All eyes in the film world are starting to look at the Venice Film Festival, which will not have Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and likely will have James Gray’s “Ad Astra” with Brad Pitt. (This is going to be Brad Pitt’s year, trust me.)
But the big film in Venice, I am told, will be Roman Polanski’s epic take on the Dreyfus affair, “An Officer and a Spy.” Based on Robert Harris’s best selling novel, which itself was based on Emile Zola’s famous book, the movie stars Oscar winner Jean Dujardin as the French Army officer who works to uncover the truth about fellow officer Alfred Dreyfus circa 1894. Dreyfus was court-martialed for treason and sent to a prison. But was he guilty? Or was his conviction because of anti-Semitism?
The film already looks gorgeous from early photos. Polanski has pulled out all the stops including using the same cinematographer, Pawel Edelman, from his Oscar winning “The Pianist.” Louis Garrell — who ironically will star in Woody Allen’s new movie shooting in Spain this summer– plays Dreyfus. Polanski’s actress wife Emmannuelle Seigner, is featured, as well as Oscar nominee Mathieu Almaric.
It makes sense that the Polanski film will debut at Venice. It’s already set to open in France in November. Producers will be looking to make distribution deals by the end of August. Toronto would be too late. And also, Polanski– who can’t leave France– would at least be in the same time zone as Venice. Plus, the Venice audiences will go crazy for the film without involving Polanski’s annoying and endless American scandal. The Europeans don’t care, and recognize him as a major auteur,
The big question is what will happen in the US to “An Office and a Spy.” The Motion Picture Academy revoked Polanski’s membership this year, even though they gave him an Oscar fifteen years after his scandal. If the film is as great as everyone hopes, will it just be ignored? Let’s hope not. Anyway, Venice will not ignore him. And Polanski will have a very happy 85th birthday.