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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Venice Film Festival Opens With a Star-Studded Bang

VENICE, Italy -- Venice may be the grand old lady of film festivals, but she showed her mettle on Wednesday, opening with a jumbo jolt of Hollywood star power and sheer sex appeal: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in "Eyes Wide Shut."

A tale of a marriage rent by jealousy and sexual obsession is the final work of renowned director Stanley Kubrick, who died on March 7, just days after finishing the film.

"Kubrick's movie showed us the way to go," said director Emir Kusturica, head of the Venice jury. "He showed us that cinema is still art."

As a special tribute to Kubrick, Venice is screening "Eyes Wide Shut" out of competition at all three of the festival's main venues. Audiences in Venice and elsewhere in Europe also get to see the original version - without the digitally added figures that obscure some of the nudity in the orgy scene in order to appease U.S. censors and avoid an X rating.

Cruise, Kidman and producer Jan Harlan eulogized Kubrick as not only a great film director, but also as a smart, sensitive and funny man.

Both actors said working with him was an absorbing experience - "thrilling, difficult, exhilarating," in Kidman's words.

The movie had a mixed reception in the United States, where reviews ran the gamut from "masterpiece" to Pauline Kael's pithy "piece of crap." Neither the reviews nor its modest box office success seemed to disappoint the stars.

Venice is an important European launching pad for Hollywood movies, and it has a large complement of U.S. offerings this year.

Among the U.S. movies premiering out of competition are "Fight Club," starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton; Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown," starring Sean Penn and Uma Thurman; and horror king Wes Craven's first conventional movie, "Music of the Heart," with Meryl Streep, Aiden Quinn, Angela Bassett and Gloria Estefan.

Among the competitors are "Holy Smoke," from the Oscar-winning director of "The Piano," Jane Campion; "Topsy-Turvy," from Mike Leigh, director of the acclaimed "Secrets and Lies"; "The Cider House Rules," an adaptation of John Irving's best-selling novel; "Mask of Zorro," film star Antonio Banderas' directorial debut; and "Crazy in Alabama," starring Banderas' wife, Melanie Griffith.