Quirky Swedish film takes top Venice award, U.S. dramas snubbed

Sat Sep 6, 2014 7:24pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Swedish director Roy Andersson's offbeat comedy "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" won the Golden Lion award for best film at the 71st Venice Film Festival on Saturday, with the jury snubbing Hollywood and festival opener "Birdman".

The world's oldest film festival effectively shut out the American feature films in its main competition, also failing to give awards to the drone pilot drama "Good Kill", Al Pacino's portrayal of a grumpy old man in "Manglehorn" and the Florida house repossession drama "99 Homes".

Scott Roxborough, European film critic for The Hollywood Reporter, said that in rejecting "Birdman" the festival had stayed true to form, supporting "the grand tradition of European art house cinema".

Andersson, whose films have won a cult following in Europe, endeared himself to the Italian audience for the awards ceremony in the Palace of the Cinema by saying he had been inspired by Italian director Vittorio De Sica, particularly his "Bicycle Thieves" of 1948.

"It's so full of empathy and it's so humanistic and I think that's what movies should be, in the service of humanism," he said as he accepted the award.

"So I will go further and try to work and make as good movies as Vittorio De Sica."

Noting at a press conference later that the top prize "goes to Sweden", he praised the festival saying it had "such a kindly atmosphere, friendly atmosphere, and I know that in Italy you have very good taste".

Andersson's film, the third in a trilogy, is a series of surreal vignettes, including at the outset "three meetings with death" and later a cavalry parade by Sweden's 17th-century military King Charles XII set in a bleak modern landscape.   Continued...

Swedish director Roy Andersson holds the Golden Lion prize for his movie "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" during the award ceremony at the 71st Venice Film Festival September 6, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile