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Michael Mann hasn't been in the director's seat since 2009's "Public Enemies," save for his involvement in HBO's short-lived series "Luck." He's a guy with a stack of potential projects lined up, but it seems he'll take a little bit of a break from the fray to head up the jury of the 69th annual Venice Film Festival later this year.
Newly installed artistic director Alberto Barbera made the recommendation to the fest's board of governors, chaired by Paolo Baratta, and they jumped at the opportunity. It will be the first time Mann has ever chaired a jury, interestingly enough. What of this year's eventual line-up will spark for the man behind such modern classics as "The Last of the Mohicans," "Heat" and "The Insider?" Better yet, what can we expect to see at the fest?
Earlier this week Barbera dropped a few clues as to what we might see at the Lido this year. In remarks to Italian journalists, as reported by Eric Lyman at The Hollywood Reporter, Barbera mentioned Brian De Palma ("Passion"), Terrence Malick ("To the Wonder") and Paul Thomas Anderson ("The Master") as possibilities, as well as Italian talents Silvio Soldini ("The Commander and the Stork"), Marco Bellocchio ("Dormant Beauty") and Gabriele Salvatores ("Siberian Education").
Mann's taste is interesting to me. His unranked (as it seems it's alphabetical) list of the all-time greatest films when polled by Sight & Sound Magazine featured F.W. Murnau's "Faust," Alain Resnais's "Last Year at Marienbad" and Carl Theodor Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc," among others, as well as westerns from John Ford ("My Darling Clementine") and Sam Peckinpah ("The Wild Bunch"). He also included "Apocalypse Now," "Citizen Kane" and "Dr. Strangelove," three films firmly on my own such list.
He seems like the perfect kind of guy to head up a jury. In fact I'm surprised this will be his first go at it. And I'm sure his presence will make the proceedings all the more thoughtful.
Recent Golden Lion winners at Venice fest have included "Faust" (Sokurov's, that is, awarded by Darren Aronofsky's jury), "Somewhere" (awarded by Quentin Tarantino's jury), "Lebanon" (awarded by Ang Lee's jury) and "The Wrestler" (awarded by Wim Wenders's jury).
Speaking of Ang Lee, he has walked away with the fest's top honor twice in the last 10 years, for "Lust, Caution" in 2007 and "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005. Should he take "Life of Pi" to the fest, perhaps we'll have to start considering the possibility of a third.
The 69th annual Venice Film Festival runs August 29 - September 8. Guy Lodge will be on the ground covering for In Contention for a fourth straight year. Greg Ellwood and I, meanwhile, will be filing from the Telluride Film Festival the very same weekend, so it'll be another busy kick-off to the fall festival season!
(By the way, last year, Mann's daughter, Ami Canaan Mann, brought "Texas Killing Fields" to the festival. Dad, who produced, was along for the ride, proud and supportive. Here is the Venice press conference for that film from the 68th annual.)
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