Dark tales of real-life crime dominate Hollywood’s star-studded assault on the Venice Film Festival this year, with U.S. directors drawing inspiration from murder mysteries of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
The 11-day competition, held along the exclusive Lido beachfront across the water from Venice, kicks off today with the widely anticipated “The Black Dahlia,” about two policemen assigned to investigate the brutal murder of an unknown actress.
Set in 1947 and based on a crime novel by James Ellroy, the movie stars Scarlett Johansson and two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as a mysterious figure linked to the crime.
As with other major productions among the 21 entries in the main competition, “Black Dahlia” director Brian De Palma will be hoping that favorable media coverage in Venice raises the profile of his film in the long run-up to the Oscars next year.
Last year, “Brokeback Mountain” premiered in Venice and went on to win the top Golden Lion award, helping it secure pre-Oscar buzz.
“Four American studios sent their films to the Venice film competition [this year] prior to domestic release, so it does mean there is a special visibility ... created by the Mostra,” Venice Film Festival director Marco Muller said Tuesday.
Behind where he stood, final preparations were underway for the festival, called the Mostra del Cinema in Italian, with dozens of winged golden lions in place outside the main theater and the red carpet being unrolled to welcome the stars.
“The Black Dahlia” is a fitting opening to a festival that also features competition entrants “Hollywoodland,” about the mysterious death of “Superman” TV star George Reeves in 1959; and “Bobby,” about the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968.
Among the films screening out of competition are “Infamous,” Douglas McGrath’s take on Truman Capote, starring Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig and Gwyneth Paltrow; Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain”; David Lynch’s “Inland Empire”; Kenneth Branagh’s “The Magic Flute,” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men,” with Clive Owen, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore, about a plague of infertility that threatens humankind.
The main competition includes four Asian films, underlining Venice as a festival that is friendly to that region.