'The Master' Added to Venice Competition Lineup

The Master Poster - P 2012

The Master Poster - P 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson's cult religious drama will be the surprise selection; for the past seven years, the surprise film was from Asia.

LOCARNO, Switzerland – Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master will be the 18th and final in-competition film at the Venice Film Festival, organizers announced Tuesday.

The production, which is the special “surprise film” that rounds out Venice’s slimmed-down competition lineup, tells the story of a young drifter who becomes a protagonist in the founding of a 1950s faith-based organization. Anderson will be on hand for the Sept. 1 world premiere of the film, though the festival did not say which members of the cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams would be on the Venice Lido for the screening.

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Counting Anderson, 12 of 18 directors with films in the running for Venice’s prestigious Golden Lion prize are competing for the first time, another area of contrast for Venice under the artistic direction of Alberto Barbera, who signed up for his second stint in Venice in December. In the past, Venice regulars often dominated the in-competition lineup.

By selecting a U.S. production as the surprise film, Barbera set up yet another contrast with Marco Mueller, his predecessor in Venice who has since taken the helm of the rival International Rome Film Festival. When the Venice lineup was announced in July, Barbera was coy about the surprise film, a tradition Mueller started, offering only that, “The surprise film won’t be Chinese.”

Of the six surprise films under Mueller, four hailed from China or Hong Kong. At least the first year -- when the selection was Zhang Ke Jia’s controversial drama Sanxia haoren (Still Life) -- the film was was revealed late in order to help it escape the grasp of Chinese censors. Over that six-year span, the Philippines and Iran were the only two countries besides China and Hong Kong to produce a Venice in-competition surprise selection.

PHOTO: 'The Master' Poster Refracts Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams

The Master is the sixth full-length feature project from Anderson, heretofore best known for Magnoloa and There Will Be Blood. The Weinstein Co. is distributing the film domestically.

In addition to announcing the inclusion of The Master, organizers names four more out-of-competition films to the official selection, bringing the total number to 63, not counting autonomous sidebars and retrospectives. That’s 22 less than a year ago, but a little larger than Barbera originally planned when he announced the changes he had in store for the festival back in January.

The new films are Come voglio che sai il mio futuro? (How Do I Wish For You To Know My Future?) started by 81-year-old Italian maestro Ermanno Olmi and completed by former student Maurizio Zaccaro. Also on tap, a tribute to anti-Mafia crusader Giovanni Falcone from Pasquale Scimeca, Convitto Falcone, and Du hast es versprochen (Forgotten), a midnight horror selection and freshman directorial effort from Germany’s Alex Schmidt.

The 69th edition of the Venice Film Festival, which was first held exactly 80 years ago from Monday, will take place this year August 29-Sept. 8.