VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - A love story set in 1950s Iran and a disturbing Greek tale of a group who takes on the role of the recently deceased to ease relatives' grief have their world premieres at the Venice film festival Saturday.
"Chicken With Plums" is co-directed by Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi, a French graphic novelist best known for her comic strip film "Persepolis."
"Alps" is the follow-up to Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos' critical hit "Dogtooth," and while it a Venice audience scratching its head at times, some critics gave it the thumbs up.
Starring French actor Mathieu Amalric as a famous Iranian violinist who loses the will to live after his instrument is broken, Chicken With Plums blends live action, animation and painted sets.
As he lives out his last eight days in his Tehran bedroom, Nasser Ali reminisces about life's ups and downs, taking the mood abruptly from light and comic to dark and tragic.
"It is nihilistic because life is nihilistic," said Satrapi of the movie's more somber moments.
"If we are looking for a little note of hope then we cannot find it in the movie because there is no note of hope in life ... we are all going to die.
"I always remember the movies when the end is not so nice," she told reporters after a press screening where the movie received warm applause.
"When you see 'Chinatown' you never forget it. When it's happy and they get married and they have two children and three dogs and a big house, it's not exciting. Romeo and Juliet exist because they could not marry and the story exists because they die."
On the other hand, she added, much of the movie was a celebration of love and art, particularly Ali's life-long passion for a woman he could never have, played by Golshifteh Farahani.
The Iranian-born actress, also now based in France, said it was a particular pleasure to recreate Iran as it was before the 1953 coup.
"This Iran was gone forever," she said. "It was like a symbolic thing. A symbol of love, of everything we wanted to have but we couldn't, it just flew away from us.
"For me it was ... a marvellous dream to be able to work with Marjane -- we are both Iranians and we are both in exile.
Yes we lose Iran but we also have Iran always in our heart."
Alps is arguably the strangest of the 22 competition films screened so far in Venice.
Its main characters' occupation -- offering families a living lookalike of their lost ones to help them overcome their grief -- is odd yet provides the movie with many touching and funny moments.
But when a nurse, played by Aggeliki Papoulia, decides to go her own way rather than book jobs through the group, viewers suspect the motive is as much about providing for her own needs as for those of the family.
Editing by Karolina Tagaris