Venice film festival race seen wide open

Sat Sep 12, 2009 7:39am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - The Venice film festival closes on Saturday with the award of the Golden Lion for best picture, and U.S. director Todd Solondz is a favorite for his comedy "Life During Wartime" as is the harrowing war movie "Lebanon."

Michael Moore's attack on corporate greed in "Capitalism: A Love Story" struck a chord with audiences and the public, as did fashion designer Tom Ford with his debut feature "A Single Man" starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

Also among the frontrunners were "Lourdes," an examination of miracles and faith, "The Road," an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel, Fatih Akin's madcap comedy "Soul Kitchen" and Iranian protest drama "Women Without Men."

But with film festival juries notoriously difficult to second-guess, including this year's panel led by two-time Golden Lion winner Ang Lee, critics believe the race for the top prize in 2009 is wide open.

They also praised the selection of 25 competition films, and dozens more pictures outside of a main line-up that eclipsed a disappointing 2008 edition.

"Most critics will remember the 66th Venice film festival as a certainly worthwhile -- though not classic -- edition in which everyone took home at least half a dozen or so titles to remember," said Derek Elley of Variety trade publication. "And by today's festival batting averages, that ain't half bad."

Venice director Marco Mueller also managed to attract enough stars to keep the media happy, with George Clooney, Matt Damon, Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Viggo Mortensen and Omar Sharif walking the red carpet at the world's oldest film festival.

Yet with such a large overlap with the Toronto film festival, which opens just a few days later, Venice may struggle to attract journalists and Hollywood studios looking to reduce costs by traveling to Canada rather than Italy.   Continued...

<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>