U.S. comedy, Israeli war movie lead race in Venice

Fri Sep 11, 2009 9:19am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi VENICE (Reuters) - A dark U.S. comedy, Michael Moore's attack on capitalism and a harrowing Israeli war movie are among the critics' favorites to win the coveted Golden Lion for best film at the Venice festival on Saturday.

Film festival juries are notoriously difficult to second-guess, and juries and critics often disagree, but Venice 2009, with 25 movies in the main line-up, has generally been seen as a better year than the disappointing 2008.

And with George Clooney, Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Isabelle Huppert, Viggo Mortensen and Egyptian veteran Omar Sharif walking the red carpet, the world's oldest cinema festival has had its fair share of stars.

"A definite improvement over 2008, which was a very difficult year for all the festivals," said Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter. "Speaking as a critic, the films are definitely something to watch this year."

Todd Solondz struck a chord with his dark comedy "Life During Wartime," a sequel of sorts to his acclaimed "Happiness" that follows the dysfunctional Jordan family through a tale of abuse, pedophilia and suicide using biting satire and humor.

The Hollywood Reporter called the American "the true heir to Woody Allen," and when asked about the comparison Solondz told Reuters: "If I looked like Tom Cruise they just wouldn't say such a thing."

Also uniting opinion was "Lebanon," in which Israeli film maker Samuel Maoz seeks to recreate the claustrophobia and fear of being a 20-year-old conscript soldier during the 1982 conflict by shooting most of the action from inside a tank.

Maoz was so traumatized by his memories that it took him 25 years to muster the strength to make the movie, which the New York Times called "an astonishing piece of cinema."


<p>(L to R) Actors Yoav Donat, Michael Moshonov, director Samuel Maoz and his wife, actors Oshri Cohen, Zohar Strauss, Reymonde Amsallem and Dudu Tassa pose during the premiere of "Lebanon" at the 66th Venice Film Festival September 8, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>