Clooney to kick off star-studded Venice festival

Clooney to kick off star-studded Venice festival

Venice: Rakish Hollywood star George Clooney’s dark political thriller “The Ides of March" is set to open the world’s oldest film festival on Wednesday with a star-studded red carpet ceremony in Venice.

Co-stars Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood and Philip Seymour Hoffman are expected to join Clooney in wowing paparazzi before the screening, and at an exclusive private party at the Lido island’s Excelsior hotel afterwards.

The blue-eyed actor’s fourth film as a director, “Ides of March", will screen at 1700 GMT to open the competition, which will see 22 films -- all world premieres -- compete for the prestigious Golden Lion award.

“The Ides of March," a thriller about a US presidential campaign, in which a loyal aide helping the Democratic governor win in Ohio discovers just how dirty politics can be, was met with general acclaim at a critics’ advance screening.

Based on Beau Willimon’s play, “Farragut North," the film’s screenplay, written by Clooney along with Grant Heslov and Willimon, showcases the director’s reputation for astute political commentary with a dramatic twist.

The cinematography plays on light and shadows, with stylistic nods to film noir and the western which create an almost theatrical feel at times, to evoke the dark underworld of politics in a fictional, but current-day America.

Clooney’s slick lines as Governor Mike Morris -- “integrity matters, our future depends on it" -- inevitably draws comparisons with a US currently weighed down by bitter political struggles between Republicans and Democrats.

The director has been quoted as saying the work was ready to begin filming in 2008 when Barack Obama won the US presidential elections, but was initially worried the climate of optimism was not right for his cynical tale.

The seasoned star will be hoping to bag his first Golden Lion as a director after winning best screenplay and best actor in Venice in 2005 for “Goodnight and Goodluck" but losing the Lion to Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain."

As Venice prepared for the big opening ceremony, luxury hotels buzzed with fans hopeful of catching a glimpse of a-listers from Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, to “The Godfather" great Al Pacino, and superstar Madonna.

Clooney , who owns a house in northern Italy and is a favourite at the festival -- kicked off the paparazzi frenzy on Tuesday, arriving by water taxi sporting a pair of dark glasses , but without the rumoured new girlfriend.

The glamour at the opening ceremony is set to continue into Thursday with the world premieres of French-Polish director Roman Polanski’s “Carnage" and Madonna’s “W.E," which is screening out of competition.

Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet are expected on the red carpet for “Carnage," which is based on an acclaimed French play about two sets of parents who meet up to talk after their children get into a fight.

But Polanski, famous for films such as “Rosemary’s Baby" (1968) and “The Pianist" (2002), will not be present. Wanted in the United States for alleged sexual assault back in 1977, he risks extradition should he travel to Italy.

Screaming fans will be out in force again on Thursday evening, however, for the premier of “W.E.", Madonna’s film about King Edward VIII’s romance with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

“W.E.", starring British actors James D’Arcy and Andrea Riseborough, was two years in the making, and explores the controversial love story between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor through the eyes of a lonely modern-day New Yorker.

Costume designer Arianne Phillips worked extensively with labels such as Cartier, Dior, and Dunhill to recreate Wally’s extraordinary appetite for fashion and exquisite, enormous collection of jewels and shoes.

Despite the glittering array of stars and jewels, critics in Venice will be looking to the jury -- led by Darren Aronofsky, director of the Oscar-winning film “Black Swan" -- for pointers on upcoming talent both on and off camera.

The festival concludes on 10 September .