Venice Film Festival Day 2: Roman Polanski and Madonna's Films Screen

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Polanski's "Carnage" received a warm reception, while Madonna was bombarded by reporters at the presentation for "W.E."

VENICE – The Venice Film Festival packed an unusual one-two punch Thursday, with back-to-back Sala Grande world-premiere screenings from five-time Oscar-nominated director Roman Polanski, followed by only the second directorial effort from pop singing icon Madonna.

Polanski’s in competition drama Carnage, adapted from a Yasmina Reza play that focuses on the relationship between two sets of parents who meet after their children were involved in a fight, was warmly greeted as the evening’s main attraction, though Polanski’s absence helped limit the buzz around the film.


But Madonna more than made up for it. The Material Girl made a grand entrance to a standing ovation at the Sala Grande, only hours after a standing-room-only press conference concluded with several dozen reporters rushing to the front of the room in hopes of snapping a close-range photo or asking for her autograph.

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Her film, W.E., which screens in Venice out of competition, tells the parallel stories of the life of Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee who forced British King Edward VII to abdicate the throne in order to marry her, and a modern day woman obsessed with Simpson’s story. In an unusual move, the festival scheduled two press and industry screenings of the film ahead of the official world premiere in the Sala Grande.


Tickets for the Sala Grande screening of both films sold out almost immediately.

Elsewhere on the Lido, the festival, which started on Wednesday, got into a high gear, with the initial screenings of three in-competition films – in addition to Carnage, Wei Te-Sheng’s Saideke Balai (Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale) and Un ete brulant from Philippe Garrel also screened – plus a half dozen screenings in the festival’s Horizons sidebar.

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Among the stars arriving on the Lido Thursday were director David Cronenberg and actors Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen ahead of the Friday premiere of Cronenberg’s dramatic thriller A Dangerous Method, along with Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Laurence Fishburne -- all in connection with Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, which is also set to premiere Friday.

The 68th edition of the Venice Film Festival wraps up Sept. 10.