Highbrow trumps Hollywood at Venice film festival

Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:21pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - Highbrow trumped Hollywood at the Venice film festival this year, with Russian director Alexander Sokurov's demanding German-language "Faust" taking top prize and Roman Polanski and George Clooney overlooked.

Most prizes at Saturday's closing ceremony went to less-than-familiar names and faces, with the exception of rising Irish star Michael Fassbender's best actor award for "Shame."

The Silver Lion for best director was awarded to China's Shangjun Cai for his gritty "People Mountain People Sea," best actress went to Hong Kong's Deanie Ip and the jury prize went to Italian immigration drama "Terraferma."

Surprisingly overlooked was Roman Polanski's "Carnage," a comedy of manners featuring a stellar cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly.

Based on a play and set in real time in a single apartment, Carnage is a stinging critique of middle class mores, but also has plenty of humor including Winslet's memorable projectile vomit scene.

Polanski was not able to travel to Venice to present the movie, given the threat of extradition to the United States where he is still wanted for sentencing in a 1977 sex crime case.

"Many feel that jury head Darren Aronofsky and his compatriot Todd Haynes, both Americans, lacked the courage to give the victory to a colleague who is not liked in the U.S." said a commentary in the La Stampa newspaper.

While Venice is not a platform for blockbusters, it has proved an effective launchpad for U.S. Oscar contenders like Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain" and Aronofsky's own "Black Swan" and "The Wrestler."   Continued...