Hollywood vs art-house darlings in Venice

Hollywood stars and directors from across Europe, Asia and the Middle East will take centre stage on the Lido when Venice presents its 60th film festival next month, organisers said on Thursday.

    Sean Penn, pictured here during his December trip to Baghdad, will appear in new film "21 Grams".

    Woody Allen's new comedy "Anything Else" will kick off the world's oldest film festival with Allen and co-stars Christina Ricci, Danny DeVito and Jason Biggs expected to turn up on the red carpet for the out-of-competition showing.

    Big name stars and art-house darlings will vie for the limelight in the lagoon city with films featuring Nicole Kidman and George Clooney as well as new offerings by directors Jim Jarmush and Japan's Takeshi Kitano.

    "Never before has the festival received so many offers," said Moritz de Hadeln, who is directing the competition for the second year running after 22 years at the helm of the Berlin film festival.

    "There is a strong European presence...which just shows that there is something extraordinary going on in European cinema,"

    -Moritz de Hadeln, the festival's director 

    "The miracle this year has been that we have been able to put together a final selection by today," he told a press conference in Rome.

    Last year, de Hadeln was called in at the last minute to salvage the festival which was almost smothered by political bickering.

    Europeans to dominate

    Twenty movies will vie for the Golden Lion top feature film prize, including the new film by acclaimed Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "21 Grams", which stars Hollywood heavyweights Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts.

    But European films dominate the race, with British director Michael Winterbottom presenting "Code 46", Italy's Marco Bellocchio showing "Buongiorno, notte" and veteran French director Jacques Doillon appearing with "Raja".

    "There is a strong European presence...which just shows that there is something extraordinary going on in European cinema," de Hadeln said ahead of the 27 August - 6 September festival.

    Asian cinema, blighted by the SARS virus, has a lower profile this year, but Kitano will be on hand with "Zatoichi". Visions of the conflicts in the Middle East will be presented by Israeli director Amos Gitai and two Iranian directors, among others.

    Hollywood prevails on the fringe

    Hollywood studios will dominate Venice's out-of-competition showings, with the Coen brothers rushing a nearly finished version of "Intolerable Cruelty" to the Lido, featuring Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Billy Bob Thornton and Geoffrey Rush.

    Kidman, Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris will strut their stuff in Robert Benton's "The Human Stain".

    Ridley Scott's "Matchstick Men" will be presented by its star, Nicolas Cage, while Robert Rodriguez's "Once Upon a Time in Mexico", with Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp and Willem Dafoe, will also be shown.

    And news that Allen is going to turn up on the Lido has pleased many movie-goers. The film festival favourite spurned Venice for Cannes last year despite his well-known fondness for the lagoon city.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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