Mueller mulls over strong Venice fest lineup

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ROME -- As he settles into the last year of his five-year mandate as artistic director for the Venice Film Festival, Marco Mueller says he is considering his future while relishing what he insists is the strongest lineup Venice has ever seen.

With a competition lineup that includes 22 world premieres -- 21 titles were announced Thursday; the final one will be a surprise -- and another five premieres in the Venice Masters series, Mueller says everything fell into place this year for his festival.

The lineup will be completed when a final film he is waiting to see will be ready for him to evaluate Aug. 20. Mueller hints it will be Asian -- the last three surprise films all hailed from the region -- but won't give any additional information. Another surprise film screening at midnight will be revealed Monday, Mueller said, because the studio behind it wanted to create a bigger buzz.

But even without the final two pieces of the puzzle, Mueller says the lineup is impressive.

"This really is an extraordinary lineup ... everything just seemed to fall into place" he said in an interview at Rome's Hotel Excelsior. "Even compared to last year (when all the films in competition were world premieres), this program shines."

The question many people are asking now is whether this star-studded lineup -- Venice's red carpet will overflow with top-shelf talent from around the world -- will be Mueller's swan song in Venice.

"The board of the Venice Biennale will make a decision by the end of the year," he said. "And in the meantime, we still have to run the festival." But with further prodding, Mueller discusses what will have to happen for him to be interested in staying on the job.

"Under the current circumstances, we have come as far as we can come," Mueller says. "But Venice can be much more than it is."

Mueller has spent much of the last five years lobbying for an expensive renovation for Venice's ageing Palazzo del Cinema, a plan that seemed to take off earlier this year when the government agreed to provide the bulk of the funding for the €70 million ($96.6 million) project. But Mueller is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the project.

"I'll be more sure of what will happen when I see the workmen starting to actually work on the project," he said.

But even if the Palazzo del Cinema is completed, Mueller said there is more to do.

"The Venice Lido needs more hotel space (the Lido currently has 3,000 beds available to the public)," he said. "And we need to decide whether there will be a permanent festival in Venice or whether the festival will take place just 11 days a year."

According to Mueller, a permanent exhibit would involve funding for film projects in the developing world, new events and conferences at the refurbished Palazzo del Cinema, a project market for new films, and increased collaborations with the other parts of the Biennale, which highlights art, architecture, dance and theater in addition to film.

"I think the Venice Film Festival becomes much more interesting if Venice itself becomes a more fertile ground for the creative process," Mueller said.

64th Venice Film Festival lineup:

Opening film: "Atonement," Joe Wright, (U.K.-U.S.)

In Competition

"The Darjeeling Limited," Wes Anderson (U.S.)
"Sleuth," Kenneth Branagh (U.K.-U.S.)
"Le Chaos," Youssef Chahine (Egypt)
"Redacted," Brian De Palma (U.S.)
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Andrew Dominik (U.S.)
"Nessuna qualita agli eroi," Paolo Franchi (Italy)
"Michael Clayton," Tony Gilroy (U.S.)
"Nightwatching," Peter Greenaway (Canada-France-Germany-Poland-Netherlands-U.K.)
"En la cuidad de Sylvia," Pilae Lopez De Ayala, Xavier Lafitte (Spain)
"In the Valley of Elah," Paul Haggis (U.S.)
"I'm Not There," Todd Haynes (U.S)
"The Sun Also Rises," Jiang Wen (China-Hong Kong)
"Help Me Eros," Lee Kang Sheng (Taiwan)
"La Graine et le mullet," Abdellatif Kechiche (France)
"Lust, Caution," Ang Lee (Taiwan)
"It's a Free World," Ken Loach (U.K.-Italy-Germany-Spain)
"L'ora di punta," Vincenzo Marra (Italy)
"Sukiyaki Western Django," Takashi Miike (Japan)
"12," Nikita Mikhalkov (Russia)
"Il dolce e l'amaro," Andrea Porporati (Italy)
"Les Amours d'Astree et de Celadon," Eric Rohmer (France-Italy-Spain)

Out Of Competition

"Cassandra's Dream," Woody Allen (U.K.-U.S)
"Cleopatra," Julio Bressane (Brazil)
"La Fille coupee en deux," Claude Chabrol (France)
"Beyond the Years," Im Kwopn Taek (South Korea)
"Glory to the Filmmaker," Takeshi Kitano (Japan)
"Cristovao Colombo -- O enigma," (Portugal-France)

Venetian Nights

"For a Fistful of Dollars," Sergio Leone (Italy-Spain-Germany)
"Blood Brothers," Alexi Tan (Taiwan-China-Hong Kong)
"REC," Paco Blaza and Jaume Balaguero (Spain)
"Far North," Asif Kapadia (U.K.-France)
"The Hunting Party," Richard Shepard (U.S.-Croatia-Bosnia)
"The Nanny Diaries," Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini (U.S.)
"Nocturna," Adria Garcia, Victor Maldonado (Spain, France)

Horizons

"Sad Vacation," Shinji Aoyama (Japan)
"Mal nascida," Joao Canijo (Portugal)
"Searchers 2.0," Alex Cox (U.K.)
"Medee Miracle," Tonino De Bernardi (Italy)
"Cochochi," Laura Amelia Guzman, Israel Cardenas (Mexico-U.K.-Canada)
"With the Girl of Black Soil," Jeon Soo-il (South Korea-France)
"L'Histoire de Richard O," Damien Odoul (France)
"Autumn Ball," Veiko Ounpuu (Estonia)
"The Silence Before Bach," Pere Portabella (Spain)
"Exodus," Penny Woolcock (U.K.)
"The Obscure," Lu Yue (China)



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