LONDON The Venice film festival has capitalism in its sights this year, with premieres of Michael Moore's documentary on the U.S. economic meltdown and a drama starring Matt Damon as a corrupt corporate whistleblower.
"Capitalism: A Love Story," in competition at the annual cinema showcase, sees Moore take on the corporate bosses with his trademark combative style, bringing the hot topic of recession to the picturesque Lido waterfront. And "The Informant!," directed by Steven Soderbergh and featuring Damon as a real-life crooked executive who exposed his company's price-fixing tactics, will be screened out of competition. The festival runs from September 2-12.
Damon is one of several Hollywood A-listers due to grace the red carpet in 2009, as studios appear prepared to foot the substantial bill and come to Venice in order to generate buzz for their pictures as the awards season kicks off.
Hundreds of fans waiting outside the main cinema where gala premieres are held each day will be hoping to catch a glimpse of Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Oliver Stone, Charlize Theron, Eva Mendes, Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone among others.
The 2009 edition of the world's oldest film festival looks set to eclipse 2008, which, despite awarding Mickey Rourke's acclaimed comeback "The Wrestler" with the Golden Lion for best film, was seen as lackluster and lacking star power.
"On paper it looks good, and these people will be doing the red carpet giving the festival the glamour I think it needs," said Lee Marshall, film critic for Screen International and a Venice regular.
"That was lacking last year, considered by many to be a limp festival from that point of view. Many media representatives canceled pretty much after the program was announced."
LOCAL FAVORITE CLOONEY
Clooney, who has a home in Italy and is a local favorite, appears in "The Men Who Stare at Goats," about a reporter who stumbles across a U.S. military unit in Iraq which employs paranormal powers on its missions.
Author Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic vision of the world in "The Road" makes it to the big screen, with Viggo Mortensen starring with Theron.
Cage appears in Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," a remake of the 1992 movie directed by Abel Ferrara, who has publicly criticized the new version.
U.S. director Todd Solondz is in competition with "Life During Wartime," while horror master George Romero presents "Survival of the Dead," one of several horror movies at the festival this year.
Films touching on the 1982 war in Lebanon, the Tamil Tiger rebellion in Sri Lanka, recent Iranian protests and China's violent past promise to make the headlines, as does Oliver Stone's documentary "South of the Border" about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Two very different cinema heavyweights will be honored, with animation king John Lasseter receiving a lifetime achievement award and "Rambo" and "Rocky" star Stallone receiving an award outside the main festival.
As usual Venice promises a global line-up, with Egypt's "The Traveler," featuring Omar Sharif, in competition alongside pictures from China, Austria, Israel, Japan, France, Hong Kong, Germany and Italy.
Not for the first time fashion is in focus, with designer Tom Ford bringing his directorial debut "A Single Man" starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.