U.S. fare shines on Lido

VENICE — Hollywood held court during the first half of the Venice Film Festival, where George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck” and Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” have emerged among early Golden Lion contenders.

Following Asian opener “Seven Swords,” a slew of U.S. studio and indie pics have been unspooling on the mostly sunny Lido, keeping paparazzi in high gear.

Besides Clooney and Heath Ledger — who did triple duty, tubthumping “Brokeback,” “Casanova” and “The Brothers Grimm” — Matt Damon, Monica Bellucci, Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Calista Flockhart and Sienna Miller have been among top talent in attendance on the lagoon’s shores.

“I’m really tired,” moaned Ledger at a presser for “Grimm,” after being asked what his favorite fairy tale was.

With about half of Venice’s competition entries having unspooled, topper Marco Muller’s selection is generally being praised, though standouts are few.

Besides Clooney’s cinema verite depiction of how CBS anchor Edward R. Murrow battled Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and “Brokeback,” about two ranch hands who fall in love, Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” the most lyrical pic in the South Korean’s revenge trilogy, and Polish helmer Krzysztof Zanussi’s “Persona Non Grata,” about an aged ambassador’s turmoil over a corrupt world, are other entries tipped in pole position for a Lion.

With fewer titles unspooling in Venice this year — and many of these also screening in Toronto — market activity on the Lido has been minimal.

Italy’s Mikado acquired Italo rights from Wild Bunch to the Abel Ferrara drama “Mary,” the only English-language competish entry here without a U.S. distributor.

Venice Days entry “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” a family drama from Canadian helmer Jean-Marc Vallee — and a hit in Canada — has been sold by France’s Films Distribution to Ocean for France, Istituto Luce for Italy and Concorde for Germany. Pic also unspools in Toronto.

Venice fest ends Saturday.

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