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CULTURE

Chalamet, Styles, Armas: next-gen stars to light up Venice film festival

A new generation of stars steps into the spotlight when the Venice Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday.

Timothee Chalamet
US-French actor Timothee Chalamet attends the 94th Oscars in Hollywood in March 2022. His latest film "Bones and All", billed as a cannibal romance, will premiere in Venice. ANGELA WEISS / AFP

Ninety years since its first edition, the world’s longest-running film event also boasts a raft of award-winning directors in its line-up this year.

Perhaps the most anticipated premiere will be for Monroe biopic “Blonde”, a dark retelling of the icon’s tragic life.

Its Australian director Andrew Dominik has, with typical modesty, declared it “a masterpiece” and it threatens to propel Armas from rising star to fully fledged A-lister.

Meanwhile, the army of Chalamet fans are ravenous for “Bones and All”, reuniting him with “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino for what is billed as a “cannibal romance”.

And the internet can barely contain itself over the premiere of “Don’t Worry Darling”, starring Styles — one of the biggest-selling musicians in the world — alongside Florence Pugh in a thriller about an isolated 1950 community.

Amid a wave of rumours about its sex scenes and a supposed rivalry between Pugh and director Olivia Wilde (also Styles’ girlfriend), it is not yet known whether the singer will appear in Venice.

Returning winners

The festival, which runs until September 10, is well-timed to kick-start Oscar campaigns, and Hollywood has increasingly used Venice to launch prestige productions such as “A Star is Born”, “La La Land” and “Nomadland”.

This year sees the return of director Darren Aronofsky, who won the top Golden Lion prize in Venice in 2008 for “The Wrestler” and launched his Oscar-winning “Black Swan” at Venice.

His new film “The Whale” stars Brendan Fraser, who has been largely absent from the screen since his heyday in films like “The Mummy” two decades ago, but is picking up a lot of early hype for his transformation into a morbidly obese man trying to reconnect with his daughter.

Another Venice regular, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is back in his native Mexico for family tale “Bardo” after two US hits — “Birdman” (which won the Golden Lion and best film Oscar) and “The Revenant”, which snagged a
long-awaited Oscar for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Venice has a key advantage over its main rival, Cannes, since the French festival is partly run by cinema owners who refuse films from streaming services.

“Blonde”, “The Whale” and “Bardo” are all Netflix movies — as is opening film “White Noise” starring Adam Driver and directed by indie favourite Noah Baumbach.

From Iran to Ireland

Hollywood and Western Europe dominate the selection of 23 films competing for the hearts of a jury led by US actress Julianne Moore.

One notable exception is Iran’s award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi, whose “No Bears” is premiering barely a month after he was imprisoned amid a crackdown on dissident directors.

Also bound to stir political controversy is a new documentary from Laura Poitras, who follows her films about whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange with “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” about the family pharma group behind the US opioid epidemic.

Other stars expected to grace the Lido island are Cate Blanchett, playing a music conductor in “Tar” and Hugh Jackman in domestic drama “The Son”.

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunite with writer-director Martin McDonagh following their much-loved 2008 crime caper “In Bruges”.

They are in their native Ireland for “The Banshees of Inisherin”, hoping to repeat McDonagh’s success with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, which won the screenplay award in Venice five years ago.

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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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