Venice Film Festival Gets Underway With George Clooney's 'The Ides of March'

9:58 AM PST 08/30/2011 by Eric J. Lyman
Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images
George Clooney

In his eighth year at the helm, there is no indication that artistic director Marco Mueller will be back.

VENICE – The 68th edition of the Venice Film Festival gets underway Wednesday with a gala opening ceremony and the world premiere of George Clooney’s latest film, The Ides of March.

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The festival, which will run through Sept. 10, is as always noteworthy for the films it screens and the stars who walk across its red carpet, but this year’s event is also turning heads because it could be the last for artistic director Marco Mueller, now in his eighth year at Venice’s helm. 

Like the heads of all the parts of the Venice Biennale – and, indeed, the role of Biennale president Paolo Baratta himself – Mueller’s mandate expires at the end of this year. So far, there have been no indications whether Mueller will be invited back for an unprecedented third mandate, and Mueller himself has been mum about whether he’d like to keep the job.

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If he does leave, Mueller will be going out in style. Not only are all 22 films in the main competition world premieres, as has become the norm in Venice, but this year, for the first time, all 65 full-length feature films screening either in competition, out of competition or in the Horizons sidebar will be world premieres.

And it’s not just the number of world premieres that are attracting attention: the filmmakers and actors in them are also turning heads. Among this year’s highlights are films from award-winning directors like David Cronenberg, Steven Soderbergh, Roman Polanski, Abel Ferrara and Johnnie To, to directors known for acting or singing such as Al Pacino or Madonna, and paparazzi favorite actors including Clooney, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. All but Polanski are expected to make the trip to the Lido.

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The jury this year is headed by Darren Aronofsky, who has come into his own as a director in Venice. Each of Aronofsky’s three feature length films had their world premiere at the festival, with The Wrestler winning top honors three years ago, and Black Swan, last year’s opening film, causing a stir before going on to earn multiple Oscar nominations.
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