(Reuters) - The 2011 Venice film festival opens on Wednesday and ends on September 10. After last year's low-key affair, this year promises A-list stars on the red carpet and several eagerly awaited productions.
Following are some of the films generating early buzz ahead of the festival. Unless otherwise stated, the movies appear in the main competition lineup.
1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
- Swedish director Tomas Alfredson tackles John Le Carre's 1974 classic Cold War spy thriller, with a stellar cast including Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and John Hurt.
British viewers will inevitably compare it to the classic television version featuring Alec Guinness as George Smiley, the espionage veteran brought out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent who has infiltrated British intelligence.
2. Wuthering Heights
- British festival favorite Andrea Arnold gives her take on the Emily Bronte novel, which was famously adapted in 1939 in a version starring Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff.
On the festival's website, the director hints in a statement that this will be a hard-hitting version: "The novel by Emily Brontë is full of violence, death and cruelty. Living with that for the last eighteen months has been hard."
3. The Ides of March
- George Clooney is handed the coveted opening film slot for his movie based on Beau Willimon's play "Farragut North."
The film is set in the near future in the world of American politics during the Democratic primaries for the presidential election.
Ryan Gosling portrays an idealistic young press secretary to governor Mike Morris (Clooney) who is drawn into a dangerous game of deceit and corruption.
4. A Dangerous Method
- David Cronenberg renews his partnership with actor Viggo Mortensen for this "dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery" based on the lives of fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his mentor Sigmund Freud (Mortensen).
Between them comes the beautiful Sabina Spielrein, played by Keira Knightley, based on the real-life psychoanalyst rumored to have had an affair with Jung.
5. Killer Joe
- William Friedkin, the American director behind such classics as "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist," is in Venice with "Killer Joe" about a detective, played by Matthew McConaughey, who is also a hit man for hire.
In his director's statement, Friedkin calls it a Cinderella story and, despite its dark themes, "quite humorous."
- Franco-Polish director Roman Polanski worked on the script of "Carnage" while under house arrest in Switzerland in 2010.
The 78-year-old behind movies "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" was freed after the Swiss authorities decided not to extradite him to the United States, where he was wanted for sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 in Los Angeles.
Unsurprisingly, Polanski is not expected to leave France for Italy to attend the world premiere, although members of his cast including Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster are.
The movie is about two sets of New York parents who meet up after their children are involved in a brawl.
- Russian film maker Alexander Sokurov is a favorite on the European festival circuit for movies like the single-take "Russian Ark" and his "power trilogy" based on the lives of Hitler, Lenin and Hirohito.
In fact, Sokurov has called "Faust" the fourth installment in the series, adding: "The symbolic image of Faust completes this series of great gamblers who lost the most important wagers of their lives."
8. Tahrir 2011 (out of competition)
- A three-part documentary on the recent revolution in Egypt is likely to generate significant media interest given the relevance of the subject matter to what is happening in north Africa today.
The film is divided into three parts -- The Good, The Bad, The Politician -- all directed by different people.
9. La Desintegration
- Philippe Faucon, a Morocco-born French director, is the latest film maker to tackle the theme of radical Islam.
Set in contemporary Lille, three young Muslims get to know the older Djamel who gradually "indoctrinates" them.
Faucon has criticized cinema's treatment of the subject, and said he believed that society was, at least in part, to blame for extremist religious views and acts.
"In my film, the radical, violent shift also has a metaphorical sense: it is the symptom that reveals a fatal condition in society."
- Pop superstar Madonna presents her second feature film, loosely based on American divorcee Wallis Simpson whose relationship with King Edward VIII led him to abdicate the throne in 1936.
Madonna's track record on the big screen has been patchy, with her performance as Eva Peron in "Evita" lauded but that in erotic thriller "Body of Evidence" derided.
Her directorial debut, the 2008 comedy drama "Filth and Wisdom," was generally poorly received by critics.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison