The Venice Film Festival opens Wednesday night with a decidedly Asian flair and a few stars hope to dazzle as directors. The top name at this year's film festival is George Clooney, whose "Good Night and Good Luck" is considered a serious contender for the Golden Lion.
The black-and-white movie, in which Clooney also stars, is a serious look at American broadcasting during the 1950s McCarthy-era communist-hunts.
Clooney plays Fred Friendly, a broadcaster who took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy as the politician spearheaded a fierce drive to root out communists in the United States a half-century ago.
Clooney, whose love affair with his northern Italian lakeside villa practically gives him hometown status, is expected at the Lido on Thursday.
Also on the other side of the camera is John Turturro, whose musical "Romance and Cigarettes" is also competing for the top award. The cast includes James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken.
The festival has a strong Asian showing this year. The out-of-competition return-to-kung-fu piece "Seven Swords" by Chinese director Tsui Hark opens the festival Wednesday night, and Thai-born director Peter Ho-sun Chan's "Perhaps Love," a musical romance set in mainland China, closes it.
Nineteen movies are competing for the Golden Lion at this year's festival, including Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm," starring Matt Damon; "Proof," directed by John Madden and starring Gwyneth Paltrow; and "Mary" by Abel Ferrara.
The festival this year has been slimmed down in part for security concerns.
Italian movie producer Marco Mueller, who is in charge of the festival, has said the number of films screened in the main movie theater had been reduced to allow time for security personnel to check the space between screenings.
Fifty-four full-length films are being screened, compared with 71 last year.
Organizers also decided on a smaller number of offerings because they thought the festival would be better if festival-goers had fewer films to absorb.
The festival runs through Sept. 10. The jury is headed by Oscar-winning Italian production designer Dante Ferretti.