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Venice Film Festival: David Rooney’s Top 10 Most Anticipated Titles

EL CONDE

Before turning his attention to famous women bruised by the spotlight with Jackie, Spencer and the forthcoming Callas biodrama, Maria, Chilean director Pablo Larraín made Tony Manero, Post Mortem and No, a loose trilogy reflecting on the Pinochet regime. He returns to that subject with his own distinctive spin in this dark comedy steeped in horror, which uses satire and political farce to reimagine the brutal dictator as a vampire living in isolation, feeding on his victims without being brought to justice. The twist is that at the ripe age of 250, he suffers an existential crisis that makes him question whether his life is worth continuing.

EVIL DOES NOT EXIST

Japanese auteur Ryusuke Hamaguchi follows Drive My Car, his exquisite, Oscar-winning 2021 masterwork about art and work as pathways through grief, with this story of a single father and his young daughter, living in a rural village outside Tokyo. The serenity and simplicity of their lives in harmony with the cycles of nature, and the ecological balance of the area, with its untouched woodlands, mountains and lakes, are jeopardized by corporate plans to build a luxury camping site there as an escape for city dwellers. The film stars Hitoshi Omika, Ryo Nishikawa, Ryuji Kosaka and Ayaka Shibutani.

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FERRARI

Known for the dynamic energy, visceral textures and virtuosic technique of his stylish dramas, Michael Mann seems an ideal choice to tell the story of Italian sportscar entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari, based on auto-sports journalist Brock Yates’ 1991 biography. Adam Driver stars as the ex-Formula 1 driver in the summer of 1957, when his company is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and his stormy marriage to Laura, played by Penélope Cruz, has been fractured by the tragic loss of their son, prompting him to roll the dice on one last treacherous cross-country race. The cast also features Shailene Woodley, Gabriel Leone, Patrick Dempsey and Jack O’Connell.

THE KILLER

David Fincher has been drawn to murder as a subject throughout his career, in Se7en, Zodiac, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and Mindhunter. In this psychological action thriller based on a French graphic novel series — a project Fincher reportedly has been circling for more than 15 years —he directs Michael Fassbender as the title character, a hired assassin who gets into turmoil with his bosses and himself after a fateful near miss, setting him on an international manhunt that calls into question his sanity. The cast also includes Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Sophie Charlotte and Tilda Swinton.

MAESTRO

Bradley Cooper made a splash in Venice with his 2018 debut feature as director, A Star is Born, in which he headlined opposite a revelatory Lady Gaga. His follow-up is another intimate look at celebrity, centering on the complex relationship of prodigiously gifted American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, played by Cooper, with actress Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan. Their marriage endured for 27 years, despite her knowledge that her husband was gay and despite his affairs with men. The film counts Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg among its producers, and the cast includes Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke and Sarah Silverman.

MEMORY

The chilling brutality and emotional austerity of Michel Franco’s dramas about class, trauma and mortality have earned the Mexican auteur a reputation as Latin America’s answer to Michael Haneke. But Franco’s unflinching films are very much his own and this third English-language feature (following Chronic and Sundown) promises to be no different. It stars Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard as two people who meet again after many years at their high school reunion, opening a door to the past as they struggle to establish the trust necessary to build a relationship. The promising supporting cast includes Merritt Wever, Josh Charles, Jessica Harper and Eighth Grade discovery Elsie Fisher.

ORIGIN

After focusing on television for the past six years, Ava DuVernay returns to features in what seems an auspicious match of director and material with this adaptation of Pulitzer-winning author Isabel Wilkerson’s 2020 nonfiction best-seller, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, examining the unspoken hierarchical divisions that have shaped America and continue to define the country’s social order in corrosive ways to this day. With a cast that includes Jon Bernthal, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Niecy Nash-Betts, Vera Farmiga, Connie Nielsen, Audra McDonald and Blair Underwood, the drama seems especially urgent given U.S. political machinations in some states to erase critical race theory.

POOR THINGS

After wowing Venice in 2018 with The Favourite, leading Greek Weird Wave exponent Yorgos Lanthimos reunites with screenwriter Tony McNamara and one of that film’s leads, Emma Stone, in this fantastical tale of a young 19th century woman brought back to life by a maverick scientist played by Willem Dafoe, as she runs off with Mark Ruffalo’s debauched lawyer in search of experience and emancipation. The adaptation of Scottish author Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel also features Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael and Margaret Qualley.

PRISCILLA

Gaining intimate access to the inner lives of young women has been a defining characteristic of Sofia Coppola’s filmography and her third feature, 2006’s Marie Antoinette, broke the biopic mold in thrillingly unconventional ways. Those qualities stoke expectations for the director’s portrait of Priscilla Presley, which recenters one of America’s most iconic pop-culture narratives not on Elvis, played by Jacob Elordi, but from the perspective of the high school girl whose life was transformed by her love affair and eventual marriage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Cailee Spaeny plays the title role in what is being described as a breakout performance of remarkable force.

THE PROMISED LAND

Nikolaj Arcel’s intimate 2012 costume drama A Royal Affair was a standout of the genre, pairing Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander in a suspenseful and psychologically rich account of court intrigue, romance and tragedy. The Danish director reunites with Mikkelsen on this epic mid-18th century chronicle of a poor soldier’s quest to find wealth and honor by cultivating the barren Jutland heath, remaining unyielding in his determination even after making a powerful enemy of a cruel local landowner and risking his life by sheltering the man’s runaway servants.

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