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Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope will premiere at the upcoming Venice Film Festival. The dashing young Hollywood actor, Jude Law, will play the American pontiff Pius XIII -- a conservative cigarette smoking Catholic priest.
The movie will have Diane Keaton as a nun. The cast, entirely international, will include James Cromwell essaying Cardinal Michael Spencer, Silvio Orlando as Cardinal Voiello, Cecile de France as Vatican City’s marketing executive, Sofia, and the hot French actress, Ludvine Sagnier, (remember her in Swimming Pool?) as the wife of a Swiss guard. Wow, that is quite an impressive cast list.
Law will most probably grace the Red Carpet on the Lido, a picture postcard island, off the shores of Venice, that hosts the annual festival, the oldest in the world having begun in 1932 -- predating Cannes by 14 years. The French Riviera event is the second oldest.
In recent years, while Sorrentino has been more loyal to Cannes -- where his Il Divo, The Great Beauty and Youth competed for the Palm d’Or -- he actually opened his career account at Venice with One Man Up in 2001.
While the 2008 Il Divo was a biopic of the former Italian Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti -- which won the Jury Prize at Cannes, the 2013 The Great Beauty, also a Cannes competitor, can be seen as an update on Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. There is a lot of Fellini in Sorrentino, and in The Great Beauty, we see an ageing socialist -- once a novelist -- who after his 65th birthday party walks through the streets of Rome, ruminating over his life, love and unfulfilled desires.
Sorrentino made another fascinating movie called Youth, also screened at Cannes in 2015, which also talks about nostalgic reflections. Two old friends (portrayed by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel) retrace their youth while holidaying on the Swiss Alps.
Law is well known in India as John Watson in the recent Sherlock Holmes films -- where he is seen along with Robert Downey Jr (essaying the celebrated fictional detective that Arthur Conan Doyle created to mesmerise millions of readers through decades as the pipe-smoking sleuth went about cracking one case after another in the eerily gaslit 19th century London).
Law is also remembered for his moving performance in Hong Kong director, Wong Kar-wai’s My Blueberry Nights -- a fabulous love story about how two people meet over Blueberry cake in a little eatery on rain-drenched nights. Norah Jones, Pandit Ravi Shankar’s daughter, acts as Law’s lover.
Now as the Pope, Law, 42 and father of five, is said to have looked unrecognisable in the white robe, and although he has been in the shoes of myriad characters, his latest outing in the gardens of Villa Midici in Rome may be his most challenging.
The Young Pope has been filmed from an eight-part television series, also helmed by Sorrentino.
The festival’s 73rd edition runs from August 31 to September 10. The full lineup of movies will be announced in Rome on July 28.