Early Word from London, Locarno, and Venice

Hedy Lamarr in Gustav Machatý’s Ecstasy (1932)

With today’s announcement that Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield will open the BFI London Film Festival and tomorrow’s unveiling of the lineup for this year’s Locarno Film Festival, the film world is slowly beginning to rouse from its summertime slumber. We’re also a little over a week away from the Venice Film Festival’s presentation of its 2019 lineup, and speculation as to who’s in and who’s out is growing buzzier by the day.

London’s opening night gala on October 2 will mark the European premiere of Copperfield, so we can probably assume that Toronto, the festival that launched Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin in 2017, will host the world premiere of this latest adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic novel. Dev Patel, who broke big as the lead in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008), plays the aspiring writer, and producer Kevin Loader tells the Guardian’s Catherine Shoard that Iannucci is “making a statement about the fact that [he’s] going to cast actors who are capable of embodying the character as perfectly as possible, regardless of their ethnicity.” Besides Patel, the cast features Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Paul Whitehouse, and Gwendoline Christie.

When he began shooting Copperfield last summer, Iannucci told IndieWire’s Jenna Marotta that he wanted “to make a film that doesn’t feel hidebound by the conventions of a costume drama or a period drama. I want to start again. I want it to feel real and present, even though it’s set in 1840 in London. I want it to feel immediate and current. And therefore I want the cast to be much more representative of what London looks like now, and I want a lot of the behavior in the film to feel current and contemporary.”

Looking ahead, Locarno’s seventy-second edition will open on August 7 with Ginevra Elkann’s debut feature Magari, starring Alba Rohrwacher and Riccardo Scamarcio, and close on August 17 with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s To the Ends of the Earth, featuring Japanese pop star Atsuko Maeda as a television presenter putting together a report on Uzbekistan. In the Japan Times, Mark Schilling calls the film “a uniquely Kurosawa mix of showbiz comedy, woman-in-jeopardy thriller, and romantic drama.”

Locarno will present its Excellence Award to Song Kang-ho, star of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, the winner of the Palme d’Or in Cannes in May. The festival’s Pardo alla carriera, a lifetime achievement award, will be given to Swiss director and screenwriter Fredi Murer. And this year’s retrospective, Black Light, aims to “provide an extensive overview of black filmmaking, beyond all borders.” Among the forty-seven features will be works by Spike Lee, Kathleen Collins, Ousmane Sembène, and Med Hondo.

The night before Venice’s seventy-sixth edition opens on August 28, with Lucrecia Martel heading up the jury and Pedro Almodóvar slated to receive a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement, the festival will present the world premiere of a new restoration of Gustav Machatý’s Ecstasy (1932). Hedy Kiesler, who would later take on the name Hedy Lamarr, sparked a storm of controversy at the festival’s second edition in 1934 when her character appeared nude on-screen and not only had sex but actually seemed to enjoy it. Venice quotes a report on the screening from a young Michelangelo Antonioni: “In the garden of the Excelsior that night, you could hear the breathing of the enthralled viewers, you could feel the shiver running through the audience.”

Until July 25, no one but Venice director Alberto Barbera and his team of programmers can know which films might have audiences shivering this year, but Cineuropa’s Fabien Lemercier, Variety’s Nick Vivarelli, and the staff at Screen Daily are hazarding a few guesses. At this point, it seems likely that James Gray’s Ad Astra, with an astronaut played by Brad Pitt traveling to the outer edges of the solar system in search of his father, will premiere in competition. Other probable contenders include:

  • Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first feature shot outside of Japan, The Truth, starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke, and Ludivine Sagnier
  • Noah Baumbach’s as-yet-untitled divorce comedy with Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, and Laura Dern
  • Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, drawing on the Panama Papers scandal and featuring Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep
  • Philippe Garrel’s The Salt of Tears, in which a young man falls for two women
  • Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy, a retelling of the late nineteenth-century political drama known as the Dreyfus affair that stars Louis Garrel, son of Philippe
  • John Crowley’s The Goldfinch, an adaptation of Donna Tartt’s best seller, starring Nicole Kidman
  • Costa-Gavras’s Adults in the Room, based on former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s memoir of the euro crisis

We may yet be surprised, but it does seem that some of this year’s most anticipated titles, including Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, and Olivier Assayas’s Wasp Network, simply won’t be ready in time for Venice.

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