Venice, Italy, and Telluride, Colorado—two cities that ordinarily have nothing in common, but for one weekend each year become the white-hot center of the film industry, with festivals that kick off awards season by premiering a huge slate of would-be contenders. Venice is where Joker became a surprise contender when it won the Golden Lion, and where audiences first embraced Roma; Telluride, meanwhile, is where a former festival volunteer named Barry Jenkins debuted his film Moonlight, while Vanity Fair’s own Richard Lawson made a bold prediction about the Oscar potential for Emma Stone.
And this year the stakes may be higher than ever, with Telluride returning after canceling last year’s event, and both festivals attempting to set the tone for a more normal moviegoing fall. On this week’s Little Gold Men podcast, Vanity Fair’s Telluride-bound correspondents—Lawson, David Canfield, and Rebecca Ford—join Katey Rich and Joanna Robinson for a look at what to expect, as well as some Venice debuts to keep an eye on. Listen to the episode below:
Though the Telluride lineup remains closely guarded until the day the festival begins, the Awards Insider team has been bringing exclusive early looks at some of this year’s titles. Ahead, a look at the titles we’re most intrigued by—and tune in to next week’s episode for some post-festival chatter about how it all turned out.
The Power of the Dog
As the first film by Jane Campion in more than a decade, this 1920s-set Western was at the top of our “most anticipated” list even before David Canfield brought us an exclusive early look at the film, with insight from Campion and star Benedict Cumberbatch about how they recreated the Montana frontier in New Zealand. On a recent Little Gold Men episode, the team also discussed the novel by Thomas Savage that Campion adapted for the film, and wondered how the in-depth internal monologues of the novel might translate onscreen. Based on even the pre-festival buzz we’re hearing, they seem to translate just fine. The Power of the Dog will have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival before moving on to Telluride, and then the Toronto and New York film festivals later this month.
A massive adaptation of an enormously influential work of science fiction, delayed for nearly a year due to the pandemic—Dune will arrive at the Venice Film Festival with huge expectations, for director Denis Villeneuve as well as its starry cast (we’re hearing especially good buzz about Rebecca Ferguson’s performance). Way back in April of 2020, Anthony Breznican debuted first-look images of the film in Vanity Fair.
Several major movies this fall had to navigate pandemic challenges to go into production, but none of them solved the problem quite as creatively as Joe Wright’s Cyrano, which took over the historic city of Noto, Italy, to establish its COVID-safe bubble. “I believe that it’s our humble job as storytellers to help people heal from the kind of trauma that we’ve all been going through globally,“ Wright told Vanity Fair’s Rebecca Ford, calling his adaptation of the Cyrano musical “my heart out there.” Starring Peter Dinklage, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Wright’s real-life partner, Haley Bennett, Cyrano promises to be a mix of theater and film in the vein of Anna Karenina, with a romantic twist.
The Lost Daughter
Most debut directors don’t get the chance to show their films at a festival as prestigious as Venice—but then, most debut directors aren’t Maggie Gyllenhaal, who used her decades of experience making movies as an actor for her adaptation of the novel by Elena Ferrante. “I grew up in a time where there were some really interesting women making movies, but there weren’t very many,” she told V.F.’s David Canfield for our early look at the film. “I just, without thinking about it, was like, Oh, I’m an actress. I didn’t give myself the opportunity to think about director.” If The Lost Daughter wins over audiences in Venice as well as Telluride, Gyllenhaal might find a career behind the camera as successful as the one she’s had in front of it.
Kenneth Branagh has had something of a shape-shifting career as a director, ranging from Shakespeare adaptations to a live-action Cinderella, but it’s likely that his premiere at this year’s Telluide Film Festival will be his biggest departure yet. Based on his own childhood memories growing up in Northern Ireland at the beginning of the Troubles, Belfast is a black-and-white, deeply personal period piece—one very connected to modern-day upheaval as well. “I found that this lockdown really triggered something for me that reminded me of a fragility in our lives,” he told Rebecca Ford for our first-look feature on the film, which stars Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, and young newcomer Jude Hill. “I felt obliged and compelled to finally revisit this moment.”
The new film from Jackie director Pablo Larraín will premiere at Venice and Telluride with an enormous amount of anticipation around it, partly thanks to the canny marketing that’s teased the movie in only the briefest glimpses. There was the beguiling teaser poster, and then a minute-long trailer in which Kristen Stewart’s Princess Diana says only two syllables, but enough to earn heaps of praise anyway. In this period between two Diana-centric seasons of The Crown, it seems like an ideal time for Stewart to put her stamp on the People’s Princess—and for Larraín to present an intensely focused look at one of the most famous, and tragic, women to ever live.
Will Smith’s last Oscar nomination was for the inspirational, based-on-a-true-story family drama The Pursuit of Happyness, and there’s good reason to suspect he might follow the same path with King Richard, a biopic about Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena. Released by Warner Bros., it’s the kind of big studio movie that doesn’t often swing through Telluride, suggesting some major faith in the project.
The Last Duel
What to make of the fact that the first of two Ridley Scott projects premiering this fall will play only at Venice? With Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer in the cast, it will be one of the festival’s starriest premieres—and if reviews are good, it will make critics and awards watchers trapped in North America insanely jealous that they won’t get to experience it for themselves. So why wouldn’t a film this promising take a victory lap at another fall festival? It could be because Scott has another potential awards hit coming in House of Gucci in just a few months, and it’s too much competition. It could be to amp up the anticipation even more ahead of the scheduled October 15 release date. Or there could be a reason we won’t find out until the Venice premiere. Watch this space!
Certain subsets of Oscar fanatics are still furious that Annette Bening missed out on an Oscar nomination for 2016’s 20th Century Women, which puts all the more attention on director Mike Mills’s follow-up, C’mon C’mon, which will debut at Telluride. It’s Joaquin Phoenix’s first feature post-Joker, and is a family-driven story that suggests some more empathetic, grounded work than, well, strutting down a staircase in clown makeup.
Last Night in Soho
With its release long delayed by the pandemic and a trailer that promises bloody thrills and a bit of time travel, Edgar Wright’s latest, premiering at Venice and later at the Toronto Film Festival, could be the kind of genre effort that wins over skeptics—and yet another showcase for the talents of Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) and possible future Emmy winner Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit).
And a few more to watch out for…
Benedict Cumberbatch actually has two films premiering at Telluride, and The Electrical Life of Louis Wain—a period piece biopic about the British artist—appears to be a little more conventional than The Power of the Dog, but promising all the same. A few earlier festival hits will show back up at Telluride to build more buzz heading into the fall, including Red Rocket, A Hero, and Flee. On the documentary side, Free Solo directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi are back with The Rescue at Telluride, alongside the Julia Child documentary Julia from Betsy West and Julie Cohen. We’ll also be keeping an eye on Ana Lily Amirpour’s latest, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, at Venice, the Riz Ahmed–led Encounter at Telluride, and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God. And as always, we’re hoping there’s something coming that’s not yet on our radar, just waiting to blow us away.