Strike-hit Venice fest says Hollywood must prize 'art over content'

Roman Polanski, 90, is not due to attend but his latest film, 'The Palace', is playing out of competition in Venice (Thomas SAMSON)
Roman Polanski, 90, is not due to attend but his latest film, 'The Palace', is playing out of competition in Venice (Thomas SAMSON)

Hollywood strikes robbed the Venice Film Festival of some of its usual glitz as it launched its 80th edition on Wednesday, but jury president Damien Chazelle said it was a warning that the industry must prize "art over content".

The festival has a raft of big-name -- and controversial -- directors across its 11-day schedule, including new films from Bradley Cooper, Sofia Coppola and David Fincher.

But many stars are missing due to the historic strike in Hollywood, primarily over pay and the potential impact of AI technology.

Chazelle, director of "La La Land" and "Whiplash" and head of this year's jury, wore a top showing his support for the strike.

"There's a basic idea that each work of art has value unto itself, that it's not just a piece of content -- Hollywood's favourite word right now," he told reporters.

"It really comes down to that idea of people being remunerated for each piece of art that is made and can we find a way to get back that idea of art over content."

The world's longest-running film festival was due to start with "Challengers", a tennis romance with Zendaya, one of the biggest stars of her generation, but the strike caused it to be replaced by an Italian war drama, "Comandante".

- Indie stars -

The rest of the line-up was largely unaffected: the festival will see Emma Stone as a Frankenstein-like creature in "Poor Things" and Cooper as legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro", among several Oscar contenders.

But the strikes mean those stars will not be lighting up the red carpet.

Adam Driver has an exemption to show up for "Ferrari" on Thursday because the biopic by Michael Mann ("Heat") was made outside the studio system.

The same is expected for Jessica Chastain, whose new film "Memory" marks her first outing since her Oscar-winning turn in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye".

- 'Apocalyptic ideas' -

Other entries include Coppola's "Priscilla", about Elvis Presley's wife, and Fincher's "The Killer" starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton.

They are among 23 films competing for the top prize Golden Lion, to be awarded on September 9 by a jury that also includes directors Jane Campion, Martin McDonagh and last year's winner Laura Poitras (for Big Pharma documentary "All the Beauty and the Bloodshed").

Despite supporting the strikes, Chazelle told AFP that the threat from AI -- which many fear could lead to computer-generated actors and scripts replacing humans -- should not be overblown.

"People have some apocalyptic ideas about it," he said. "It will overturn a lot of things, but the art will survive."

With less star gossip, a lot of attention risks being absorbed by the inclusion of Woody Allen with "Coup de Chance" (his 50th film and first in French) and Roman Polanski with "The Palace", both in the out-of-competition section.

Allen, 87, was investigated for an alleged assault on his adopted daughter in the 1990s. Though cleared by police, he has been effectively blackballed by Hollywood, which festival director Alberto Barbera told AFP was "absolutely incomprehensible".

Barbera acknowledged it was more complex with Polanski, 90, who was convicted of raping a minor in the 1970s, although the victim has long since forgiven him.

"The history of art is full of artists who were criminals, and we nonetheless continue to admire their work," Barbera said.