The Best Films to Look Out for at Venice Film Festival 2023

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Poor Things, 2023
Poor Things, 2023(Film still)

From Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla Presley biopic to a new feature from Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, here are the very best films to look out for at Venice

The SAG-AFTRA strikes are a sword of Damocles hanging over the busy autumn film festival calendar; if an agreement between studios and union bosses is not reached, red-carpet rollouts at the likes of Venice, Toronto and Telluride will be seriously short on Hollywood star power. So far Venice Film Festival 2023 has lost one banner film to the dispute – Luca Guadagnino’s Zendaya-led tennis drama Challengers – but the slate looks impressive enough to overcome any potential shortfall of showbiz fairy dust. 

Below, our pick of the bunch from this year’s edition.

Priscilla (Sofia Coppola)

It might lack the razzle-dazzle of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, but when Sofia Coppola says her Priscilla Presley biopic is like “Marie Antoinette in Graceland”, you can almost hear the swoons of delight from the director’s devoted fanbase. In truth, it’s been a while since Coppola’s scored a critical hit on a par with her earlier Kirsten Dunst vehicle, but this story of a young woman’s coming of age in the spotlight – Priscilla was just 14 when she met Presley, 21 when she married him – returns her to the kind of territory she’s examined so gracefully before.

Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos) 

In Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos follows up The Favourite with his most lavishly budgeted film to date, an adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s brilliant feminist, postcolonial pastiche of Frankenstein. The film sees him team once more with Emma Stone, whose stellar turn in Lanthimos’ last film was perhaps overshadowed by Olivia Colman’s Oscar win; this time, the stage is all hers in one of the more bonkers literary adaptations to hit the screen for a while.

The Killer (David Fincher)

No relation to the John Woo film of the same name, David Fincher’s latest draws on a French graphic novel about a tormented assassin (Michael Fassbender) marked for death by his employers after a job goes wrong. If that hackneyed premise has your eyes rolling clean out of your head, remember that Fincher has given us some of the finest crime thrillers of modern times in Zodiac, Seven and the cancelled Netflix show Mindhunter.

Evil Does Not Exist (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

With Drive My Car, Ryusuke Hamaguchi became only the second Japanese filmmaker to earn a best director nom at the Oscars (the first was Akira Kurosawa) but in truth, film nerds have been hyping the auteur as an emerging GOAT of world cinema for some time now. His philosophically titled latest concerns a single dad and his daughter whose idyllic rural existence is threatened by the construction of a glamping site for city tourists – an almost comically slight premise, for sure, but Hamaguchi is a wizard at coaxing complex character studies from the loosest of frameworks.

Read AnOther’s guide to the films of Ryusuke Hamaguchi here.

Hoard (Luna Carmoon)

Luna Carmoon’s debut stars first-timer Saura Lightfoot Leon and Joseph Quinn – he of the kamikaze guitar solo in Stranger Things – as a pair of fully grown foster-care kids with a volatile connection. Maria (Lightfoot Leon) is a sensitive teen still reeling from the loss of her mum (Haley Squires), a chronic hoarder from whom she is separated at an early age. The arrival at her foster home of former tenant Michael (Quinn) opens the door to magic and madness, in what promises to be a ferociously strange debut from the south London-born talent, screening as part of the Critics’ Week programme.

Aggro Dr1ft (Harmony Korine) 

What happens when Harmony Korine “[tries] not to make a movie”? We get Aggro Dr1ft, an experimental action film – er, romp? – shot entirely in infrared with rapper Travis Scott in a starring role. Judging by the stills, it will look something like the ‘before’ section of a paracetamol ad starring the Predator: and if that’s not madness enough for hardcore Korine-istas, the director has teased a plot featuring “demonic crimelords, swords, masks, machine guns, strippers, mobsters, horned demons and hot cars”. So there’s that.

Housekeeping for Beginners (Goran Stolevski)

Goran Stolevski floored us with his unexpectedly lyrical horror You Won’t Be Alone last year, following that with Of an Age, a queer love story set over the course of a single day, released this summer. Now the Australian-Macedonian director is three for three with Housekeeping for Beginners, premiering in the Horizons strand of the festival, a drama about an unmaternal queer woman forced to raise two girls when her partner falls ill.


This year’s festival boasts two entries into the vampire subgenre, both deliciously odd-sounding: in Pablo Larrain’s El Conde, genocidal despot General Pinochet is brought back from the grave as a 250-year-old vampire who faked his own death after the fall of his regime in Chile. And Agnès B designer and scenographer Adrien Beau sinks his teeth into his first feature with La Vourdalak, screening as part of Critics’ Week, a period horror about a vampire patriarch played by a marionette voiced and operated by the director himself.

Short films

This year’s short films programme features new work from an established master Céline Sciamma (This Is How a Child Becomes a Poet, inspired by the French director’s friendship with late poet Patrizia Cavalli), plus a handful of striking young talents including Lila Aviles (The Chambermaid) and Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic (Murina), both of whom contribute stories to Miu Miu’s short-film anthology Women’s Tales at the festival. Just a reminder that short is sometimes sweet.

Venice Immersive

While striking members of Sag-Afra seek protection against digital avatars taking their jobs, the Venice Immersive programme is on hand to remind us that more harmonious relationships ’twixt man and machine are possible. The festival was one of the world’s first to boast a competition devoted solely to XR works, and this year plays host to a wide range of projects embracing virtual worlds’ potential to develop non-linear modes of storytelling. Emperor, by Marion Burger and Ilan Cohen, turns on a young woman’s attempts to understand the innermost thoughts of her father as he struggles with aphasia, while Tulpamancer (Marc Da Costa and Matthew Niederhauser) brings weird poetry to another hot-button issue – data-mining – by asking audiences a series of questions about their lives before leading them on a dreamlike journey through their past and potential futures.

The 80th Venice International Film Festival runs from 30 August – 9 September 2023.