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Venice film festival director Marco Müller promised “a programme which unites works by young directors who are as yet unknown with works by the greatest film makers from around the world.” If Australia’s young Andrew Dominik of Chopper fame represents the former, and 77 year old French filmmaker Eric Roehmer the latter, Müller has kept his promise, reports Andrew L. Urban.

Andrew Dominik’s debut feature, Chopper, sliced into our consciousness in 2000; it’s heartening to see his second feature presented in the lofty cinematic environment of the world’s oldest film festival. Its long title, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, echoes with the long-hand style of the era in which the film is set. Starring Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, the film also stars Sam Shepard, whose face is enough to adorn such a Western. (The film may be seen as part of a minor Westerns revival, with the remake of 3.10 to Yuma just released, starring Russell Crowe, Peter Fonda and Christian Bale.)

"escalation from low budget Aussie filmmaker to a Hollywood studio director"

More to the point, it demonstrates Dominik’s escalation from low budget Aussie filmmaker to a Hollywood studio director in one single step. Warner Bros, who have strong ties to Australia, evidently believed in his talent, and this selection for Venice bolsters that faith. Among the producers are the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony, as well as Brad Pitt, while Nick Cave has written some original music. The screenplay by Dominik is an adaptation of the Ron Hansen novel. (The film opens in Australia on November 1, 2007.)

Eric Roehmer, on the older hand, has been a darling of French film critics for much of his lengthy career (they voted five of his films into the Best category between 1970 and 1985), not to mention a favourite of many film lovers in and out of France. He, too, has made a film with a long title: Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon, with Andy Gillet and Stéphanie Crayencour playing the lovers respectively. This romantic drama, set in the time of the Druids, will either enchant us …. or not …

"the competition list"

But a glance at the competition list reveals many other directors who can claim to be among the greatest, or at least most interesting. There’s the large English contingent with Joe Wright’s romantic drama, Atonement, opening the fest, plus Peter Greenaway, Kenneth Branagh and Ken Loach; the equally numerous Americans Wes Anderson, Brian de Palma, Paul Haggis and Todd Haynes, as well as Tony Gilroy with his directing debut, Michael Clayton (a surprising choice for Venice, given its primarily commercial credentials [opens in Australia Oct. 18]; Taiwan’s Ang Lee and Kang Sheng Lee, and Japan’s Takashi Miike, who cast Quentin Tarantino in the lead.

French, Russian, Spanish, Italian (and even an Egyptian) filmmakers are scattered through the program, and the lovely Joan Chen (superb in Tony Ayres’ Home Song Stories currently in release in Australia) in Wen Jiang’s The Sun Also Rises, from China/Hong Kong. She also stars in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution.

Apart from the main Competition, the festival also screens a program dedicated to new trends in cinema, both drama and doco (Orizzonti), a shorts competition and a retrospective of Spaghetti Westerns (1964-1976), as part of the Secret History of Italian Cinema 4.

Joe WRIGHT Atonement - UK / USA, 123’
Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave, Romola Garai, Brenda Blethyn

Wes ANDERSON The Darjeeling Limited - USA, 91’
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray

Kenneth BRANAGH Sleuth - UK / USA, 86’
Michael Caine, Jude Law

Youssef CHAHINE Heya fawda (Le Chaos) - Egypt, 122’
Khaled Saleh, Mena Shalaby, Hala Sedky, Youssef El Cherif

Brian DE PALMA Redacted - USA, 90’
Kel O'Neill, Daniel Stewart Sherman

Andrew DOMINIK The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - USA, 155’
Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard

Paolo FRANCHI Nessuna qualità agli eroi - Italy / Switzerland / France, 102’
Elio Germano, Bruno Todeschini, Irène Jacob

Tony GILROY Michael Clayton - USA, 119’
George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack

Peter GREENAWAY Nightwatching - UK / Poland / Canada / Netherlands, 134’
Martin Freeman, Emily Holmes, Eva Birthistle, Jodhi May

Jose Luis GUERIN En la ciudad de Sylvia - Spain, 90’
Pilar Lopez De Ayala, Xavier Lafitte

Paul HAGGIS In the Valley of Elah - USA, 120’
Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon

Todd HAYNES I’m not There - USA, 135’
Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Julianne Moore, Christian Bale, Charlotte Gainsbourg

JIANG Wen Taiyang zhaochang shengqi (The Sun Also Rises) - China / Hong Kong, 116’
Jiang Wen, Joan Chen, Zhou Yun, Jaycee Chan, Anthony Wong

LEE Kang Sheng (LI Kangsheng) Bangbang wo aishen (Help Me Eros) - Taiwan, 107’
Lee Kang Sheng, Yin Shin

Abdellatif KECHICHE La Graine et le mulet - France, 151’
Habib Boufares, Marzouk Bouraouïa, Faridah Benkhetache, Sabrina Ouazani

Ang LEE (LI An) Se, Jei (Lust, Caution) - Taiwan, 156’
Tony Leung, Joan Chen, Tang Wei

Ken LOACH It’s a Free World… - UK / Italy / Germany / Spain, 96’
Juliet Ellis, Leslaw Zurek, Kierston Wareing

Vincenzo MARRA L’ora di punta - Italy, 96’
Fanny Ardant, Michele Lastella, Giulia Bevilacqua

MIIKE Takashi Sukiyaki Western Django - Japan, 121’
Quentin Tarantino, Hideaki Ito, Kaori Momoi, Yoshino Rimura

Nikita MIKHALKOV 12 - Russian Federation, 153’
Nikita Mikhalkov, Sergey Makovezkij, Mikhail Yefremov, Sergei Garmash

Il dolce e l’amaro - Italy, 98’
Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Lo Cascio, Donatella Finocchiaro

Eric ROHMER Les Amours d’Astrée et de Céladon - France / Italy / Spain, 109’
Stéphanie Crayencour, Andy Gillet, Cécile Cassel

Published August 23, 2007

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The Assassination of Jesse James stars Brad Pitt

August 29 – September 8, 2007

Zhang Yimou, President.
Catherine Breillat, Jane Campion, Emanuele Crialese, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Ferzan Ozpetek, and Paul Verhoeven.

Joan Chen in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, one of two Competition films in which she stars

Opening film, Atonement, by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy

Michael Clayton

I'm Not There

The Darjeeling Limited

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