Shortly after the Venice Film Festival announced its heavyweight lineup last month, fest director Alberto Barbera teased us with the promise of later additions to the programme: “There are at least a couple of films we’re still working on, American films,” he said, stirring much excitement and speculation over various high-profile titles. Today, at least some of those latecomers were announced, and even if they’re not the breathlessly awaited A-list titles some pundits were improbably hoping for, they add further shading to an already eclectic selection.
Most prominent among the new additions is Petrice Leconte’s “Une Promesse,” a WWI-era romance that stars Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman, which will play out of competition. Based on a novel by Stefan Zweig, the German-set film stars Hall as the wife of a wealthy industralist (Rickman), who finds herself falling in love with her husband’s young assistant (Richard Madden).
It sounds like material for the kind of elegantly romantic truffle on which Leconte built his reputation in the 90’s — perhaps most famously with the Oscar-nominated “Ridicule. as well as “The Hairdresser’s Husband” and “The Girl on the Bridge.” Lately, however, his form has taken a bit of a dip — certainly his films haven’t travelled as extensively. We can hope for a rebound on his foray into English-language cinema, though between its German setting, French production and British stars, this threatens to be something of a Europudding.
Three film-focused documentaries, meanwhile, have been added to either the Venice Classics strand or out of competition. They include “Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater” by US critic Gabe Klinger, and two Italian entries: Marco Spagnoli’s “Donne nel mito: Anna Magnani,” a tribute to the Oscar-winning actress, and “Dai nostri inviati: La Rai racconta la Mostra del Cinema 1980-1989.”
In other Venice news, the ninth and final member of the Competition jury has been announced, and it’s a delightfully unexpected choice for a highbrow European festival. Veteran actress, writer, comedienne and original Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher, joins the fray — and, interestingly, will serve as the lone American member of a jury being headed by Oscar-winning Italian auteur Bernardo Bertolucci.
Also on the jury are: British director Andrea Arnold (who competed at Venice two years ago with “Wuthering Heights”), Chilean director Pablo Larrain (director of the recent Oscar nominee “No”), German actress Martina Gedeck, French actress Virginie Ledoyen, Chinese actor Jiang Wen, Swiss cinematographer Renato Berta and Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto — who, in a neat bit of bookending with the jury president, won an Oscar for 1987’s “The Last Emperor.”
It’s certainly a diverse bunch — have fun playing ‘six degrees of separation’ with that lot. Every year, I’m tickled by the composition of festival juries: I love imagining the director of “Fish Tank” and the writer of “Postcards From the Edge” finding common cinematic ground. Or not, as the case may be.
The Venice Film Festival, by way, kicks off on August 28 — less than three weeks away. Where did the summer go?