Rourke, Hathaway lead in Venice as U.S. films shine

Fri Sep 5, 2008 9:25am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - A late flurry of independent U.S. pictures at the Venice film festival has blown the competition wide open ahead of the awards ceremony on Saturday.

Mickey Rourke has given what critics are calling the performance of his life in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" in which he plays a lonely, washed out wrestler whose story poignantly mirrors the Hollywood outsider's own troubled past.

The film, the last of 21 movies in the main competition to premiere, is a contender both for the top actor award and the coveted Golden Lion for best picture, critics say.

Anne Hathaway also impressed in her unusually dark role in "Rachel Getting Married," Jonathan Demme's touching wedding drama that has been lauded in Venice.

A third late entry, "The Hurt Locker" by U.S. director Kathryn Bigelow, leads an informal poll of Italian critics who were impressed by its portrayal of the perils faced by a bomb disposal unit in Iraq led by a reckless sergeant.

In a Venice competition that finished strongly after disappointing critics for much of the 11-day event, the U.S. trio faces stiff competition from revered Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, who charmed viewers with "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea," his re-telling of "The Little Mermaid" fairytale.

Were Miyazaki to walk off with the Golden Lion, it would be the fourth year in a row an Asian director had done so.

Ethiopian entry "Teza" is in the frame for the top prize, and would be the first African picture to win in Venice, the world's oldest film festival.   Continued...

<p>U.S. actress Anne Hathaway arrives for the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival September 3, 2008. Hathaway stars in the movie "Rachel Getting Married" by director Jonathan Demme, which is shown in the competition at the Venice Film Festival. REUTERS/Max Rossi</p>