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Venice and Toronto film festivals unveil varied, prestigious line-ups

Film buffs sick of summer blockbusters now have something to look forward to: the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, two of the year’s biggest and most prestigious cinema events, have announced their line-ups.


Those who are tired of the usual summer menu of budget-busting action flicks and potty-mouthed comedies can now start looking forward to some more refined fare.

The Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, two of the biggest and most prestigious cinema events of the year, have announced their line-ups, and both feature a mix of internationally cherished auteurs and lesser-known, up-and-coming moviemaking talent.

Venice to showcase US directors

The line-up for Venice, which will take place from August 31 to September 10 with a jury headed by US filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”), is particularly heavy on stateside filmmakers. George Clooney’s “The Ides of March”, a drama about a US presidential campaign starring Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Ryan Gosling, and Marisa Tomei, will open the competition. Among other American films vying for the top Golden Lion prize are indie veteran Todd Solondz’s romance “Dark Horse”, Abel Ferrara’s “4:44 - Last Day on Earth” (headlined by Willem Dafoe), and William Friedken’s thriller “Killer Joe”.

But perhaps the two most hotly anticipated competition films come from renowned directors Canadian David Cronenberg and French-born Roman Polanski. Cronenberg will present “A Dangerous Method”, a historical drama based on the relationships between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and a mentally unstable woman who caused a rift between them (played by Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, and Keira Knightley, respectively). Polanski’s “Carnage” is about two couples (played by Jodie Foster, Michael Reilly, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz) who confront one another after their children get into a fight.

Venice has in the past been known to pick up films rejected by the Cannes Film Festival, still considered the most selective cinema competition, but this year’s slate looks particularly rich and varied. Other eagerly awaited entries include French filmmaker Philippe Garrel’s “Un été brulant” (“A Burning Summer”), a romantic drama starring Louis Garrel and Monica Bellucci); Andrea Arnold’s adaptation of the beloved British novel “Wuthering Heights”; and acclaimed Russian director Alexander Sokurov’s “Faust”, loosely inspired by the classic German legend.

The movie likely to incite the most frenzied and glamorous red-carpet walk at the festival will be screened out of competition: Steven Soderbergh’s medical thriller “Contagion”, which features Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Marion Cotillard.

Toronto, Cannes’ ‘inclusive, friendly’ younger sister

Just as Venice is winding down, North America’s biggest and arguably most influential festival will kick off on September 8th and continue until the 18th. Although there is no jury or competition, the Toronto International Film Festival is known for trotting out what often end up being some of the year’s best reviewed and most award-winning movies.

Regularly screening up to 250 films from various parts of the globe, the Canadian festival has also developed a reputation as more democratic and down-to-earth than its European and American counterparts. A 2007 article in Time magazine employed a tongue-in-cheek metaphor to note that “unlike its major festival sisters   that sexy cougar Cannes, 60, and parka-clad hipster Sundance, 29   Toronto, 32, is inclusive, friendly and even prettier once you get to know her.”

Of the forty titles announced so far (several of which are also screening in Venice), many are already attracting considerable advance buzz: “The Descendants”, a new dramatic comedy from “Sideways” writer-director Alexander Payne; Francis Ford Coppola’s gothic murder mystery “Twixt”, starring Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning; Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’ romantic epic “360”, featuring Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz; “Elles”, a French drama from Malgorzata Szumowska that stars Juliette Binoche as a journalist investigating student prostitution; “Take This Waltz”, Sarah Polley’s adultery comedy starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen; “The Lady”, Luc Besson’s Aung San Suu Kyi biopic; and Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball”, a baseball drama with Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffmann, and Robin Wright.

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