Venice film festival: George Clooney and Brad Pitt among few Hollywood actors to make Venice | Film
The artful Doge ... George Clooney is set to return to Venice once again. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
The Venice film festival gets underway today. But Europe's oldest - and, for some, most glamorous - celebration of cinematic arts will have a slightly different flavour this year.
Of all the major European film festivals, La Mostra has consistently been the one whose compass points most firmly westwards, major Hollywood productions for many years choosing Venice as their chosen springboard for the perpetual race to the Oscars.
But the US screenwriter's strike, which effectively blocked production between November 2007 and February 2008, has led to a great number of Hollywood releases failing to make it in time for the summer festivals.
As the festival's director Marco Mueller pointed out last month, "many releases of movies that would have been right for Venice have been pushed by the studios to December, or even later."
One obvious result of this, of course, is that only a fraction of the usual A-list filmstars will be swanning around town in vaporetti, although George and Brad will be lining up on the Lido to promote the Coen brothers' Burn after Reading.
Another, perhaps more surprising result, is that the relative paucity of American talent has once again increased the amount of screen time and space devoted to European cinema – surely welcome news for those of us anxious to see more varied fare on our big screens.
Italy, in particular, has benefited from the US credits crunch, leading the field with no fewer than four movies in competition, out of a total line-up of 21 features. Italian cinema, surfing on a wave of international success after the triumph of Gomorrah and Il Divo at Cannes, could well continue its winning streak back on national turf.
Prominent among the home hopefuls is Pappi Corsicato's The Seed of Discord, a slick comedy starring the glamorous Alessandro Gassman and Caterina Murino. With its finger squarely on the fears and fantasies of modern life, Gassman is cast as an infertile macho man who finds, to his surprise and mixed comfort and suspicion, that his wife is pregnant.
Also from the Italian stable are A Perfect Day by Turkish-born Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek, which takes the racing pulse of the capital city as several stories compete frantically for our attention during 24 hours in Rome, and Pupi Avati's Giovanna's Father, starring rising young Italian star Alba Rohrwacher as a student who kills a classmate in 1930s Tuscany.
France, still the powerhouse of European cinema (it produces more movies than any other European nation), has also made good ground. Barbet Schroeder, after the chilling documentary Devil's Advocate, will come to Venice with the Japan-set noir thriller Inju: the Beast in the Shadows, alongside The Other, a story of jealousy and obsessive love by Patrick Mario Bernard and Pierre Trividic. In a different genre, auteur Claire Denis is coming to town with 35 Rhums, the story of a father struggling to raise his daughter after his wife's suicide.
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