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Monday, 4 September, 2000, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Depp drama excites Venice
Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp stars in Before Night Falls
Johnny Depp's new film, Before Night Falls, gets its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Monday - with critics tipping it to win the coveted Golden Lion.

The movie, directed by Julian Schabel, is based on the memoirs of Cuban novelist and poet Reinaldo Arenas.

The film tells the story of the outspoken writer, whose commitment to his art and his lifestyle landed him jail and then finally forced him into exile in the US from 1980.

Richard Gere and wife Carey Lowell
Richard Gere and wife Carey Lowell in Venice

Before Night Falls is one of 20 movies competing for the Golden Lion which will be awarded at the close of the festival on 9 September.

It is one of only two US films on show in Venice this year. The rest of the 150 are predominantly from Europe and Asia.

But it is also one of the few movies that is really considered to stand out - particularly among those competing for the Golden Lion.

Family affairs

The other US movie at the festival, Dr T and the Women, has met with a murted reception.

The film is from acclaimed independent director Robert Altman and stars Richard Gere as a gynaecologist trying to juggle the women in his life.

But despite these credentials, the movie has caused few ripples.

Isabelle Huppert
Family affairs: Isabelle Huppert

Altman's satirical comedy highlights another festival trend - to foucus on dysfunctional families.

Claude Chabrol's Nightcap, which is showing out of competition, is another good example of this theme.

On the surface everything seems fine but deep inside the mother, played by Isabelle Huppert, is a moral monster.

The film's elegance and Huppert's performance have been praised. But holes in its plot have been criticised.

Huppert crops up in another family movie, Comedy of Innocence, which is competing for the Golden Lion.

Director Raul Ruiz calls it a ghost movie "without ghosts" as the film tells the story of a boy who decides a stranger, a woman whose own son has died, is actually his mother.

Also focusing on the home is Liam, from British High Fidelity director Stephen Frears. It tells the story of an Irish Catholic family in Liverpool in the 1930s.


On a brighter note, one low-profile film showing out of competition has come in for considerable praise.

Gwyneth Paltrow
Off to Toronto: Gwyneth Paltrow

You Can Count On Me is from first-time director Kenneth Lonergan.

It is the tale of a brother and sister who were orphaned young and had only each other to count on, starring Laura Linney, from The Truman Show, and Mark Ruffalo.

September brings a clutch of film festivals, with stars descending on Deauville, northern France, for its event, which sees Clint Eastwood being given a lifetime achievement award.

Meanwhile, Canada sees its biggest film festival open in Toronto on Thursday.

Now in its 25th year, 10-day long Toronto International Film Festival will celebrate with the help of a bevy of stars including Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kenneth Branagh.

A total of 329 films will be shown, including a record 178 world and North American premieres.

Highlights include Cameron Crowe's Untitled Cameron Crowe Project and The Contender with Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater.

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31 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Clint's career toasted in Venice
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