Venice film festival 2023: Liam Neeson and Emma Stone movies lead Irish interest as line-up unveiled

A sparkling line-up of titles for the upcoming 80th edition of the festival has been announced

Alberto Barbera, director of the Venice Film Festival, has announced a sparkling line-up of titles for the upcoming 80th edition. New films by David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, William Friedkin, Woody Allen, Michael Mann, Roman Polanski, Bradley Cooper and Ava DuVernay will premiere on the Lido in late August and early September.

There is significant Irish interest with Robert Lorenz’s Donegal-set In the Land of Saints and Sinners, starring Kerry Condon, Liam Neeson and Ciarán Hinds, securing a spot in the Horizons Extra section. Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things, produced by Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe for Element Pictures in Dublin, will compete for the Golden Lion.

There had been much speculation that the continuing Hollywood actors’ strike may cause studios to pull their prestige titles. As things stand, stars of the big American films will be unable to attend. That gossip was fuelled when, just last week, Warner Bros withdrew Luca Guadagnino’s tennis dramedy Challengers from its spot as the opening film. But the programme seems otherwise unscathed. “This past week has been a bit turbulent due to the actors’ strike, which, combined with the screenwriters strike, took us a bit by surprise,” Alberto Barbera said. “Luckily the impact of the actors’ strike – the reasons for which are largely understandable – is very modest.” He added that the only film they “lost” was Challengers.

Poor Things, an adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s feminist novel, stars Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo and Jerrod Carmichael in a tale that inclines towards Frankenstein. Ed Guiney, Oscar-nominated for Room and Lanthimos’s The Favourite, acknowledged the strike by the Sag-Aftra union was in their minds. “It currently seems unlikely the cast will be there to celebrate the making of the film,” the Irish producer told The Irish Times. “That would be a shame. It’s such a wonderful festival. But we also understand why that’s the case. The situation is out of our hands and it’s totally understandable, given what’s going on.”


It remains to be seen if the cast of In the Land of Saints and Sinners will be allowed (or will be willing) to strut the carpet. From a screenplay by Michael McNally and Terry Loane, the film, picked up by Netflix for the UK and Ireland, casts Neeson as a man in conflict with terrorists bent on revenge. As well as Hinds and Condon, both recent Oscar nominees, the groaning cast also features Sarah Greene, Colm Meaney and Mark O’Regan.

In recent years, Venice has emerged as the key launching point for awards season. That is more true than ever this year. Michael Fassbender, Kerry’s finest, stars as the eponymous hitman in David Fincher’s greatly anticipated The Killer. Bradley Cooper directs himself as the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in the likely Oscar contender Maestro. In an unofficial follow-up to last year’s Elvis, Sofia Coppola, winner of the Golden Lion for Somewhere, in 2010, will be back in competition with Priscilla, a study of Priscilla Presley. Michael Mann directs Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in what his fans will expect to be a slick, suave examination of the car magnate’s life.

Arriving out of competition, William Friedkin, the legendary director of The Exorcist and The French Connection, will be by the lagoon with his take on The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. The latest film version of Herman Wouk’s play, adapted from his admired novel, stars Jason Clarke and, in a role famously played by Humphrey Bogart, Kiefer Sutherland.

Wes Anderson, whose Asteroid City is still in cinemas, casts Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley in a short adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar for Netflix.

Amid all the fuss around that starry line-up, the potentially controversial premieres of new films by Woody Allen and Roman Polanski may end up being overlooked. Many have declined to work with Allen following allegations of sexual molestation, but his 50th film, Coup de Chance, shot in French, has nonetheless booked an out-of-competition slot at Venice. Polanski, convicted of rape in 1978, will be there with his black comedy The Palace.

The organisers will be hoping negotiators resolve the strike by opening night, on August 30th. Shots of movie stars arriving by varnished speedboat to the Excelsior Hotel are a vital part of the Venice magic. Insiders are, however, pessimistic about such a speedy resolution.

Venice Film Festival 2023: Venezia 80 Competition

  • The Promised Land, directed by Nikolaj Arcel
  • DogMan, directed by Luc Besson
  • La Bête, directed by Bertrand Bonello
  • Hors-Saison, directed by Stéphane Brizé
  • Enea, directed by Pietro Castellitto
  • Comandante, directed by Edoardo de Angelis (opening night film)
  • Maestro, directed by Bradley Cooper
  • Priscilla, directed by Sofia Coppola
  • Finalmente L’alba, directed by Saverio Costanzo
  • Lubo, directed by Giorgio Diritti
  • Origin, directed by Ava DuVernay
  • The Killer, directed by David Fincher
  • Memory, directed by Michel Franco
  • Io Capitano, directed by Matteo Garrone
  • Evil Does Not Exist, Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • The Green Border, directed by Agnieszka Holland
  • Die Theorie Von Allem, directed by Timm Kröger
  • Poor Things, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
  • El Conde, directed by Pablo Larrain
  • Ferrari, directed by Michael Mann
  • Adagio, directed by Stefano Sollima
  • Woman Of, directed by Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert
  • Holly, directed by Fien Troch

Out of competition


  • Coup de Chance, directed by Woody Allen
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, directed by Wes Anderson
  • The Penitent, directed by Luca Barbareschi
  • L’Ordine del Tempo, directed by Liliana Cavani
  • Vivants, directed by Alix Delaporte
  • Daaaaaali!, directed by Quentin Dupieux
  • The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, directed by William Friedkin
  • Aggro Dr1ft, directed by Harmony Korine
  • Hit Man, directed by Richard Linklater
  • The Palace, directed by Roman Polanski
  • Snow Leopard, directed by Pema Tseden
  • Society of the Snow, directed by JA Bayona (closing film)


  • A Cielo Abierto, directed by Mariana Arriaga, Santiago Arriaga
  • El Paraiso, directed by Enrico Maria Artale
  • Behind the Mountains, directed by Mohamed Ben Attia
  • The Red Suitcase, directed by Fidel Devkota
  • Tatami, directed by Guy Nattiv, Zar Amir Ebrahimi
  • Paradise Is Burning, directed by Mika Gustafson
  • The Featherweight, directed by Robert Kolodny
  • Invelle, directed by Simone Massi
  • Hesitation Wound, directed by Selman Nacar
  • Heartless, directed by Nara Normande, Tiao
  • Una Sterminata Domenica, directed by Alain Perroni
  • City of Wind, directed by Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir
  • Explanation for Everything, directed by Gabor Reisz
  • Gasoline Rainbow, directed by Bill Ross, Turner Ross
  • En Attendant la Nuit, directed by Céline Rouzet
  • Housekeeping for Beginners, directed by Goran Stolevski
  • Shadow of Fire, directed by Shinya Tsukamoto
  • Dormitory, directed by Nehir Tuna

Horizons Extra

  • Bota Jone, directed by Luana Bajrami
  • Forever Forever, directed by Anna Buryachkova
  • The Rescue, directed by Daniela Goggi
  • In the Land of Saints and Sinners, directed by Robert Lorenz
  • Day of the Fight, directed by Jack Huston
  • Felicita, directed by Micaela Ramazzotti
  • Pet Shop Boys, directed by Olmo Schnabel
  • Stolen, directed by Karan Tejpal
  • L’Homme d’Argile, directed by Anaïs Tellenne
Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist