Critic's Picks: Venice Film Festival's 8 Most Anticipated Premieres

6:30 AM 8/23/2019

by David Rooney

Alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro in DC comics origin story 'Joker' and Steven Soderbergh's starry Panama Papers drama 'The Laundromat,' the Lido event will screen more hot titles and likely awards contenders.

Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival; Courtesy of TIFF

  • 'Ad Astra'

    Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival

    Critics' darling James Gray, whose career was launched in Venice in 1994 with Little Odessa, returns with his first foray into sci-fi. Brad Pitt stars as an astronaut venturing into deep space in search of his lost father, whose experiment is a threat to the survival of humanity on Earth. The cast also includes Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland.

  • 'American Skin'

    Venice Film Festival

    Nate Parker’s feature directing debut, The Birth of a Nation, premiered at Sundance to full-throated acclaim and landed a hefty distribution deal with Fox Searchlight. But resurfaced allegations of past sexual misconduct derailed the film’s release. The actor-director returns three years later with a fresh attempt to put that episode behind him, playing a Marine veteran trying to mend broken fences with his son when tragedy strikes.

  • 'Citizen K'

    Courtesy of TIFF

    The most prolific of contemporary American docu makers, Alex Gibney’s recent subjects have included Scientology, Wikileaks, sports doping and the pedophilia scandal that shook the Catholic Church. His latest delves into the strange case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once believed to be the richest man in Russia, who rose to prosperity in the 1990s before serving a decade in prison for fraud and becoming an unlikely martyr to the anti-Putin cause.

  • 'The King'

    Venice Film Festival

    Australian director David Michod, who broke through internationally with Animal Kingdom, has assembled a deluxe ensemble for his fresh take on Shakespeare's Henriad. Timothee Chalamet takes on the role of the wayward prince Hal, with Ben Mendelsohn as the father he succeeds to the throne, Robert Pattinson as the Dauphin of France, and Joel Edgerton, who co-wrote the screenplay with Michod, as Hal's dedicated companion in drunken debauchery, Falstaff.

  • 'Marriage Story'

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson face off as an experimental New York theater director and his actress wife, a Los Angeles transplant, negotiating a supposedly amicable divorce that turns into a cross-country custody battleground fueled by resentment. Described as harrowing and hilarious, Noah Baumbach's second feature for Netflix, following The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), also stars Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Meritt Wever.

  • 'An Officer and a Spy'

    Venice Film Festival

    Roman Polanski might make little more than a cameo as a character in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but the eternally controversial exiled director will be a vivid presence in Venice via his drama adapted from the Robert Harris novel about a late-19th century French Jewish artillery officer falsely accused of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island based on doctored evidence. Emmanuelle Seigner, Louis Garrel and Jean Dujardin head the cast.

  • 'Seberg'

    Courtesy of TIFF

    The American nouvelle vague gamine who famously peddled copies of The New York Herald Tribune on the Champs Elysees in Godard's Breathless is investigated by an ambitious young FBI agent for her involvement in Civil Rights turbulence in late 1960s Los Angeles. Australian theater luminary Benedict Andrews directs Kristen Stewart as iconic American actress Jean Seberg in a political thriller that also features Jack O'Connell, Anthony Mackie and Margaret Qualley.

  • 'Wasp Network'

    Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival

    Olivier Assayas undertook an electrifying investigation into political terrorism in South America with the 2010 miniseries Carlos. The French writer-director returns to parallel territory and reunites with the star of that project, Edgar Ramirez, who appears alongside Penelope Cruz and Gael Garcia Bernal in this true story of Cuban spies in 1990s Florida, sent to infiltrate organizations carrying out anti-Castro strikes.

    A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.