‘Atonement’ starts Venice film festival


Already tipped as a potential Oscar winner, British psychological drama “Atonement”, starring Keira Knightley, opens the 75th anniversary Venice Film Festival on Wednesday. Directed by Joe Wright and based on Ian McEwan’s best selling novel, “Atonement” will lead a bumper crop of British and American films at the festival which is also remaining true to its tradition of showcasing Asian cinema. Taiwan’s Oscar winning director Ang Lee will also on Wednesday unveil his greatly anticipated erotic spy thriller “Se, Jie” (Lust, Caution), set in Shanghai in the 1940s. Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” took the top prize in Venice in 2005. He won the best director Oscar for the same movie. During the festival, Chinese director Jiang Wen will offer “Taiyang Zhaochang Shengqi” (The Sun Also Rises), a quartet of stories that dovetail together in the end.

While from Japan there is Miike Takashi’s “Sukiyaki Western Django,” a complex tale of dirty tricks, betrayal, desire and love. Nine of the 22 films in the main competition are British or American, including Kenneth Branagh’s mystery thriller “Sleuth” with Michael Caine and Jude Law, and Ken Loach’s “It’s a Free World.” All 22 of the films in competition will be world premieres, a feat achieved only once before — last year. Another 22 films will vie for prizes in the avant-garde Horizons and Horizons Documentaries categories, while 13 will be screened out of competition. George Clooney stars in “Michael Clayton” by Tony Gilroy, while Brad Pitt plays Jesse James in Andrew Dominik’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Contemporary life and war are common threads to many of this year’s selections. The war in Iraq inspired Brian De Palma’s “Redacted,” which portrays the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager by US soldiers, as well as Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah,” in which a career military man played by Tommy Lee Jones investigates the disappearance of his son, a soldier in Iraq. Co-starring with Jones are Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron. The out-of-competition menu will offer Woody Allen’s latest film “Cassandra’s Dream,” a drama set in south London, “La Fille Coupee en Deux” by French veteran Claude Chabrol and a new comedy by Japanese director Takeshi Kitano, “Kantoku Banzai!” (Glory to the Filmmaker!). Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who won Golden Lions for “The Story of Qiu Ju” (1992) and “Not One Less” (1999), will head the jury of this year’s edition of the Mostra. All but six of the 57 films will be world premieres, including an unusually large number — 15 — of the 19 American selections.