Star-studded Venice festival gets movie mojo back

Fri Aug 26, 2011 9:31am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - The Venice film festival has rediscovered its movie mojo this year, putting high costs and growing competition from Toronto aside to provide a line-up full of hotly anticipated titles and big Hollywood stars.

George Clooney, a regular favorite on the Lido island where the world's oldest film festival is held, kicks off the glamorous 11-day event on Wednesday with "The Ides of March," a political drama which he also directed.

His cast includes Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman, part of a roll-call of A-listers that includes Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and pop superstar Madonna.

"I don't recall a time when so many people have been so excited by a line-up and that is across the board," said Jay Weissberg, film critic for Hollywood trade publication Variety who is a Venice festival regular.

"There's a nice Hollywood contingent which is composed of directors and stars like Clooney who appeal to a very broad range of both festival insiders and the general public," he said. "But it is more than just Hollywood."

Film makers from around the world will descend on the canal city from August 31 to September 10 to showcase their movies, and attend a whirlwind of photocalls, press conferences, interviews and parties.

Blockbusters rarely feature, but a slot in Venice is coveted by lower-budget U.S. productions for the exposure it brings and because it acts as the unofficial launch of the annual awards season ending with the Oscars.

Venice overlaps with the Toronto film festival, regarded by Hollywood as a cheaper alternative and featuring many of the same movies, but Venice director Marco Mueller has put together a program that should eclipse 2010's worryingly low-key edition.   Continued...

<p>George Clooney arrives at the Cinema Palace in Venice August 31, 2007. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini</p>