'Married' aims to lift Venice's spirits

Anne Hathaway, Jonathan Demme arrive in town

VENICE -- Jonathan Demme and Anne Hathaway arrived in Venice on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's premiere of "Rachel Getting Married," kicking off what many hope will be a strong finish for a festival that has been hammered by the Italian press since its opening last week.

On Tuesday, L'Unita reported that demand for hotels and restaurants on the Lido were down by a fifth compared with last year's levels and that ticket sales were weaker as well. Corriere della Sera, meanwhile, continued its assault on the competition lineup, calling it Venice's weakest in years.

The festival's schedule over the final days has prompted speculation on some fronts that Venice organizers may have backloaded the event with stronger titles -- at a time when many journalists and industry players will be preparing to depart for the Toronto International Film Festival, which begins Thursday.

In addition to Demme's "Rachel," Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" and "The Hurt Locker" from Kathryn Bigelow are among the major films yet to screen on the Lido.

A festival spokesman declined comment on the timing of the screenings.

Meanwhile, the military crisis between Russia and Georgia has claimed at least one indirect casualty here, as Georgian documentary filmmaker-actress Nino Kirtadze backed out of her role as a member of the festival's documentary competition jury so she can remain in Tiblisi.

Jury president Alessandro Signetto said Kirtadze wants to remain in Georgia as a gesture of support for the country. No replacement will be named for her spot on the jury.

Venice concludes Sunday.