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August 31, 2009

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Film festival takes aim at capitalism

THE Venice film festival has capitalism in its sights this year, with premieres of Michael Moore's documentary on the United States economic meltdown and a drama starring Matt Damon as a corrupt corporate whistle blower.

"Capitalism: A Love Story," in competition at the annual cinema showcase, sees Moore take on corporate bosses with his trademark combative style, bringing the hot topic of recession to the picturesque Italian waterfront.

And "The Informant!" which is directed by Steven Soderbergh and features Damon as a real-life crooked executive who exposed his company's price-fixing tactics, will be screened out of competition. The festival runs from September 2-12.

Damon is one of several Hollywood A-listers due to grace the Venice red carpet this year, as studios appear prepared to pay the substantial costs of appearing at the festival to generate buzz for their pictures as the awards season kicks off.

Stars set to appear include Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Oliver Stone, Charlize Theron, Eva Mendes, Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone.

This year's edition of the world's oldest film festival looks set to eclipse 2008, which, despite awarding Mickey Rourke's acclaimed comeback "The Wrestler" with the Golden Lion for best film, was seen as lacking star power. "On paper it looks good, and these people will be doing the red carpet and giving the festival the glamor I think it needs," said Lee Marshall, film critic for Screen International and a Venice regular.

"That was lacking last year, considered by many to be a limp festival from that point of view. Many media representatives canceled pretty much after the program was announced."

George Clooney, who has a home in Italy and is a local favorite, appears in "The Men Who Stare at Goats," about a reporter who stumbles across a US military unit in Iraq which employs paranormal powers on its missions.

Author Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic vision of the world in "The Road" makes it to the big screen, with Viggo Mortensen starring with Charlize Theron.

Cage appears in Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," a remake of the 1992 movie directed by Abel Ferrara, who has publicly criticized the new version.

US director Todd Solondz is in competition with "Life During Wartime," while horror master George Romero presents "Survival of the Dead," one of several horror movies at the festival this year.

Films touching on the 1982 war in Lebanon, the Tamil Tiger rebellion in Sri Lanka, and recent Iranian protests promise to make the headlines, as does Oliver Stone's documentary "South of the Border" about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Two very different cinema heavyweights will be honored, with animation king John Lasseter receiving a lifetime achievement award and "Rambo" and "Rocky" star Stallone receiving an award outside the main festival.

A global list of movies sees Egypt's "The Traveler", featuring Omar Sharif, in competition alongside pictures from China, Austria, Israel, Japan, France, Germany and Italy.


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