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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Venice gets saucy at 60

By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Venice film festival, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, may not yet have the clout or glamour of Cannes, but its line-up reveals several eyebrow-raising films which are expected to hit headlines.

Following on from this year's Cannes festival, which was described by some critics as the "worst in living memory", Venice has the chance to hit some headlines of its own.

With its reputation boosted in recent years, and 2003's Venice will see offerings by UK director and Berlin festival winner Michael Winterbottom and Oscar winner Christopher Hampton, and has managed to attract some big names.

The Dreamers is directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Bertolucci's The Dreamers is expected to put sex on the agenda
Nicole Kidman, George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones are expected to attend, while veteran Woody Allen is thought to be flying out for the Italian festival, which is being opened by his film Anything Else.

And so it appears that for its 60th birthday, Venice has managed to put together a promising line-up.

"This is definitely the best Venice for three or four years," David Gritten, film writer for the Daily Telegraph told BBC News Online.

"Venice struggles to get all the best films - Cannes and Toronto have more clout because they are the most high profile, so producers and studios want their films to be seen there instead," he said.

"It's tough for Venice to compete but it's done pretty well this year," he added.

He said that as a film critic, it was "a delight" to go to Venice compared with the "whole craziness" of Cannes, not least because it had less film markets and therefore catered more for "film audiences".

Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins in The Human Stain, about a classics professor with a huge secret
Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins star in The Human Stain
Patrick Frater, the International Editor of trade weekly Screen International, said Cannes would always be the biggest film festival of the year because it benefits from its "location, tradition, ability to create headlines and its film market".

"But of course at Cannes, expectations are higher - everyone expects all films at Cannes to be a masterpiece, which is unfair and unrealistic," he said, in defence of this year's festival.

However he added that despite Cannes' reputation, it certainly did not have a "spotless record" when it came to choosing films, adding that it turned down French arthouse hit Amelie from running in competition in 2001.

Mr Frater said it was likely that "sex would come to the fore" at this year's festival.

Imagining Argentina
Emma Thompson is in Hampton's Imagining Argentina
He cited The Dreamers, Bruno Dumont's 29 Palms and - unsurprisingly - Jan Jakob Kolski's film called Pornografia, which translates as Pornography .

Venice is showing several films which have whetted people's appetites, including Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, which is set against the background of the 1968 Paris student riots, and The Human Stain, starring Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins.

And Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu's 21 Grams, which stars Sean Penn, Benicio del Torro and Naomi Watts, was described by Mr Frater as "a coup for Venice".

"Inarritu is some of the hottest arthouse talent around at the moment - he's also rated by Tom Cruise," he added.

The Magdalene Sisters
Last year's winner, The Magdalene Sisters, was controversial
The director of the festival, Moritz de Hadeln said he had received a record 1,591 films submitted for competition, adding that Venice would show movies which "mirror of the uncertainties and anxieties of our times".

He promised that some of the films in competition would explore "human sensuality and its limits", appearing in "various works and styles crude enough to make some moralists shiver".

"It is not a festival's task to judge what contemporary cinema contains in a society in which few taboos remain unexplored," he added.

Although much of the line-up has a strong European flavour, some films will examine the relationships between the Muslim and Judaeo-Christian world, while the beleaguered Asian cinema, in the wake of the Sars virus, will also be showcased.

With the Vatican not too far away, the festival's promoters may well be secretly hoping that the films provoke an angry reaction, much as last year's winner, the Magdalene Sisters did.

Cardinals in Rome
The Vatican made its views about 2002's festival known
Scottish director Peter Mullan's film, about abuse of women in Irish Catholic church-run asylums, won the Golden Lion at Venice and a critics' prize at Toronto film festival.

"Awarding top honours to Magdalene [at Venice] was the most offensive and pathetic page written by the jury," the Vatican's radio station said.

Another strongly worded response from the Vatican for this year's festival would not just create extra column inches - it could also boost the festival's prestige, and of course attract even better films next year.

Venice prepares for film invasion
26 Aug 03  |  Entertainment
Venice film prize favours Europe
31 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Woody Allen opens Venice festival
20 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Cannes boss 'defends' festival
06 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Vatican Radio attacks Venice victor
10 Sep 02  |  Entertainment

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