Religion, sex mix in Venice

VENICE — The Vatican, sex and death dominated the Lido Wednesday, as Venice Patriarch Cardinal Angelo Scola paid a visit to honor cinema while Gallic sex-tourism drama “Heading South” and Tim Burton’s animated “Corpse Bride” preemed.

Scola handed out the Vatican-sponsored Robert Bresson prize to Polish thesp-helmer Jerzy Stuhr, protag of Krzysztov Zanussi’s competition entry “Persona Non Grata.”

“Cinema is of great interest to the church,” said the prelate, who is considered close to Pope Benedict XIV.

“Movies are one of the most powerful expressive media to answer the following question: ‘In the end, does anybody love me?’ ” the cardinal opined.

Three older women ask themselves just that question in “Heading South,” Laurent Cantet’s competition entry set at a beach resort in 1980s Haiti, where the trio have traveled to pick up young locals.

“Cinema rarely talks about female desire,” said Cantet at the pic’s press conference, also attended by pic’s star Charlotte Rampling.

Age is not an issue in Burton’s stop-motion fable “Corpse Bride,” in which a man marries a dead woman.

Burton blitzed the Lido with wife Helena Bonham Carter, who voices the bride, but sans co-star Johnny Depp, expected to tubthump the Warner Bros. pic in Toronto.

Burton said he had drawn visual inspiration for “Corpse” from cult Italo horrormeister Mario Bava’s “Curse of the Living Dead.”

Fest ends with the awards ceremony Saturday.

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