few weeks ago, Variety reported that Venice Film Fest president Marco Mueller was in talks with Warner Brothers to land Robert Zemeckis’s 3-D performance capture rendering of Beowulf. Well, they were full of shit.

Actually, they weren’t. Mueller really was trying to convince WB – which will be distributing the film internationally – to cough up one of this fall’s most promising event pictures. Unfortunately, he got the ol’ "it won’t be completed in time" excuse, which sounds a lot to me like, "We don’t want to start our publicity campaign in early September because, frankly, we don’t know how to sell this fucking thing." That "we" extends to Paramount, which will be releasing Beowulf domestically on November 16, 2007; ergo, a reasonable man might expect to see a trailer of some sort attached to Transformers on July 2.

I was excited by the idea of Beowulf bowing two months ahead of its domestic opening if only because no studio would show a major holiday release that early for review unless they were convinced they had the goods. That Warner Brothers (with significant pressure from Paramount, I’m sure) decided to decline Mueller’s invitation isn’t a sign of trouble; mostly, it’s just a sign of not breaking with the tried-and-true. Too bad.  (But if you’re going to Comic Con this year, you will have the opportunity to see twenty minutes of the film.)

But Mueller’s got plenty of high-profile titles to fall back on: Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There and Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream were already confirmed. Now, Venice has just snagged Joe Wright’s Atonement, a drama about a thirteen-year-old girl who falsely accuses her older sister’s boyfriend of a crime. The film reunites Wright with Keira Knightley, the star of his very good Pride and Prejudice, and also features James McAvoy, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave.

Also possibilities for the fest: Eric Rohmer’s The Romance of Astrea and Celadon and Ken Loach’s These Times.