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The Playlist's 10 Most Anticipated Films Of The Venice Film Festival

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist August 27, 2012 at 11:55AM

Superhero movies be damned, festival season is underway. Indeed, by the time you read this, this writer will be winging his way to (hopefully) sunny Italy to spend ten days or so resolutely avoiding getting anything like a tan at the 69th Venice Film Festival. The first under the new leadership of Alberto Barbera, it's lived up to his promise of being a less glitzy, more sober take, with no major studio fare to be found, and a line up that emphasizes international auteurs over the American and British filmmakers who dominated line-ups in previous years.
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Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Passion
"Passion"
Synopsis: A thriller involving the relationship between Christine, a powerful ad executive, and her shy assistant Isabel, which takes on both sexual and dangerous dimensions after Christine steals a campaign that Isabel created.
What You Need To Know: It's five years since Brian DePalma's last film ("Redacted," which won him the Best Director award at the festival), and a decade since his last watchable one (2002's "Femme Fatale"), but the director was clearly eager to get back on the saddle. He has turned around "Passion," a remake of Alain Corneau's final film, 2010's "Love Crime," in less than six months. With Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace as the central duo, this certainly looks like a return to the DePalma of old -- bloody, suspenseful and titillating. We were a little put off by the teaser trailer last week, which had the slight stink of Cinemax on it, and made it seem as if the performances from McAdams and Rapace could be a little flat. But given the genius of much of his career, we're certainly going to give DePalma the benefit of the doubt at this point.
When? September 7th. No U.S. distributor so far.

Bad 25, Kanye
"Bad 25"
Synopsis: A documentary about the making of Michael Jackson's seminal album Bad to mark the 25th anniversary of its release.
What You Need To Know: Spike Lee's documentaries don't always get the same notice as his fiction films, but after the likes of "4 Little Girls" and "When The Levees Break," we're always going to pay attention. Lee's latest entry into the form (his second film alongside this year's "Red Hook Summer") doesn't deal with such weighty subject matter, but it's certainly about something close to Lee's heart -- the late pop superstar Michael Jackson, and his 1987 record Bad which featured hits like the title track, "Dirty Diana," "Man In The Mirror" and "Smooth Criminal." Lee's film includes behind-the-scenes footage, along with interviews with both Jackson's collaborators and famous fans like Kanye West and Cee Lo Green. We're still awaiting a seminal doc on Jackson, and this could certainly be the one, given Lee's talent, and love of the artist.
When? Screens August 31st on the Lido. Sony will release the film later this year.

Penance
"Penance"
Synopsis: A young girl is murdered while in elementary school, but her friends are unable to identify the killer, despite seeing his face. 15 years, the girl's mother sets out to find out why.
What You Need To Know: Is it madness to start off a week at a film festival with a four-and-a-half-hour Japanese-language thriller? Perhaps, but when the first film on the screening schedule is the latest from Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa ("Pulse"), his first since 2008's "Tokyo Sonata," we certainly have no intention of missing it. Only a few months back, we wondered when we'd something new from Kurosawa, and as it turned out, he'd been working on "Penance," a five-part TV series also envisioned as a marathon theatrical experience. Following five lives ripped apart by murder, this seems to play to both Kurosawa's genre-type strengths, and the quieter ones he displayed with "Tokyo Sonata," and we've certainly got our fingers crossed that it'll be worth the extensive running time.
When? August 28th. The film also plays TIFF, but no distribution deals are in place just yet.

Blondie small
"Blondie"
Synopsis: Three estranged sisters return home for the birthday of their overbearing mother.
What You Need To Know: Swedish helmer Jesper Ganslandt won a lot of cinephile fans with his 2009 film "The Ape" (which also played at Venice), and for his return, he's delving into his country's cinematic heritage for a film that's described as "an aggressive, almost angry deconstruction of Ingmar Bergman's family dramas." The set up isn't terribly original, but from the trailer we've seen, it looks like impressive, bold work, and the acting, from a cast that includes Carolina Gynning, Helena af Sandeberg, Alexandra Dahlstrom and Marie Goranzon, looks like it could be very strong. It's a bit of a roll of the dice, but to our eyes at least, it looks like one of the more interesting international pictures at Venice.
When? Sept 2nd. It will also play TIFF, but not distributor just yet.

Pieta
"Pieta"
Synopsis: A violent young man who works for a loan shark is confronted by a woman who claims to be his long-lost mother.
What You Need To Know: Korean director Kim Ki-duk ("Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring," "3-Iron") has been very busy, with "Arirang" and "Amen" both premiering at festivals with the last year. His 18th film started lensing in February and involves a loan shark who is reunited with a woman who claims to be his mother. Given the controversial, brutal nature of some of his work ("The Isle"), we're not exactly expecting an easy watch, but certainly one with the eye-opening images and considerable power of Ki-duk's earlier work. Min-soo Cho and Jung-jin Lee take the lead roles.
When? September 3rd, before heading to TIFF. No distributor at the moment.

Honorable Mention: Mira Nair can be hit and miss to say the least, but we're hopeful her "Reluctant Fundamentalist," which opens the festival, will be a return to form after "Amelia." Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber star. We're intrigued by Sarah Polley's documentary "Stories We Tell," while American independent cinema also brings "The Iceman" with Michael Shannon and Chris Evans, and "Disconnect," starring Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough and Alexander Skarsgard.

As for foreign fare, Marco Bellochio's "Dormant Beauty," with Isabelle Huppert, definitely looks interesting, while we're looking forward to Raul Ruiz's last film "Linhas De Wellington," a period epic directed by his wife Valeria Sarmiento. And for a change of pace, steampunk kung-fu movie "Tai Chi 0" could be a fair bit of fun.

This article is related to: Venice Film Festival, The Master, To the Wonder , Spring Breakers, Passion, Spike Lee