US director Spike Jonze's "Her" will be one of the hotly-awaited premieres at the Rome film festival, including movies starring Scarlett Johansson and Christian Bale, the festival's director said Monday.

Marco Mueller, formerly the head of the Venice film festival, on Monday unveiled a line-up for November featuring Brazilian, Chilean, Iranian, Japanese, Mexican and Portuguese films.

Of the 18 films in competition, 17 are world or international premieres, with a strong American and Italian presence in particular.

US director James Gray, best known for his 2007 crime drama "We Own the Night", will head up the jury for the festival, which runs November 8 to 17.

Mueller said there was no overriding theme linking the films selected: "We chose the ones that moved us, that spoke to our hearts, our guts," he said.

Jonze's "Her", already a favourite with critics granted a first look at New York's film festival this month, stars Joaquin Phoenix as a Los Angeles-based man who gets a new operating system on his mobile phone that answers his daily questions.

As the voice -- played by Johansson -- becomes less machine-like and more human he develops an infatuation for it in a wryly comic tale which questions our increasingly intimate relationships with technology.

Scott Cooper's US thriller "Out of the Furnace" -- produced by Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio -- will also have its international premier.

Starring Bale -- of Batman fame -- Casey Affleck and Willem Dafoe, it tells the tale of two brothers dreaming of a better life in the poverty-hit Rust Belt, who end up drawn into a spiral of violence with a ruthless gang.

The competition's ambitious line-up includes Japan Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Seventh Code" and Chinese Jian Cui's "Blue Sky Bones".

Mueller said the first seven days of the festival in the Eternal City will feature a nightly screening of a US film with "an important star" on the red carpet -- though he would not be drawn on names.

Critics and audiences are looking forward to American producer Mark Turtletaub's first film as director, "Gods Behaving Badly".

Starring Christopher Walken as Zeus, Sharon Stone as Aphrodite, Oliver Platt as Apollo and John Turturro as Hades, it sees a mortal couple run across the down-on-their-luck Greek gods living it up in New York city.

Mueller also promised a "return to real Italian comedy" with the opening screening, Giovanni Veronesi's "The Fifth Wheel", about an unlikely everyman hero.

The new "Hunger Games" installment, "Catching Fire" directed by Francis Lawrence, will open out of competition with Josh Hutcherson in the lead role.

The festival will also host a masterclass with "Silence of the Lambs" director Jonathan Demme.

 

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