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Brokeback Mountain wins Golden Lion in Venice

Brokeback Mountain wins Golden Lion in Venice

Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, a tale of homosexual love in the mountains of Wyoming, won Venice's Golden Lion on Saturday, beating film festival favorite George Clooney in the race to take the top prize. The latest movie by the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hulk is adapted from a story by Annie Proulx and stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as love-struck cowboys whose forbidden affair begins in 1963 and ends 20 years later.

Taiwan-born Lee described Brokeback Mountain as a story of love against adversity. Independent and low-budget, like several U.S. entries at the festival, it was filmed in Canada to save money. "After two big movies, I decided to make a small movie that really moved me," said Lee, who flew back from the Toronto Film Festival to take the award. "I have the impression this is the most auteur-specialist of all film festivals, and I never thought I would come here. I can't tell you how proud I am."

Critics had predicted Clooney's black-and-white tale of 1950s broadcasting courage, Good Night. And, Good Luck, would win the Golden Lion, beating the 19 other films in competition. Clooney, adored in Venice, did not go home empty-handed, winning an award for best screenplay with cowriter Grant Heslov. His star, David Strathairn, won the best actor prize for his intense portrayal of journalist Edward R. Murrow, who used television to expose the bullying tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his anti-communist crusade. "This film is a tribute to the reporters who are in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Africa, in our poor city of New Orleans, to bring us the truth," Clooney told a news conference. "I don't believe it is a political statement per se. I felt that if I kept this in a historical context, you could make your own decision."

Italy took home a consolation prize thanks to Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who won the best actress award for her role in Cristina Comencini's La Bestia nel Cuore (Don't Tell), a moving tale of adult siblings scarred by child abuse. She beat France's Isabelle Huppert, a front-runner for her role in the emotionally intense Gabrielle, and Gwyneth Paltrow, a contender for her performance as the daughter of a mentally unstable mathematician in John Madden's Proof. Huppert was instead given a rarely awarded special Lion for her "outstanding contribution to cinema," her third accolade at Venice.

Asia was feted as the honored guest of the 62nd edition of the Venice festival, but its productions won none of the top prizes. Korean director Park Chan-wook was seen as a front-runner for his beautifully shot Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Instead, U.S. director Abel Ferrara took the special jury prize for Mary, starring Juliette Binoche as an actress haunted by the figure of Mary Magdalene after having played her on-screen. Ferrara told reporters this week that his film was possible thanks to the interest in religion generated by Mel Gibson, who struck gold with the ultra-realist The Passion of the Christ.

France's Philippe Garrel won the Silver Lion prize for best director with his nouvelle vague-inspired Les Amants Reguliers (Regular Lovers), an austere story of love between disaffected young people in bohemian Paris after the May 1968 riots. The moody three-hour film with only bare dialogue was well received by critics but got mixed reactions from the public at the Lido. It also won an accolade for its striking photography. Another French offering, Laurent Cantet's gritty Heading South took home an acting prize for best newcomer thanks to Haitian Menothy Cesar, cast as the lover of white women paying for affection in 1970s Port-au-Prince. (Clara Ferreira-Marques, via Reuters)

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