That arch provocateur Vincent Gallo is back. Not once but three times. Expect the Lido to start trembling.
To come over the next three days, we have his own directorial efforts, short film The Agent, and competition entry Promises Written In Water, his first feature since the much-maligned The Brown Bunny.
But first there is an acting performance in someone else’s movie – Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing. And, it must be said, what a performance.
He plays Mohammed, a member of the Taliban who begins the movie by firing a rocket launcher into three American soldiers in Afghanistan.
As he runs from the scene of the crime, a US helicopter rains bullets down on him before he’s captured, interrogated and then transferred into Europe.
Handcuffed and blindfolded, and wearing one of those familiar Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits, he’s bundled into a truck – only for it to run off the road.
From here on in, Essential Killing is all about Mohammad’s escape through a snowy wilderness.
It’s the ultimate survival story, as the character gets chased by dogs, tumbles off a cliff and is forced to eat ants and a raw fish to survive.
There’s even a scene where he’s so desperate for food, he launches himself upon a buxom mother breastfeeding her baby by the side of the road and begins to suckle. Eew.
Mohammad is no Rambo, which is what makes his desperate attempt at survival fascinating. But what really will blow you away is the film is almost without dialogue.
Either alone in scenes or unable to communicate with anyone, Gallo has no lines at all. Only the words of US interrogators and soldiers are left ringing in your ears.
Really, the film is a sensory experience. The bearded Gallo shivers, yelps and screams his way through the film in what may be his only chance to ever play an action man.
Quite what point Skolimowski is making is open to debate, given he offers little by way of commentary on the US invasion of Afghanistan.
Yet he directs it with such pacing, precision and power, this story of just how far a human will go to survive is unquestionably gripping.
Now we just have to see what Gallo will deliver when his own film screens tomorrow. Brace yourself.
If French film director François Ozon can be very hit-and-miss, his delightful new comedy Potiche is most definitely a hit.
Reuniting with Catherine Deneuve, with whom he worked on his 2002 film 8 Women, Potiche could easily be re-titled ‘1 Woman’.
In fact, the title refers to French slang for female arm-candy, a phrase frequently used to describe wives of politicians.
In Potiche, which Ozon has “freely adapted” (according to the credits) from a play by Barillet and Grédy, Deneuve’s character Suzanne could be just this.
A “trophy housewife”, as she calls herself, she is the “queen of kitchen appliances” – something she’s none to pleased with.
A mother of two grown-up children, living in Sainte-Gudule in the north of France, in 1977, her husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini) runs a factory previously owned by her late father.
A sexist (“your job is to share my opinion”, he tells his wife) and a serial philanderer, Robert also rules the family business with an iron fist.
But when the workers go on strike, even kidnapping Robert for a time, it’s left up to Suzanne to smooth things over.
This she does with the help of the town’s mayor Babin (Gérard Depardieu), a former truck driver who the seemingly perfect Suzanne once had a fling with.
What follows, as Suzanne usurps her husband, is proof that she is – to coin the title of the Bee Gees record that plays in the background in one scene – more than a woman.
Reminiscent of 8 Women, with its jaunty score, campy tone and bright primary colour palette, Potiche has the flavour of a 1970s sitcom farce – albeit one about the sexual revolution.
Ozon clearly has great affection for his leading lady, not least in the reference to her classic The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, in a scene where the factory begins producing umbrellas on Suzanne’s watch.
Deneuve reciprocates with a very game turn – everything from the opening sequence as she jogs through the forest to a disco scene with Depardieu that lives long in the memory.
What really impresses about Potiche, though, is the craft and care that Ozon has paid to his script. The set-ups are smart, the dialogue well-honed and the pay-offs worth the wait.
After his recent efforts, like Angel and Ricky, which somewhat went awry, this is top-form Ozon – a sure-fire hit.
Now almost half way through the festival, Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood must be one of the strong contenders for the Golden Lion.
Adapted from the 1987 novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, it’s a beautifully crafted story of life, love and death set in Tokyo in the late 1960s, at a time of great political upheaval.
The story follows Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) and Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi), student lovers bonded over the tragic suicide of their friend from years earlier.
Yet when the outgoing Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) walks into their lives, Watanabe’s head is turned and he finds himself with a heart-wrenching choice.
If this love-triangle sounds all-too-common, the attention to detail that Vietnamese director Hung brings to the narrative makes it a compelling watch.
Admittedly it’s slow – sometimes gruellingly so – but it’s so beautifully shot by Mark Lee Ping Bin, every frame radiating craftsmanship, that it’s hard not to fall for it.
Curiously, there’s even a British input, from Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead’s floppy-haired guitarist (the band’s classic ‘Creep’ previously featured in Hung’s 1995 Golden Lion winner Cyclo).
While it doesn’t quite match the majesty of his work on Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, he still conjures a score of tremendous power, one that alternates between tenderness and fear.
Greenwood’s contributions even stretch as far as suggesting the German band Can, who feature on the soundtrack.
And, yes, you do get to hear that wonderful Beatles’ track that inspired the title. As John Lennon once sung, ‘Isn’t it good? Norwegian Wood.’ You bet it is.
Next: More Venice 2010