigger history unfolding all around her." With Freida Pinto, Willem Dafoe and Vanessa Redgrave.
Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go. World premiere. Adapted by Alex Garland from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Synopsis: "Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) spent their childhood at a seemingly idyllic boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school, the terrible truth of their fate is revealed and they must confront the deep feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal that threaten to pull them apart."
Tran Anh Hung's Norwegian Wood. North American premiere. Adapted from the novel by Haruki Murakami. Synopsis: "Watanabe, a quiet and serious college student, becomes deeply devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman with whom he shares the tragedy of their best friend's death. When Naoko suddenly disappears, Midori, an outgoing, vivacious and supremely self-confident girl marches into Watanabe's life. The film stars Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi and Kiko Mizuhara."
John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole. World premiere. Synopsis: "A family navigates the deepest form of loss in John Cameron Mitchell's screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart deliver captivating performances as a husband and wife who fight to save their marriage in the life that begins again after tragedy." Melena Ryzik had a piece in the New York Times nearly a year ago now that essentially addressed the question, Why is Kidman doing this? Let's hope we'll be glad she has. Above: Mitchell interviewed in May 2009.
John Curran's Stone. World premiere. Synopsis: "Robert De Niro and Edward Norton deliver powerful performances as a seasoned corrections official and a scheming inmate whose lives become dangerously intertwined. Stone weaves together the parallel journeys of two men grappling with dark impulses, as the line between lawman and lawbreaker becomes precariously thin. The film also stars Milla Jovovich and Frances Conroy."
Richard Ayoade's Submarine. World premiere. Synopsis: "One boy must fight to save his mother from the advances of a mystic, and simultaneously lure his eczema-strafed girlfriend in to the bedroom, armed with only a vast vocabulary and near-total self-belief. His name is Oliver Tate."
Anurag Kashyap's That Girl in Yellow Boots. North American premiere. Synopsis: "Ruth is searching for her father — a man she hardly knew but cannot forget. Desperation drives her to work without a permit, at a massage parlour, where she gives 'happy endings' to unfulfilled men. Torn between several schisms, Mumbai becomes the backdrop for Ruth's quest as she struggles to find her independence and space even as she is sucked deeper into the labyrinthine politics of the city's underbelly."
Stephen Frears's Tamara Drewe. See the Cannes roundup.
Michael Winterbottom's The Trip. World premiere. "That Winterbottom has another film following so close on the heels of The Killer Inside Me is no big surprise," writes Todd Brown at Twitch. "The man is nothing if not prolific, turning out films at a ferocious pace while jumping between genres. But this one wasn't even listed anywhere despite the presence of high profile stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon who last worked with Winterbottom on the fantastic Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. Why not? Because, as it turns out, The Trip began life as a television series for BBC2, one I assume Winterbottom has now cut into a feature for international audiences." Synopsis: "Follow two good friends in this hilarious road movie as they embark on a tour of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales of Northern England, eating, chatting and driving each other crazy." Update, 8/18: TIFFReviews has a clip.
David Schwimmer's Trust. World premiere. Synopsis: "Safe and sound in their suburban home, Will and Lynn Cameron (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) used to sleep well at night. When their 14-year-old daughter, Annie, made a new friend online — a 16-year-old boy named Charlie — Will and Lynn didn't think much of it. But when Annie and Charlie make a plan to meet what happens in the next 24 hours changes the entire family forever. Charlie is really a 40-year-old serial pedophile (Tom McCarthy) and, once Annie's rape comes to light, it becomes a touchstone event that reverberates through the entire family."
TORONTO - MASTERS
Raúl Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon. World premiere. Synopsis: "Based on a famous 19th century Portuguese novel," the film "follows a jealous countess, a wealthy businessman and a young orphaned boy across Portugal, France, Italy and Brazil where they connect with a variety of mysterious individuals."
From Eric Lavallee:
Updates, 7/28: "The Toronto Film Festival lineup is always strong, and this year it somehow seems even stronger," finds the Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik. "Overall, the list of top-tier films and directors also gives lie to the idea that the movie business can't produce noteworthy specialty pictures anymore — though we suppose one can argue that, while fewer movies got made, the ones that did came from the upper echelon of directors and scripts."