Of all the major film festivals, the Venice Film Festival has been the most inconsistent in the quality of the films that make its program. Last year, for instance, was considered a very weak year with Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” surprisingly surpassing Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” for the festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion. The official selections for 2011 won’t be announced until Thursday, but according to a report in Variety, this year will be a marked improvement.
George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” is already set to open the festival, but now a slew of other impressive awards season players will join that dramedy. With only a few hours away from Toronto announcing its schedule, here’s a quick rundown of the more intriguing premieres.
“Carnage” (Roman Polanski)
Lowdown: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly star in a big screen adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s acclaimed play about two sets of parents trying to resolve a dispute between their sons.
Lowdown: A modern and period look at the love affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson through the eyes of the Material Girl.
“Contagion” (Steven Soderbergh)
Lowdown: Oscar-winner filled ensemble thriller (that’s really a drama) which opens domestically on Sept. 9.
“A Dangerous Method” (David Cronenberg)
Lowdown: Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) discover psychoanalysis through the suffering of Keira Knightley.
“Dark Horse” (Todd Solondz)
Lowdown: Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken star in the latest film from the New York indie provocateur.
“Texas Killing Fields” (Ami Canaan Mann)
Lowdown: Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloe Moretz and Jessica Chastain topline this thriller which pairs a New York cop with a Texas homicide detective to solve a series of murders.
“Last Day on Earth” (Abel Ferrara)
Lowdown: Willem Dafoe stars in this end of the world drama from the director of “Bad Lieutenant” (1992).
“Killer Joe” (William Fiedkin)
Lowdown: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Thomas Haden Church star in what is either a really dark thriller or a really dark comedy.
“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (Thomas Alfredson)
Lowdown: Gary Oldman’s shot at Oscar glory in this adaptation of the John Le Carre thriller with Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and Ciaran Hands. It’s also the English language debut of Alfedson who is best known for the modern classic “Let the Right One In.”
“Wuthering Heights” (Andrea Arnold)
Lowdown: A new take on Emily Bronte’s romantic bard from the groundbreaking director of “Fish Tank” and “Red Road.”
Also, in a somewhat surprise revelation, Walter Salles’ “On the Road” won’t be ready for Venice. That likely means it won’t be at Telluride or Toronto either. Intriguing indeed.
Look for complete coverage of all three major fall kickoff festivals on Awards Campaign and HitFix.
For year-round entertainment commentary follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory