Venice film festival nears end, contest wide open

Fri Sep 9, 2011 7:07pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - The Venice film festival ends on Saturday with the award of the coveted Golden Lion for best picture, but critics struggled to name their favorite in a year that had plenty of good films but few, if any, great ones.

The 2011 competition lineup boasted 23 movies, ranging from George Clooney's political thriller "The Ides of March" to the odd-ball, low-budget Greek tragedy "Alps."

Outside the main line-up, and ineligible for awards, were Steven Soderbergh's all-star "Contagion" and Madonna's second feature as director, "W.E.," about Wallis Simpson and her affair with Britain's King Edward VIII.

Those two pictures bumped up the star-power -- a vital ingredient to a successful film festival -- and Madonna, Clooney, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Al Pacino were among the A-listers on the red carpet this year.

One notable absentee was Roman Polanski, unable to travel for fear of being extradited to the United States for a sex crime, but his "Carnage" was nonetheless among the favorites for the top prize.

The adaptation of a play takes place in real time in a New York apartment, giving it a theatrical feel, and the comedy of manners and sharp critique of U.S. middle class mores impressed the critics.

Clooney's The Ides of March, also based on a play, starred Clooney himself, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a slick take on corruption in U.S. politics.

BOOKS TO SCREEN   Continued...

<p>Actor Emile Hirsch reacts as greets fans during a red carpet for film "Killer Joe" at the 68th Venice Film Festival September 8, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>