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Photograph: Netflix

9 films to look out for at this year’s Venice Film Festival

Is Netflix’s NSFW Marilyn Monroe drama ‘Blonde’ bound for the Oscars?

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

The Venice Film Festival – like Cannes – may feel like one of those far-off events frequented by Aperol-sipping film types zipping about in ’50s-style speedboats. And there’s some truth in that, because while its screenings are very much open to the public, realistically you need to be a local to access it. But in recent years, the fest has become a starting gun for awards season, a source of endless viral fun (hello, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain) and a first airing for headline-grabbing movies that we’ll all be talking about for months (hello, to a lesser extent, to Joker). In short, you can’t afford to ignore it. And here’s seven films from September’s fest you definitely can’t afford to ignore.

Must-see Venice films

Bones and All
Photograph: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

1. Bones and All

There’s a reason Luca Guadagnino is on our list of the Coolest Filmmakers in the World – and it isn’t just down to Call Me By Your Name and the way his remake of Suspiria tried to sneak Tilda Swinton in disguise as an old man like we hadn’t all grown up watching Scooby-Do and would see right through it. He’s a stylist, a storyteller, a philosopher and, like the rest of us, a massive Timothée Chalamet fanboy. His new one is an adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’s 2015 novel about two drifters (Chalamet and Waves’ Taylor Russell) crossing paths on the road in America. Could it be this year’s Nomadland?

Photograph: Netflix

2. Blonde

Currently, the buzziest film premiering at the fest is Andrew Dominik’s long-gestating Marilyn Monroe biopic. It stars No Time to Die star Ana de Armas – and she’s great, obvs – and it’s about Monroe – and she’s iconic, of course – and it’ll be on Netflix some time this year. But who are we kidding? It’s the ‘adults only’ tag that’s really got the internet’s juices flowing. What it actually means in practice will be a big talking point at the fest. Let’s not forget that, technically, The Gray Man is also adults-only and that was about as sexy as a tin of Spam.

White Noise 
Photograph: Venice Film Festival

3. White Noise 

Venice’s opening film is brimming with literary cred. Directed by that chronicler of American metropolitan types in flux, Noah Baumbach, and adapted from Don DeLillo’s postmodern classic from 1985, it’ll kick off the festival in bold fashion. ‘White Noise’, like most DeLillo novels, feels like a tricky one to adapt but Baumbach definitely has the cast for the job: Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig  Marriage Story was the filmmaker’s last Venice premiere and that worked out okay.

Banshees of Inisherin
Photograph: Searchlight Pictures

4. Banshees of Inisherin

In Bruges is one of the great black comedies of the century, so it makes all kinds of sense for director Martin McDonagh to reunite its two leads – Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson – for a tragicomedy about friendship, dislocation and men being really bad at talking about their feeling. The pair play old mates whose lifelong bond is abruptly severed when one calls it quits on the whole thing. It’s set on an island off the west coast of Ireland, so will be ridiculously beautiful to look at, as well as richly cast – Barry Keoghan is also in it. McDonagh is promising something In Bruges fans will love, only ‘a little weirder’.

The Son
Photograph: Sony Pictures Classics

5. The Son

Stunning stage-to-screen dementia drama The Father won Anthony Hopkins an Oscar and made French playwright Florian Zeller a filmmaker to watch. Zeller is back with a thematically linked follow-up, The Son (expect ‘The Holy Ghost’ next year, one wag joked on Reddit), which is again based on his own stage play. Hopkins is back, too, alongside Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern and Vanessa Kirby in a divorce drama that probably won’t provide a great deal more solace.

Don’t Worry Darling
Foto: Cortesía Warner Bros. Pictures

6. Don’t Worry Darling

Olivia Wilde’s raunchy psychodrama arrives at the fest on a slipstream of mystique, vague awards buzz and more social media chatter than anything this side of on-set pics from Barbie. It’s got an It cast of Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, a Mad Men-like aesthetic, and a juicy paranoid streak that has so-far translated into two trailers that no one should ever watch stoned. All those vibes will coalesce in Venice when it premieres and hopefully continues the Booksmart director’s hot streak.

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Foto: Cortesía 20th Century Fox

7. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

Cinemas should start extending their marquees now because Alejandro González Iñárritu’s wordily-titled comedy is heading their way, prior to landing on Netflix. And shot on 65mm by Seven cinematographer Darius Khondji, it’s designed for the big screen: an ‘epic personal journey’ that follows a Mexican journalist (Daniel Giménez Cacho) as he returns home to deal with an existential crisis. It’s Iñárritu’s first Mexico-set film since 2000’s Amores Perros (though 2010’s Biutiful was in Spanish). Will it be his Roma?

The Eternal Daughter
Andrea Raffin/

8. The Eternal Daughter

Venice-goers will be treated to a Joanna Hogg and Tilda Swinton collaboration in the wraith-like shape of this mystery-drama, shot during the pandemic in Wales. Like The Souvenir, it’s executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, has backing from A24 and should showcase Hogg’s ultra-naturalist style – albeit on something closer to genre turf. The story follows a middle-aged woman and her elderly mum as they ‘confront long-buried secrets when they return to their former family home, a once-grand manor that has become a nearly vacant hotel brimming with mystery’. 

The Whale 
Photograph: A24

9. The Whale 

Darren Aronofsky is back at Venice five years after Mother!, this time with Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink, Brendan Fraser and Samantha Morton in tow. Fraser is the titular character: a chronically obese English teacher who emerges from his hermetic existence to build bridges with his estranged teenage daughter (Sink). Will it win him a Golden Lion to go with his 2008 win for The Wrestler

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