Mixed bag for Venice
Lincoln Lewis (Kyle) and Cariba Heine (Heather) in Bait 3D. Picture: Ben Timony.

It may seem strange that the sole Australian feature film in the Venice Film Festival program this year is Bait 3-D, featuring former Home and Away cast members, Lincoln Lewis, Sharni Vinson and Phoebe Tonkin, while Xavier Samuel, also appears with Julian McMahon.

Yet according to the esteemed Margaret Pomeranz: "The film's director Kimble Rendall is quite a talent."

Rendall's second feature after his 2000 movie Cut (which starred Molly Ringwald and Kylie Minogue), is bound to keep shark-obsessed European audiences on the edge of their seats. It tells of a pack of tiger sharks swarming on unassuming supermarket shoppers after a freak tsunami unleashes itself on a coastal town.

Yet will it please the artier Venice critics?

"There aren't many Australian films for festivals at the moment," notes Pomeranz's At The Movies co-host David Stratton wryly. "What do you want in Venice, Kath & Kimderella?"

Bait 3-D has been included in the Horizons sidebar (for emerging filmmakers) where Amiel Courtin-Wilson's arthouse movie Hail screened last year.

This year two South Australia- funded shorts will also screen in Horizons: Nick King's Marla, a strange, dark love story featuring Eddie Ritchard, Dale March and Lani Tupu that will soon be turned into the feature film Donors, and Paola Morabito's I'm The One, a provocative tale of adolescent desire following a teenage boy in love with his father's girlfriend.

Executive produced by Jane Campion and featuring James Fraser, Maya Stange and Alan Dukes, I'm The One will be part of an initiative to stream films online.

Ten features and two programs of short films in the Horizons section can be viewed at the cost of 𔚼.20 ($5) each. Reservations may be made online at labiennale.org.

Two Australian shorts, Damien Power's Bat Eyes and Adrian Powers' Scruples, are also in the final 10 of YouTube's inaugural Your Film Festival Competition.

The winning filmmaker will receive $500,000 to create new, original content for the Google-owned YouTube. The films of 50 semi-finalists have been watched and voted on by YouTube users. The winner will be chosen by a jury that includes Michael Fassbender and announced at the festival on Sunday.

The Venice Film Festival's artistic director Alberto Barbera, replacing the outgoing Marco Mueller, has streamlined this year's program with 60 films, with women featuring prominently, instead of some 100.

Malick's romantic To The Wonder stars Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko alongside Ben Affleck and Javier Bardem.

McAdams also appears alongside Noomi Rapace in De Palma's sexual action thriller Passion - the 71-year-old director's first film in six years.

Redford's thriller, The Company You Keep, about left-wing militants on the run from the FBI, headlines Shia LaBeouf, but Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick and Julie Christie also feature prominently.

As with Bait 3-D, Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers will star two nubile young actresses, Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, the girlfriend of Justin Bieber, as two young revellers who decide to rob a fast-food restaurant. The ever-versatile James Franco is a sight to behold as a rapping drug dealer in large square glasses and baseball cap.

However, one of the most anticipated films of the festival is The Master, a late addition to the program from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood).

Joaquin Phoenix plays a violent, troubled World War II vet who comes under the influence of a venerable cult leader, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Eighteen films are competing for the Golden Lion, the top award.

The Venice Film Festival runs until September 8.

The West Australian

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