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Postcard from...Italy


Hollywood is making its annual trip to Venice, with the world's oldest film festival kicking off yesterday.

Celeb spotters might this year see Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, protagonists of Paul Thomas Anderson's long-awaited film The Master, plus Gerard Depardieu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Pierce Brosnan and others milling around the Lido or arriving in water taxis.

But the real debate this year is over what kind of event to expect after a TV channel owned Silvio Berlusconi half-jokingly suggested the festival be R-rated. The TG 24 channel was no doubt referring to debuts such as Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, said to be notable for its "sexual transgression" and To the Wonder, the latest from directing legend Terrence Malick, which has officially been ruled unsuitable for young viewers owing to its high content of sex and nudity.

However, judging by the comments of festival director Alberto Barbera, pictured, cineastes should rest assured that the line-up bears little resemblance to the questionable content screened on Mr Berlusconi's own TV channels. Mr Barbera told reporters in Rome last month that a festival "should not just be a catwalk for celebrities".

Among the newcomers is Haifaa al-Mansour from Saudi Arabia — where cinemas are banned and women face terrible discrimination — with her film Wadjda, about a little girl desperate for a bicycle which she is not allowed. It's hard to see Mr Berlusconi's Rete 4 channel ditching nightly repeats of Walker, Texas Ranger or straight-to-video Steven Seagal for that.