Predicting The 2013 Venice Film Festival Line-Up: Are 'Gravity,' 'Twelve Years A Slave' & More On The Way?

We're now about a month on from the end of the Cannes Film Festival, which means that, if we weren't already, it's time to start looking forward to the fall festival season. TIFF, Telluride and NYFF are all sneaking up, and just before them comes the Venice Film Festival, which celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2013.

The Italian fest has always given Cannes something of a run for its money in terms of star wattage and prestige, but it's been even more so the last few years, with major movies like "The Master," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Spring Breakers" and "Black Swan" getting their premieres on the Lido. Submissions for the festival closed on Friday, and while we know little of what to expect this year except for an already announced, out-of-competition screening for Paul Schrader's Bret Easton Ellis/Lindsay Lohan collaboration "The Canyons," what little rumors there have been, most notably from a Variety article last week, are suggesting that this could again be a banner year for the festival. 

Ahead of the official announcement next month, and the festival itself in August (we'll be back on the ground as in the past few years), we're looking into our crystal ball to try and figure out who'll competing for the Golden Lion... and who we'll be waiting a little longer for.

Strong Contenders

Gravity trailer, Clooney
"Gravity" (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Even before the Variety article last week that pointed to Alfonso Cuaron's 3D space epic as one of the biggest movies in the running for inclusion, "Gravity" already seemed like it was a natural for a slot. For one, Warner Bros. have made a habit (though they skipped last year) of giving one of their big fall movies an out-of-competition bow in Venice, with "The Town" and "Contagion" making their way to the Lido. Furthermore, Alfonso Cuaron's last film, "Children Of Men" premiered at the festival in 2006. With an early October release, this would be perfectly served by the Venice bow; the biggest question is whether it plays in competition or out, and given Cuaron's growing reputation, we expect the former.

12 Years A Slave
"Twelve Years A Slave" (dir. Steven McQueen)
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt
Hotly tipped by many for Cannes, but reportedly not ready in time, Steve McQueen's third picture is likely to be one of the major awards contenders this fall, and unlike, say, "Saving Mr Banks" (the kind of awards movie for which reviews matter a little less), is something that could benefit from a festival bounce, particularly given the tough subject matter. And McQueen is already a familiar face, having premiered "Shame" at the fest two years ago.

"The Zero Theorem" (dir. Terry Gilliam)
Cast: Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton, Matt Damon
Terry Gilliam's last few films have all been film festival staples ("12 Monkeys" was the last time a movie didn't hit one major one), but the last time Terry Gilliam won anything at a top tier festival was at the 1991 Venice Film Festival, when he picked up the Silver Lion for "The Fisher King." Gilliam's been back once since, with the enjoyable but compromised "The Brothers Grimm," but he could stand a better chance of actually winning something if, as is strongly rumored, his latest, "The Zero Theorem" ends up at Venice. Toplining Christoph Waltz with appearances from Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton and Ben Whishaw, it's another oddball sci-fi picture with definite nods to his finest hour, "Brazil," and could be a nice homecoming for the filmmaker.

Captain Phillips Tom Hanks
"Captain Phillips" (dir. Paul Greengrass)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener
And of course, there are some filmmakers who've never featured at Venice at all. Having risen to prominence through the blockbuster "Bourne" movies, Paul Greengrass' movies have tended to skip the big European festivals ("Bloody Sunday" premiered at Sundance, and "United 93" at Tribeca). But his latest, the Somali pirate drama "Captain Phillips" starring Tom Hanks looks set to put the director on the circuit. With an "Argo"-aping October release, and true story inspiration, it's well-placed for an awards season boost, and in addition to Variety suggesting it's likely on the roster, we've heard whispers that this could be the opening film.

“Tom à la ferme” (dir. Xavier Dolan)
Cast:  Eric Bruneau, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu, Caleb Landry Jones
French-Canadian prodigy Xavier Dolan has practically been part of the furniture at Cannes in recent years, with the festival premiering all three of his films to date in various sidebar categories. But his widely-expected in-competition debut failed to materialize this year (most likely because the film wasn't ready). Could we see “Tom à la ferme," a thriller adapted from Michel Marc Bouchard's novel about a man who visits the family of his dead lover, on the Lido instead? A TIFF bow seems a given, considering his heritage, but the question is whether Venice will mark its world premiere.

"Abus de faiblesse" (dir Catherine Breillat)
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Kool Shen
Controversy magnet Catherine Breillat is a festival gadfly, but her last movie "Sleeping Beauty" premiered at Venice. As such, her new film, which follows more personal material in her relationship with con-man Christophe Rocancourt, has always felt like a natural fit for the festival (given it wasn't ready in time for Cannes). And indeed, Variety has reported that the film's very likely to be in the line-up, so expect to see this somewhere in the mix.

"Under The Skin" (dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Cast: Scarlett Johansson
For a filmmaker as talented as Jonathan Glazer, the man behind "Sexy Beast" and the monumentally underrated "Birth," it's frustrating that we don't see more from him. It's been particularly frustrating to know that it's taken nearly two years for his new picture, the Michel Faber adaptation "Under The Skin," about a cannibal in the shape of Scarlett Johansson, to come to the screen. But finally, with re-shoots done, the film's close to completion, and it looks very likely that it'll be unveiled at the same place that "Birth" got its premiere, nine years on. Unless another festival has snapped it up exclusively (and Variety suggests that isn't the case), look for it on the Lido.

"Moebius" (dir. Kim Ki-Duk)
Cast: Jo Jae-hyeon, Seo Young Ju, Lee Eun-woo
Something of a staple at the festival, Kim Ki-Duk finally took the top prize at Venice in 2012, winning the Golden Lion for his bruising, divisive "Pieta" (he won the Silver Lion for "3-Iron" in 2004). His latest, "Moebius" promises to be his most controversial yet -- it was banned by Korea's censorship body, and the director is planning to cut as many as 21 of the incest-and-castration-filled scenes to get it passed. As such, it's even more of a reason that this will be a big get for Venice, and indeed, there are heavy rumors that (the presumably uncut version of) the film will screen at the fest. 

"Night Moves" (dir. Kelly Reichardt)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat
Kelly Reichardt's reputation has grown and grown with each film, and her latest, "Night Moves," promises to get the most attention yet. Featuring a big-name cast, and a more genre-related element in its plot, a thriller revolving around eco-terrorists, this could be contemporary flavored pic that hits all the right buttons thematically and culturally. Reichardt's last picture, "Meek's Cutoff," premiered at Venice, and strong rumors have pegged "Night Moves" to follow in its footsteps.