Venice film festival wins on points, lacks knock-out

Fri Sep 9, 2011 12:41pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - The Venice film festival launched a series of strong movies in 2011, including several early Oscar contenders, but critics said the cinema showcase lacked a standout contender for the Golden Lion award.

Madonna, George Clooney, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon were among the A-listers to walk the red carpet, giving Venice the visibility it needs to compete with other festivals around the world.

There was positive buzz around Roman Polanski's "Carnage," Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," Clooney's "The Ides of March" and Steve McQueen's "Shame."

As Hollywood's focus moves from summer blockbusters to potential prize winners ahead of the Academy Awards in February, William Friedkin's "Killer Joe" also proved popular.

Outside the English-language world, Hong Kong entry "A Simple Life" and "Faust" from Russia were also in the mix for the Golden Lion for best picture at Saturday's closing ceremony.

"We came here with great expectations and high hopes and I don't feel it has quite lived up to that, no film has blown me away," said Jay Weissberg, a critic at trade publication Variety, reflecting the view of many in Venice.

In recent years, movies like "Brokeback Mountain," "The Queen," "The Hurt Locker" and "The Wrestler" wowed viewers, and while not all won the top prize, they gave the festival the talking points it needed.