Star-studded Venice festival gets its movie mojo back

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Star-studded Venice festival gets its movie mojo back

LONDON - The Venice Film Festival has rediscovered its movie mojo this year, putting high costs and growing competition from Toronto aside to provide a lineup full of hotly anticipated titles and big Hollywood stars.

George Clooney, a regular favorite on Lido Island, where the world’s oldest film festival is held, kicks off the glamorous 11-day event on Wednesday with “The Ides of March,” a political drama that he also directed.

His cast includes Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman, part of a roll-call of A-listers that includes Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.

“I don’t recall a time when so many people have been so excited by a lineup and that is across the board,” said Jay Weissberg, film critic for Hollywood trade publication Variety and a Venice festival regular.

Filmmakers from around the world will descend on the canal city from Aug. 31 to Sept. 10 to showcase their movies and attend a whirlwind of photocalls, press conferences, interviews and parties.

Blockbusters rarely feature, but a slot in Venice is coveted by lower-budget U.S. productions for the exposure it brings and because it acts as the unofficial launch of the annual awards season ending with the Oscars.

Venice overlaps with the Toronto Film Festival, regarded by Hollywood as a cheaper alternative and featuring many of the same movies, but Venice director Marco Mueller has put together a program that should eclipse 2010’s worryingly low-key edition.

Among the most eagerly awaited titles is “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” an adaptation of John Le Carre’s spy novel starring recent Oscar winner Colin Firth as well as Gary Oldman and John Hurt.

The film is one of 22 in the main Venice competition, and has already won the blessing of the British author whose “The Constant Gardener” also made it to the big screen.

“It’s not the film of the book,” Le Carre said on his Web site. “It’s the film of the film, and to my eye a work of art in its own right.”

Other standout titles in competition include Briton Andrea Arnold’s take on the Emily Bronte novel “Wuthering Heights,” U.S. director Ami Canaan Mann’s “Texas Killing Fields” and William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe.”

In “A Dangerous Method,” Canadian David Cronenberg explores the rivalry between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud as a young woman (Knightley) comes between them.

Roman Polanski worked on the screenplay for his latest movie “Carnage,” featuring Winslet, Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz, while under house arrest in Switzerland last year.

The 78-year-old was eventually freed after Swiss authorities decided not to extradite him to the United States, where he is still wanted for sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 in Los Angeles.

Steven Soderbergh promises an all-star cast including Damon, Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Law and Paltrow in “Contagion,” about a lethal airborne virus that spreads panic.

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