The Venice Film Festival (8.31 thru 9.10) announced its slate this morning. For me the unexpected stand-out is the competition debut of Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie, a realization of Neal Oppenheim‘s restrained, West Wing-like script about Jackie Kennedy‘s four-day ordeal following her husband’s murder on 11.22.63.

Peter Sarsgaard as RFK, veiled Natalie Portman re-enacting JFK funeral procession in Pablo Larrain’s Jackie. In this shot Portman looks too short — in actuality the former First Lady was roughly the same height as RFK, give or take. And what’s with Sarsgaard’s flaming red hair? RFK’s thatch was drab brownish with a tinge of salty auburn.

Produced by Darren Aronofsky‘s Protozoa (in league with Fabula and Bliss Media), Jackie is apparently seeking a U.S. distributor. The Venice bow will most likely ignite a Best Actress campaign on behalf of Natalie Portman‘s lead performance unless, of course, the film turns out to be wanting. I’ve no clue about that, but Oppenheim’s script (which I read six years ago) is entirely decent, and the combination of Aronofsky and Larrain (who’s been in a prolific groove) suggests that Jackie may, at the very least, be an interesting mood-trip piece.

With Larrain already slated to attend the Telluride Film Festival with Neruda, which premiered at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, it would be strange — a head-scratcher — if Jackie doesn’t wind up screening at Telluride also. Larrain, Portman and presumably Aronfosky (who’s currently shooting Day 6) will, of course, attend the Venice Film Festival debut. What possible strategy on the part of Jackie‘s producers could result in their film not playing Telluride?

If Team Jackie doesn’t fly to Colorado following the Venice debut people will be asking Larrain “is there a problem?”

Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals will play Venice and Toronto but not, as previously noted, Telluride. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival will play Venice before hitting Telluride and Toronto, and it’s been known for weeks that Damien Chazelle’s La-La Land will open the Lido fest. Nobody cares about Terrence Malick‘s Voyage of Time playing Venice…nobody.

Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven will play out of competition in Venice.

Derek Cianfrance’s already semi-discounted The Light Between Oceans, starring HE nemesis Michael Fassbender and costarring Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz, will screen in Venice a couple of days before opening commercially on 9.2.

Andrew Dominik’s One More Time with Feeling, a Nick Cave documentary, will also play Venice.

Other Venice Film Festival competition entries: Ana Lily Amirpour‘s Bad Batch (cannibal action), Wim WendersThe Beautiful Days of Aranjuez, Francois Ozon‘s Frantz, Amat Escalante‘s The Savage Region (La region salvaje), Andrei Konchalovsky‘s Paradise.

Out of competition: Philippe Falardeau‘s The Bleeder, Tim Sutton‘s Dark Night, Nick Hamm’s The Journey, Ulrich Seidl‘s Safari, Charlie Siskel‘s American Anarchist.

Once again my 2010 reactions to Noel Oppenheim‘s Jackie script:

“Jackie follows the former Mrs. Kennedy’s experience from the day of JFK’s assassination in Dallas on 11.22.63 to his burial in Arlington Cemetery three days hence. I’ve read enough about those four dark days to understand that Oppenheim’s script is basically a tasteful re-capturing of what happened, and that’s all. It’s an elegant, almost under-written thing — straight, clean, dignified. The dialogue seems genuine — trustable — in that it’s not hard to believe that Jackie or Bobby Kennedy or Larry O’Brien or Theodore H. White or Jack Valenti might have said these lines in actuality.

“The portrait that emerges isn’t what anyone would call judgmental or intrusive, or even exploratory. Jackie Kennedy is depicted as pretty much the same, reserved, quietly classy woman of legend, determined to honor her husband’s memory by making decisions about aspects of his state funeral in her own way, according to what she feels he would have wanted, or what would be appropriately dignified.

“I don’t mean to sound like a smart-ass, but it’s more or less in the same wheelhouse as Roger Donaldson‘s Thirteen Days, the drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had a feeling that while writing this Oppenheim was mindful of the screenplay style of Aaron Sorkin, and how the latter has almost authored a ‘how to’ manual about writing emotionally reserved but affecting stories about people who live and work in the White House. The difference is that this time they’re well-known figures and the dialogue is based on historical accounts.

Jackie fits the template of a ‘let’s re-tell history again’ type of thing — familiar history re-lived and re-told with a veneer of class.”