“Dune” is debuting out of competition, alongside Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho,” a stylish psychological horror with Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, and Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel”.
Director Denis Villeneuve has been to the world’s top film festivals, from Cannes to Toronto, but Venice holds a special spot.
“It’s definitely the most elegant,” Villeneuve said.
And, perhaps more importantly, it’s also brought him “a lot of luck in the past.” The festival hosted his 2010 film “Incendies” and the 2016 premiere of “Arrival,” both of which went on to be nominated for Oscars.
It’s no surprise then that Venice was where he wanted to debut his most ambitious film yet, “Dune,” an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic with an all-star cast led by Timothée Chalamet.
“Dune” is just one of the high-profile premieres coming to 78th Venice International Film Festival, which begins Wednesday on the Lido with new films from acclaimed directors like Jane Campion, Ridley Scott, Pedro Almodovar, Paolo Sorrentino, Paul Schrader and Edgar Wright and a roster of A-list celebrities including Ben Affleck, Kristen Stewart, Penelope Cruz, Kirsten Dunst, Zendaya, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac expected to grace the famed red carpet outside the Palazzo del Cinema.
In the past decade under the direction of Alberto Barbera, Venice has also reestablished itself as a top launching pad for Oscar hopefuls, and has hosted the world premieres of eventual best picture winners like “Birdman,” “Spotlight,” “The Shape of Water” and “Nomadland.”
This year may be no exception. Among the 21 films competing for the Golden Lion are Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” based on a 1925 novel about brothers in Montana (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) who encounter a widow and her son (Dunst). It’s Campion’s first feature since 2009 and a bit of a homecoming — her Janet Frame biopic “An Angel at My Table” won runner up at the festival in 1990.
“When this came around, I said, why even flirt with being rejected by Cannes? Let’s just go to Venice,” Schrader said. “Venice has been working very hard to heighten their profile and be the starting weekend of the award season that is coming back. And so that has given them a leg up that they haven’t had before.”
The main jury deciding on this year’s Golden Lion winner is just as prestigious as the lineup, headed by “Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho and includes “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao – the two most recent winners of best picture and best director Academy Awards.
“Dune” is debuting out of competition, alongside Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho,” a stylish psychological horror with Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, and Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” a 14th century epic with Affleck, Driver, Matt Damon and Jodie Comer.
Many are finding themselves emotional about the return to a physical film festival, although the hope for an end to the pandemic before this year’s edition was premature. And Venice is forging ahead once again, with precautions.
Venice Film Festival starts with masks, gel, and empty seats
“This idea of launching the movie in Venice is a way to underline the fact that the movie should be seen in theaters in places where it’s safe,” he said. “The film festival is a celebration of the big screen experience. For me, to watch ‘Dune’ in Venice is very symbolic.” The festival runs through September 11.
“Dune” will be released simultaneously in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.