VENICE, Italy: The Venice Film Festival opened
Wednesday night with the premiere of the Coen brothers' dark comedy "Burn After
Reading," giving a flash of Hollywood glamour to a festival lineup with a
definite art house feel.
The 21 films competing for the coveted Golden Lion at the festival, which runs
through Sept. 6, will provide a snapshot of world cinema, with entries from
Ethiopia, Turkey, Algeria and a Brazilian-Chinese production.
While the lineup gives the impression of being light on celebrity-driven
Hollywood fare — due both to the impact of last year's writers' strike and a
late selection process for Cannes' springtime festival — festival director Marco
Mueller said U.S. films are well represented.
"This is the second time — and it is a record for the history of the festival —
we have five American films in competition," Mueller said, emphasizing that
selections aren't based on any national criteria. "The festival is not an atlas
"Burn After Reading," starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand and
Tilda Swinton, is among another five American films being shown out of
The first U.S. film vying for the Golden Lion is Guillermo Arriaga's "The
Burning Plain," starring Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger as a mother and
daughter trying to forge a bond. The writer of "21 Grams" is making his debut as
Darren Aronofsky will present "The Wrestler," starring Mickey Rourke as a
wrestler forced into retirement who strikes up a romance with an aging stripper
played by Marisa Tomei.
Jonathan Demme will be showing his "Rachel Getting Married" starring Anne
Hathaway as a daughter whose return home for her sister's wedding brings out old
Kathryn Bigelow is bringing "The Hurt Locker," an Iraq war drama portraying
soldiers who defuse bombs in the heat of war.
Also among the U.S. entries is Iranian-born Amir Naderi's "Vegas: Based on a
True Story," about the family life of a compulsive gambler.
Pitt picked up an award Wednesday that he won last year — the best actor's prize
for "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."
"You can run but you can't hide," Pitt joked as he accepted the award during the
opening ceremony. "It was an honor to receive this last year and it remains an
honor to accept this year."
German filmmaker Wim Wenders, whose credits include "Paris, Texas" and "Buena
Vista Social Club," is heading this year's jury.
"We will see 21 films and I hope — and I have a lot of confidence in Marco —
that we will see 21 films that will give us the state of art of what is cinema
today," Wenders said.