By NICK VIVARELLI
ROME -- Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" is among the latest near certainties in a new clutch of hotly anticipated titles tipped to unspool at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, along with new works by Ben Affleck, Kelly Reichardt, Tom Tykwer, Takashi Miike and Tsui Hark.
With the official lineup set to be announced July 29, artistic director Marco Mueller seems to have assembled a strong and well-assorted selection with robust English-language and European showings, a standout Asian presence, and Spanish-language cinema also slotted.
"Black Swan," a supernatural thriller set in the world of ballet, is likely to be the Venice opener, providing plenty of star power, with Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder and Vincent Cassel potentially in tow.
Fox Searchlight's test screenings for "Swan" have reportedly been generating plenty of buzz.
"The Town" is Affleck's sophomore feature as director, after "Gone Baby Gone." Affleck also stars as a bank robber who becomes smitten with a bank teller whom he intersects with on a heist.
Warner Bros. has slated "The Town" for a Sept. 17 Stateside release.
In a year that will seemingly see lots of high-profile U.S. titles on the Lido, including George Clooney starrer "The American," helmed by Anton Corbijn, and Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere" -- both from Focus Features, and both previously Lido-tipped -- Yank indie darling Reichardt also looks to have joined the Venice roster with her Oregon trail period pic "Meek's Cutoff," likely to unspool in competish.
Cult helmer Paul Morrissey ("Flesh," "Trash," "Heat"), best known for his association with Andy Warhol, is also expected to bow his long-gestating "News From Nowhere" in Venice.
Likely to bow from Blighty, in an out-of-competish berth, is U.K. helmer Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech," toplining Colin Firth as the stammering King George VI, from The Weinstein Company.
U.K. helmer Justin Chadwick's "The First Grader," the true tale of an 84-year-old Kenyan villager who fights for his right to go to school, also looks set for a Venice launch, along with
British visual artist/helmer Isaac Julien's China-set "Ten Thousand Waves," which includes Maggie Cheung in the cast.
Previously tipped for Lido berths are Julian Schnabel's "Miral," Monte Hellman's noir "Road to Nowhere," Dustin Hoffman starrer "Barney's Version," helmed by Richard J. Lewis and based on the eponymous best-seller, and Al Pacino's "Wilde Salome."
Tom Tykwer's Berlin-set love triangle pic "Three," the Teutonic helmer's first German project in a decade, is among the latest additions to the list of European entries believed to be Lido-bound, along with buzzed-about Gallic pic "Happy Few," which is helmer Antony Cordier's erotically charged followup to "Cold Showers," from Wild Bunch.
As already reported, the hot Gallic group is expected to also comprise Abdel Kechiche's "Black Venus" and Francois Ozon's "Potiche," starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.
Spanish-language cinema will likely make its return on the Lido with Spanish actress/helmer Iciar Bollain's third feature "Even the Rain," a drama about Bolivian water wars.
The Italian titles tipped for Venice competish are Saverio Costanzo's "The Solitude of Prime Numbers," featuring Isabella Rossellini and Italo thesp Alba Rohrwacher, Mario Martone's costumer "Noi Credevamo" and Carlo Mazzacurati's comedy "La Passione," produced by Domenico Procacci's Fandango.
Alessandro Piva's noir "Henry," about a drug war in contempo Rome, Giada Colagrande's "A Woman," starring Willem Dafoe and Stefania Rocca, and Gianfranco Rosi's docu "El Sicario," in which a Mexican hitman recounts his jobs both for drug traffickers and governments, are likely to unspool in Lido sidebars.
Fox International Italo gangster epic "Vallanzasca," helmed by Michele Placido and starring Kim Rossi Stewart as real-life Renato Vallanzasca, a handsome lady's man from a middle-class background who became a top Milan mobster in the 1970s, is tipped for out-of-competish.
Likely additions to the Lido's previously reported copious Asian contingent this year are cult Japanese auteur Takashi Miike's hotly anticipated samurai swashbuckler "Thirteen Assassins," a remake of Eiichi Kudo's 1963 hit; Hong Kong helmer Tsui Hark's period mystery thriller "Detective Dee"; and Andrew Lau's martial arts actioner "Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zen," a sequel of sorts to 1972 Bruce Lee starrer "Fist of Fury."
The Lido also looks set to host the bow of what is being touted as the first Hong Kong 3D horror pic, "The Child's Eye," from directorial duo the Pang brothers.
As previously announced John Woo's martial arts actioner "Reign of Assassins" and Johnny To's thriller "Shares" are also believed to be among pics with booked Lido berths.Fest runs Sept. 1-11.