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Venice Film Festival Winners

Three down, one to go. After the Sundance and Cannes Film Festival announced their choices for best of the year, Venice has joined in. The 68th Annual Venice Film Festival had a lot on its plate and picked some interesting winners. It’s hard to tell what the frontrunner was in this battle, given the festival’s international diversity. If there was an American favorite, it would probably have been “The Ides of March.” George Clooney’s political thriller did pick up some descent reviews and some steam, but not enough to take down the big one. The festival’s grand prize went to Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov’s “Faust,” an adaptation of the classic German tale of Doctor Faustus. Little is yet known about this film in the states, but several reviews have called it a life-changing experience. I remain a bit speculative.

The award for Best Actor was a bit more interesting. A number of contenders were abound at the start of the festival. However, once it debuted and its’ themes began to sink into audience’s minds, it was clear that Steve McQueen’s “Shame” held the front-running performance. Michael Fassbender has been generating enormous amounts of buzz ever since his breakthrough performance in Steve McQueen’s previous film “Hunger.” Since then, he has delivered electrifying work in films like “Fish Tank,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Inglorious Basterds.” Fassbender also starred in Venice entry “A Dangerous Method,” however, it was his role as a sex addict in “Shame” that won him the Volpi Cup for Best Actor. The young performer even beat out the veteran Gary Oldman for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Michael did give props to his idol during his acceptance speech, saying that Oldman has inspired him since he was fifteen years old.

This news of Fassbender comes on the heels of an important announcement concerning Fox Searchlight picking up the distributing rights for “Shame.” This is a very bold stroke by the studio, considering the film will almost assuredly carry an NC-17 rating. Unlike “Blue Valentine’s” absurd and easily overturned brand, this one will most likely stick, considering the apparently graphic sex scenes and more than a little full frontal nudity. It will probably not do very well in box office terms, but this win definitely puts Fassbender into contention for the Oscar. This is good news for him considering that “A Dangerous Method,” while not DOA, is certainly taking a hit from a fairly lackluster response from critics and audiences.

As far as the rest of the victories go, nothing really exciting that will likely transmit into Oscar potential. The under-the-radar British “Wuthering Heights” adaptation won for Cinematography, but will probably fly under the radar in the U.S.. Giorgios Lanthimos’ follow-up to his disturbing Oscar nominee, “Dogtooth,” entitled “Alps” took down Screenplay. Overall, considering how outside the box and, no offense to Giorgios, weird his films seem to be, I’m surprised the AMPAS even embraced his last film. We’ll see how this one turns out.

Here’s the breakdown of the substantial winners:

Golden Lion for Best Film
Faust by Aleksander Sokurov (Russia)

Silver Lion for Best Director
Shangjun CAI
 for the film Ren Shan Ren Hai (People Mountain People Sea) (China – Hong Kong)

Special Jury Prize
Terraferma by Emanuele Crialese (Italy)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actor
Michael Fassbender
 in the film Shame by Steve McQueen (United Kingdom)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actress
Deanie Yip in the film Tao jie (A Simple Life) by Ann Hui (China – Hong Kong)

Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor or Actress
Shôta Sometani and Fumi Nikaidô
 in the film Himizu by Sion Sono (Japan)

Osella for the Best Cinematography
Robbie Ryan
 for the film Wuthering Heights by Andrea Arnold (United Kingdom)

Osella for Best Screenplay
Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
 for the film Alpis (Alps) by Yorgos Lanthimos (Grecia)

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