Tarantino's tough choice as Venice festival ends

Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:50pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - Jury president Quentin Tarantino faces a tough choice as the Venice film festival winds to a close Saturday, with no clear frontrunner emerging for the coveted Golden Lion awarded each year to the best picture.

The 24-strong competition line-up, featuring the youngest group of directors in memory, has been seen by critics as strong and varied, providing everything from French comedy to Polish existential minimalism to effects-heavy Chinese costume drama.

But unlike 2009, when the hard-hitting war movie "Lebanon" was a popular winner, and 2008, when "The Wrestler" launched the surprise comeback of Hollywood outsider Mickey Rourke, this year has lacked a defining moment that unites audiences.

"The film average is very good, but there's been nothing to fall in love with," Il Foglio said in a recent editorial, although the Italian daily did later identify "Venus Noire" as a worthy contender for prizes.

Among the favorites are Chinese entry "The Ditch," about the plight of political prisoners deported to labor camps in 1950s China, and Russian film "Silent Souls," a contemplative study of a fading minority culture and obsessive love.

Venus Noire, the true story of a woman brought from South Africa to Europe in 1810 and turned into a freak show, could touch a chord given director Abdellatif Kechiche's argument that its themes of intolerance and racism are still relevant today.

"Post Mortem" looks at Chile's military coup of 1973 through the eyes of a man working in a morgue, and "Meek's Cutoff" is a retelling of the Hollywood western through the eyes of a group of women stranded in the American desert.

French comedy "Potiche," starring veterans Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu, was popular, while Spain's "Balada Triste de Trompeta," about a love triangle set in a circus, divided audiences but had some fervent admirers.   Continued...