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Inarritu's 'Birdman' to spread wings as Venice Film Festival opener

Alejandro G. Inarritu's black comedy 'Birdman,' starring Michael Keaton, will open the Venice Film Festival

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's black comedy "Birdman" will kick off this year's awards season as the opening film of the Venice Film Festival.

Starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who made his name playing an iconic superhero but is currently struggling to stage a Broadway play, "Birdman" will premiere in competition at the festival on Aug. 27.

The star-studded cast also includes Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts.

Like last year's festival opener, "Gravity," which was directed by Inarritu's pal Alfonso Cuaron, "Birdman" is pegged as an early Oscar contender. "Gravity" screened out of competition at Venice but went on to a stellar awards-season run; among its many trophies was an Oscar for cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who also shot "Birdman."

Among the many intriguing elements of "Birdman" are the prospects of Keaton riffing on his own past playing Batman, and Inarritu — known for serious dramas such as "Amores Perros," "Babel" and "Biutiful" — exploring his comedic side.

"Birdman" marks Inarritu's second movie at Venice. His 2003 film "21 Grams," starring Sean Penn, won the festival's award for best actor.

This year's festival will run Aug. 27-Sept. 6, with the full lineup to be announced July 24.

Fox Searchlight will release "Birdman" in the U.S. on Oct. 17.

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