Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Coppola Star at Venice Festival: Preview

Paul Giamatti, left, and Dustin Hoffman in "Barney's Version." The movie was in competition at the 2010 Venice Film Festival. Photographer: Takashi Seida/Venice Film Festival via Bloomberg

The Venice Film Festival opens tomorrow with two dozen titles contending for the top prize, including “Somewhere” by Sofia Coppola, the 39-year-old director of “Lost in Translation.”

Coppola’s new picture, like “Lost in Translation,” takes place in a hotel. This time, it’s Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, where actor Johnny (Stephen Dorff) leads a depraved life until his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) comes to stay.

Dustin Hoffman plays a TV producer and hockey fanatic in “Barney’s Version,” directed by Richard J. Lewis. And Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) presents “Miral” -- about a Palestinian orphan growing up after the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. The movie’s Sept. 2 premiere at the world’s oldest film festival coincides with the revival of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“The fact that this film is opening on the same day that peace talks start in Washington is the reason I’m making movies,” said “Miral” producer Tarak Ben Ammar, founder of Quinta Communications, in an interview. “Films sometimes can open people’s hearts, and through the heart you can reach the mind.”

Leading the panel of judges on Venice’s Lido island is director Quentin Tarantino, who will be handing out awards to the winners in a red-carpet gala on Sept. 11.

Battling Swans

The festival’s inaugural movie is Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” a thriller set in New York. Starring Natalie Portman and Winona Ryder, it’s about ballerinas competing for the title role in “Swan Lake.” Aronofsky is no stranger to Venice: Two years ago, he snagged the top Golden Lion award for “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke.

Martin Scorsese shows “A Letter to Elia,” a documentary about the late Elia Kazan -- director of “On the Waterfront” (1954) and “East of Eden” (1955) -- whose career was overshadowed by his role in McCarthy-era witch hunts.

Screening out of the competition is Casey Affleck’s documentary “I’m Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix,” which tracks the actor’s life after he quit movies to become a rapper. Casey’s brother Ben Affleck, in turn, directs and stars in “The Town,” with Rebecca Hall.

Another out-of-competition title is “Machete,” directed by Robert Rodriguez, about a former Mexican policeman hired to kill a senator. It stars Danny Trejo, Lindsay Lohan, Robert De Niro and Jessica Alba, who plays an immigration officer.

A French movie in the official contest is “Potiche,” starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu and directed by Francois Ozon (“8 Women”), about the wife of an umbrella- factory owner who steps in when workers take him hostage.

Closing the festival, Oscar-winning British actress Helen Mirren takes the lead in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” to play a character named “Prospera” in Julie Taymor’s cinematic adaptation of the classic, which co-stars Russell Brand.

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