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Venice Film Festival underway; stars include Michael Moore, Nicolas Cage, Matt Damon

September 2, 2009 | 11:49 am


A diverse host of international figures from every aspect of cinema will descend on the Venice Film Festival, which opens today to slightly grander fanfare than last year's scaled-down edition.

Seventy-one features are in competition for this 66th edition of the festival. "Taking Woodstock" director Ang Lee leads the jury that will judge, among many others, Werner Herzog's controversial "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" with Nicolas Cage; John Hillcoat's "The Road," with Viggo Mortensen as the hero of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel; Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story"; Todd Solondz's "Life During Wartime," which is described as a return to his "Welcome to the Dollhouse" days; and Jacques Rivette's "36 Vues du Pic Saint Loup," which marks the 81-year-old director's first visit to the festival.

Giuseppe Tornatore's comedy "Baaria," which opens the festival, is also in competition, as are such eclectic projects as Shinya Tsukamoto's "Tetsuo the Bullet Man," an English-language remake of his cyberpunk cult classic "Tetsuo the Iron Man"; and "Survival of the Dead," George A. Romero's fifth entry in his series of zombie films.

Films out of competition include an intriguing selection of filmmakers as well. Joe Dante makes a welcome return with his family comedy "The Hole," and Abel Ferrara's presence with "Napoli Napoli Napoli" should make for some tense moments on the red carpet, given his violent (literally) reaction to news of Herzog's remake of his "Bad Lieutenant."

Matt Damon will lend some star power with his appearance to support Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" and Alex Cox brings his offbeat career full circle with "Repo Chick," a sequel to his much-loved 1984 feature "Repo Man." The Cox picture vies for most offbeat entry at the fest with Fruit Chan's "Chengdu, I Love You," a comedy that ping-pongs between a 1976 earthquake and an alternative version of 2009 China as seen through a "Matrix"-style landscape.

-- Paul Gaita

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images