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Thrillers add chill for Golden Lion


The oldest film festival in the world is going big on nail-biters this year with thrillers dominating the race for Venice’s coveted Golden Lion award, organisers said on Thursday.

Stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda are expected to be among the A-listers spotted posing on the red carpet or hopping into gondolas at the gala’s 74th edition.

This year the festival, a key launchpad for heavyweight Oscar contenders, has gone big on US flicks in particular.

Hollywood heavyweight Ethan Hawke will star in director Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed”, a spine-chiller about members of a church who are tormented by the deaths of loved ones — and harbouring a dark secret.

It goes up against hotly-awaited “mother!” by Darren Aronofsky, the US director behind the 2010 psychological horror film “Black Swan”.

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, the film tells the tale of a couple thrown into turmoil by uninvited guests.

And Britain’s Martin McDonaugh — best known for 2008 black comedy “In Bruges” — will hope to suitably unnerve the jury with thriller “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, starring Frances McDormand as a middle-aged mother who challenges police after her daughter is murdered but no killer is found.

It’s not all white-knuckle suspense: the beachside festival on the Lido island, which runs from July 30 to August 9 and is set to feature 21 world premieres, will kick off on a lighter tone.

Oscar-winning US director Alexander Payne’s latest sci-fi comedy “Downsizing” will open the show, starring Matt Damon as a man who realises he would have a better life if he shrank, and Kirsten Wiig as his indecisive wife.

Damon also stars in Clooney’s new flick “Suburbicon”, a dark comedy written by the Coen brothers and set in 1959, in which he plays a father of a suburban family that discovers the neighbourhood’s dark underbelly of violence.

Teaser pictures released by Paramount show a very blonde Julianne Moore co-starring in Clooney’s sixth directorial effort.

Chief juror Annette Bening and her panel of experts — including film-makers Michel Franco and Edgar Wright and actress Rebecca Hall — are likely to be already lusting after the latest by Mexican fantasy master Guillermo del Toro.

The Cold War-era love fairytale story “The Shape of Water” by the man behind “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) stars Sally Hawkins as a custodial worker in a government laboratory who discovers and smuggles out a top-secret experiment.

Two documentaries are also in the running: Frederick Wiseman’s “Ex Libris, New York Public Library” and Ai WeiWei’s “Human Flow”, which was filmed in 23 countries and explores the staggering scale of today’s global migration issue.

Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche will bring “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno”, a 1980s coming-of-age story, while Italy’s Paolo Virzi will premiere “The Leisure Seeker”, starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.

Out of competition but by no means less eagerly awaited, Britain’s Stephen Frears will debut “Victoria & Abdul”, about Queen Victoria’s unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk, starring Judi Dench, Ali Fazal and Eddie Izzard.

“Exorcist” director William Friedkin delves into the story of a real-life exorcism with his documentary “The Devil and the Father Amorth” while Netflix reveals its first Italian original series “Suburra”, about gangsters and politicians in Rome.

Last but not least, US greats Robert Redford and Jane Fonda will be celebrated with Golden Lion lifetime achievement awards. — AFP

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