A couple of fresh announcements and a flurry of speculation are stoking anticipation for the upcoming fall festival season. Yesterday, Variety’s Kristopher Tapley broke the news —officially confirmed today—that Damien Chazelle’s First Man will open the seventy-fifth Venice International Film Festival on August 29. And the Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced that Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma will see its New York premiere in October as the Centerpiece presentation during the fifty-sixth New York Film Festival.
Based on James R. Hansen’s biography First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, Chazelle’s followup to La La Land, which opened Venice in 2016 before scoring fourteen Oscar nominations, stars Ryan Gosling as the most famous astronaut in the world. But as Chazelle told Tapley last year, his aim has been to think of this story not so much “as a biopic but as a mission movie, and to think of landing on the moon as this insane, once-in-history mission that I think we have a hard time even fathoming as a society now.” First Man will premiere in competition, and Venice will announce its full 2018 lineup on Wednesday morning in Rome.
Roma is Cuarón’s first feature since Gravity, which, as it happens, opened Venice in 2013. Inspired by the director’s own life in Mexico City in the 1970s, the black-and-white film centers on a middle-class family held together by an unassuming nanny and housekeeper. New York Film Festival director Kent Jones calls Roma “a story of ongoing life grounded within the immensity and mystery of just being here on this planet. Alfonso Cuarón’s film is a wonder.”
It’s been a rocky road for Roma so far. In November 2016, Deadline’s Erik Pedersen and Anita Busch reported that the crew had been attacked by a group of union workers who stole phones, wallets, and jewelry and sent four crew members to the hospital. In a letter to local authorities, the production expressed its gratitude “to all the neighbors from José María Iglesias Street for giving us their support and help to the affected crew members.”
Once Roma was complete, Netflix sent it Cannes, and it’s widely believed that the film would have premiered in competition there if the festival and the streaming giant hadn’t fallen out over French laws regulating distribution windows. In short, Netflix refused to put its films in French theaters and then hold them for three years before streaming them in France as the law requires, so it pulled all its titles. According to Amanda Svachula in the New York Times, the NYFF is “unable to confirm” whether Roma “would have a world premiere elsewhere.”
Given Cuarón’s history with Venice, it’s very easy to imagine Roma premiering there. Until Wednesday, though, all we can do is speculate about the possible contenders. As noted last week, Claire Denis’s High Life, a science fiction film with Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche, may be one of them, even though Cineuropa’s Fabien Lemercier suggests that the team may actually be holding out for Telluride or Toronto. But Lemercier seems confident that François Ozon’s Alexandre, centering on three friends, all men and all around forty, reexamining their lives, will premiere in Venice. Also in the running is Olivier Assayas’s Non Fiction, a light hearted look at the rapidly changing world of book publishing with Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet.
According to Variety’s Nick Vivarelli, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, a contemporary take on Dario Argento’s 1977 supernatural thriller, is “almost certain” to premiere in Venice. Starring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton, Guadagnino’s film supposedly “traumatized” the audience treated to a preview at CinemaCon in April. Vivarelli’s also fairly confident that the Venice lineup will include Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy with Timothée Chalamet as a young man struggling with addiction; My Brilliant Friend, an HBO series based on Elena Ferrante’s beloved Neapolitan novels; Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, the story of a massacre in England in 1819; Laszlo Nemes’s followup to Son of Saul, Sunset, which depicts Budapest in 1913; and Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, in which, as the British Council has it, a “young, quietly ambitious film student embarks on her first serious love affair with a charismatic and mysterious man.”
Interviewing Matthias Schoenaerts for the Independent, James Mottram suggests that Terrence Malick’s Radegund, based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter (played by August Diehl), an Austrian who refused to fight alongside the Nazis in the Second World War, will likely roll out this fall. Schoenaerts, who takes a supporting role, tells Mottram: “I’ve had a couple of life-changing experiences on set, and working with Terrence Malick is definitely one of them.”
Last Friday, Venice unveiled a list of seventeen new restorations that will be premiering in its Venice Classics program. Among the revivals are Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, and Larisa Shepitko’s The Ascent. And won’t it be something to see Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice . . . in Venice? The festival’s also added a pre-opening event, a screening on August 28 of a new 4K restoration of Paul Wegener’s The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920).
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