Venice fest kicks off with preem of 'Good Night'

VENICE — George Clooney captivated the Lido on Thursday as the world preem of his sophomore helming effort “Good Night, and Good Luck” kicked off the Venice fest’s competish on a positive note.

At a packed news conference, Clooney was at ease in his new role as earnest auteur of the black-and-white drama depicting the McCarthy-era communist witch hunt in the U.S., which has clear present-day parallels.

“The Patriot Act is going to be re-voted on in October,” Clooney said. “This is an interesting time to be involved in the debate about civil liberties, and whether or not fear should be used to take certain civil liberties away.”

Warner Bros. is releasing “Good Night” Stateside next month. Pic, produced by Clooney and Steven Soderbergh’s Section Eight banner, depicts CBS anchor Edward R. Murrow’s battle against the media manipulation of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in their anti-communist crusade.

While Clooney put political passion into “Good Night,” he made it clear that his low-budget cinema verite project was not conceived as a simplistic one-sided statement.

“There are no true bad guys. It is a trickier thing than that,” he said. “My goal isn’t to go out and attack the (Bush) administration. My goal is to create a debate.”

The news conference for the well-received pic took on a more frivolous tone when Clooney — in a somewhat self-deprecating vein — suggested helming may be his stronger suit.

“Acting, as I’ve proved time and time again, is not my greatest forte. Balancing the two is interesting,” he said.

Other English-language pics vying for a Golden Lion are Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain,” Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm,” John Madden’s “Proof,” John Turturro’s “Romance and Cigarettes” and Abel Ferrara’s “Mary,” all unspooling over the weekend.

Fest runs through Sept. 10.

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