Venice fest gets early start on slate

Lido secures hot pics three months in advance of start

EXCLUSIVE: The 68th Venice Film Festival is shaping up as an especially strong edition, with a slew of hot titles secured more than three months in advance of its Aug. 31 start.

Lido competition berths are set for Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” and Russian auteur Aleksandr Sokurov’s highly anticipated “Faust,” the fourth and final installment in his “Men of Power” series.

Venice regular Philippe Garrel will be back with “Un ete brulant” (A Burning Hot Summer), a remake of sorts of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt,” starring Monica Bellucci.

An ample U.S. contingent, comprising upcoming releases from the majors and high-profile indies, will include Todd Solondz’s “Dark Horse,” starring Mia Farrow, Farrow, Christopher Walken and Selma Blair, in competition.

Hollywood studios are carefully plotting their Lido launches since the large number of titles in the Venice mix poses potential conflicts.

There are two Steven Soderbergh movies under consideration, for example: “Contagion,” which flies under the Warner Bros. banner, and action thriller “Haywire,” which is a Lionsgate pic.

And two Steven Spielberg titles, “War Horse,” from Disney and DreamWorks, and 3D family pic “The Adventures of Tin-Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” going out via Paramount and Sony, are possibilities but, obviously, not both.

Also in the mix are Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” toplining George Clooney, from Fox Searchlight, and Sony’s Clooney-directed political thriller “Ides of March,” starring Ryan Gosling, which poses another problem.

Mary Harron’s “The Moth Diaries” and Madonna’s “W.E.” have been submitted.

New titles from European helmers launching from the Lido include Greek Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth” follow up “Alps,” about a hospital nurse who provides unusual services to bereaved families. “Paradise,” the latest from Austrian helmer Ulrich Seidl (“Dog Days”), is also likely to be in competition.

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” the John Le Carre novel adaptation by Swedish helmer Tomas Alfredson starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth, is also tipped for a Lido berth.

And Luc Besson’s Michelle Yeoh starrer, “The Lady,” will be submitted shortly.

Works rushing to get finished in time for “wet-print” Lido preems include Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmasters” and Walter Salles’ “On the Road.”

A strong batch of U.K. titles has already booked slots in the Venice selection: Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights”; Steve McQueen’s “Shame”; Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea”; and Michael Winterbottom’s Freida Pinto starrer “Trishna,” an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” with a Bollywood tone.

From Asia, Filipino auteur Brillante Mendoza’s “Prey,” starring Isabelle Huppert, is considered a strong contender for a competition slot.

One of two Johnnie To pics, “Life Without Principle” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” will also almost certainly unspool.

From Spain, Alex de la Iglesia’s “La chispa de la vida” is likely to be Lido-bound if ready in time.

From Italy, the only certainty is Cristina Comencini’s “Quando la notte” (When the Night) a drama about a fragile young mother and a tough mountain guide who meet after an accident in the Italian mountains.

Works by Italo auteurs Emanuele Crialese, Gianni Amelio and Ermanno Olmi have been submitted but are not yet slotted.

A trio of documentaries is booked: Cameron Crowe’s “PJ20,” about the rock band Pearl Jam; Jonathan Demme’s untitled Hurricane Katrina pic; and Fatih Akin’s globalization docu “Garbage in the Garden of Eden.”