Venice film festival promises sex and Scientology

Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:17pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Venice is putting its faith in sex and Scientology this year to generate the kind of buzz the world's oldest film festival needs to stay ahead of a growing field of rivals.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary, the annual cinema showcase on the Lido island across the water from the Canal City has long competed with overlapping Toronto to attract the best movies and biggest stars to its red carpet and glitzy party circuit.

It has another challenger in the form of the Rome festival held in November, which has bolstered its credentials by hiring Venice's respected outgoing artistic director Marco Mueller.

He is replaced by Alberto Barbera, who is well aware that high prices and creaking infrastructure on the Lido have played into rivals' hands.

"Rome and Venice are coming into their new editions like boxers going into a ring," said Jay Weissberg, Hollywood trade paper Variety's Rome critic who closely follows the Italian festival scene. "The war of words has already played out in the press for the last couple of months."

Barbera has introduced a small film market this year to make Venice more commercially attractive for studios, although there are doubts over how much business the initiative will generate.

But his main task is to lure a selection of movies that ensures A-list star power, media buzz and a global spread of low-budget, high-quality cinema. On paper, the outlook for the August 29-September 8 event looks promising.

There is no George Clooney, a Venice regular, and the festival will not feature heavyweights like Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. But a band of up-and-coming performers will partly compensate and help banish Venice's fusty image.   Continued...

Venice Film Festival President Paolo Baratta (R) and Director Alberto Barbera pose as they attend a news conference for the 69th Venice Film Festival in Rome July 26, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi