Venice festival gambles on youth, movie mavericks

Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:16pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - What the Venice film festival lacks in star power this year it hopes to make up for with an unusually young list of directors and the appearance of some of Hollywood's more enigmatic figures.

With the irrepressible Quentin Tarantino heading the jury that hands out the coveted Golden Lion at the end of the September 1-11 event, it is fitting that mavericks and misfits more than movie royalty look set to steal the headlines.

"In a way Venice can still hold itself up and say 'we've got the edgier American people coming, as you have Vincent Gallo and Monte Hellman, for example," said Jay Weissberg, film critic for trade publication Variety who is based in Italy.

"It makes it look as if they are holding up the art side of cinema."

It is a calculated gamble at a time when Venice, the world's oldest film festival and one of its most prestigious, is struggling to fight off competition from Toronto, which overlaps with Venice and features many of the same movies.

Its location in North America, relatively low costs and the presence of so many industry executives looking to deal all make Toronto a tempting alternative for studios keen to showcase their films as the unofficial cinema awards race gets underway.

Stars expected in Venice this year include Natalie Portman, Helen Mirren, Ben Affleck, Catherine Deneuve and Tarantino, but, according to The Hollywood Reporter, "that's still a far cry from the star-studded cast of previous years."

Youth, at least, is on Venice's side, with the average age of filmmakers in the main competition an unusually low 47.   Continued...

<p>Director Quentin Tarantino arrives at the 62nd Annual Directors Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles in this January 30, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>