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At 90, the Venice Film Festival looks better than ever

Lindsey Bahr

AP – Cinema’s biggest stars just seem to shine a bit brighter at the Venice International Film Festival, which begins this week in the Northern Italian city.

Think of Lady Gaga, a woman who has never shied away from a grand entrance, somehow topping even herself delicately perched over the edge of a moving water taxi and vamping for the cameras like a classic screen siren. Or Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck evoking old Hollywood glamour to make their official debut as a couple just last year.

Whether you’re a celebrity gliding down the red carpet in front of hundreds of flashing cameras or an onlooker an ocean away daydreaming about Timothée Chalamet’s crystal-studded Haider Ackermann suit, or that electric moment between non-couple Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac, it is the kind of occasion that ignites the imagination. And that’s all before you even step inside the theatre.

For director and actor Olivia Wilde, the dream of Venice was woven into the fabric of her new film, Don’t Worry Darling. Ending up at the festival became a shorthand for the type of movie she wanted to make.

“We had several studios and streamers who wanted to make this film and I sat down with all of them and I said, ‘The path that I see leads us to Venice. Which one of you understands what kind of movie were making based on that dream?’” Wilde said.

“To me, a Venice film is a film that really embraces everything that is ambitious and romantic and beautiful about cinema. And this film is truly a love letter to movies.”

This image released by MGM shows Taylor Russell, left, and Timothée Chalamet in a scene from ‘Bones and All’. PHOTO: AP

Wilde went with New Line and Warner Bros and her wish came true: The stylish psychological thriller starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as a picture-perfect couple in an experimental postwar community will have its world debut out of competition on September 5.

Styles, Pugh and Wilde are just some of the stars expected to pose on the docks outside of the opulent Hotel Excelsior and grace the red carpet outside of the Palazzo del Cinema. Their presence, alongside lifetime achievement recipient Catherine Deneuve, Hugh Jackman, Tilda Swinton, Penelope Cruz, Chalamet and many others, helps transform the Lido, the laid-back beach town across the Venetian Lagoon from St Mark’s Square, into a bastion of glamour, fantasy and cinema on the Adriatic.

This year’s festival is stacked with highly anticipated films and performances in the main competition slate: Ana de Armas is making her debut as Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s Blonde; Brendan Fraser’s turn in Darren Aronofsky’s new film The Whale is already being hailed as an awards-worthy comeback; and Cate Blanchett is playing a renowned conductor in TÁR, director Todd Field’s first film in over 15 years.

“Todd Field is as major a film artist as has ever been,” said chairman of Focus Features Peter Kujawski.

“And what Cate is doing with the character, without saying too much, is just something you don’t see executed on this level very often.”

The festival, which began in 1932 and is heading into its 79th edition, officially begins tomorrow night with the premiere of Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s seminal novel White Noise, starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig.

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