Strathairn, Mezzogiorno take acting awards

View list of winners

VENICE — Ang Lee’s affecting oater “Brokeback Mountain,” in which two ranch hands become romantically entangled in 1960s Wyoming, won the 62nd Venice Intl. Film Festival’s Golden Lion on Saturday.

“It’s a great American love story,” said Lee, who thanked novelist Annie Proulx, who wrote the short story on which the film is based.

“It’s unique and yet so universal. I am so glad that it prevailed and was received so warmly here,” added Lee — who flew back from Toronto to be Lionized at the Lido.

Lee was handed the statuette by Japanese anime-auteur Hayao Miyazaki, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Lion.

“We always believed this film had an audience, and Venice has proven that,” Focus co-topper David Linde told Daily Variety.

“Brokeback,” which stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, goes out Stateside via Focus on Dec. 9.

The Silver Lion for director went to France’s Philippe Garrel for “Regular Lovers,” a black-and-white evocation of the 1968 protest period in Paris.

Garrel’s “Lovers” also scored a technical contribution prize for cinematographer William Lubtchansky.

Garrel paid tribute to Lubtchansky” as “the greatest French director of photography.”

The Jury Special Prize went to Abel Ferrara’s spiritual quest drama “Mary.”

“It’s the first time I’ve ever won anything,” Ferrara said. “Let’s hope it doesn’t change my luck,” the Bronx-born helmer quipped.

‘Good’ news

George Clooney’s sophomore directorial outing, “Good Night, and Good Luck.” — a festival fave many had hoped would be Lionized — won nods for screenplay (by George Clooney and Grant Heslov) and the actor Osella Cup, awarded to U.S. thesp David Strathairn who plays legendary CBS anchorman Edward R. Murrow. Murrow fought Senator Joseph McCarthy’s media manipulation tactics.

“Grazie Mille,” Clooney said. “Much of the screenplay was written about 51 years ago by Murrow, who taught us many valuable lessons about responsibility and to always, always question authority.”

Strathairn delivered most of his acceptance speech in impeccable Italian, ending with: “Buona Notte, e Buona Fortuna.”

Italy’s Giovanna Mezzogiorno won the Osella Cup for actress, for her role in Cristina Comencini’s psychological drama “Don’t Tell.”

Comencini dedicated her Osella to theater guru Peter Brook. “He gave me the opportunity to work in his prestigious company and convinced me that I could become a professional actress.”

A 22-year-old non-professional Haitian thesp, Menothy Cesar, won the Marcello Mastroianni prize for young performer.

In Laurent Cantet’s “Heading South,” Cesar plays a sensitive local gigolo who cavorts with older Western women on a Haitian beach resort.

“It was the only prize we all immediately agreed on,” jury prexy Dante Ferretti told Daily Variety.

Special delivery

In an apparent effort to pacify the otherwise empty-handed Italians, the jury gave Isabelle Huppert a Special Lion, honoring the French actress’s entire career.

“I had to do some convincing for Mezzogiorno,” admitted Ferretti, who had been under tremendous local media pressure to prize his compatriots.

Huppert’s Special Lion really reflected her strong perf in Patrice Chereau’s “Gabrielle,” in which the French actress plays an early 20th century Paris upper-class dame who defies the social and sexual conventions of that day.

“From the deep of my heart, I want to thank Patrice Chereau for the role, and also the jury,” Huppert said.

More in general, Ferretti said the jury’s job had not been easy.

“There were a lot of good movies and lots of passionate feelings about them. In the end, I think we found the right compromises, working out a sort of mosaic,” Ferretti — who had been a big fan of “Good Night” — said.

The $100,000 Lion of the Future prize for first work went to Russian helmer Gela Babluani’s “13,” a black-and-white stylized thriller harking back to the great Soviet silent films.

New York helmer Lech Kowalski’s moving Soviet work camp drama “East of Paradise” took the Horizons sidebar film prize, while the Horizons documentary nod went to “The First on the Moon,” a faux propaganda piece positing that the Soviets got there first.

This year’s more compact edition saw a solid assortment of goods unspool smoothly in a cordial atmosphere, making for the most user-friendly edition of Venice in recent memory.

“The festival machine worked on all cylinders, without any breakdowns,” said Marco Muller.

“Cutting down the lineup by 15 titles was a big sacrifice. But I don’t think we left that many important films out the door.”

Roman competish

With Rome’s new CINEMA fest — announced during Venice — encroaching as a potential competitor, the Lido consolidated its standing as one of the world’s top film events.

Marketwise, Venice did not generate U.S. acquisitions or other high-profile deals. Still, top reps from Sony Pictures Classics, Paramount Classics, Fine Line Features and the Weinstein Co., among others, attended. Dealmaking was definitely going on, mostly to be closed in Toronto.

Italy’s Mikado went on a buying spree, acquiring competish entries “Mary,” “Going South,” Manoel de Oliveira’s “Magic Mirror” and Takeshi Kitano’s “Takeshis.”

Venice also upped its glamour factor this year, kicking off with Chinese fireworks for opener “Seven Swords,” followed by lavish parties for “Casanova,” “Cinderella Man,” “Elizabethtown” and “Everlasting Regret.”

And the winners are…

VENICE 62

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION JURY

GOLDEN LION

“Brokeback Mountain,” (Ang Lee, US)

SILVER LION

“Regular Lovers,” (Philippe Garrel, France)

GRAND JURY PRIZE

“Mary,” (Abel Ferrara, US, Italy)

ACTOR

David Strathairn (“Good Night, And Good Luck” US)

ACTRESS

Giovanna Mezzogiorno (“Beast in the Heart,” Italy)

BEST SCREENPLAY

George Clooney and Grant Heslov (“Good Night, And Good Luck,” US)

TECHNICAL CONTRIBUTION

William Lubtchansky (“Regular Lovers,” France)

MARCELLO MASTROIANNI PRIZE FOR YOUNG PERFORMER

Menothy Cesar (“Heading South,” France)

OTHER JURIES

LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS LION OF THE FUTURE

“13” (Gela Babluani, France, Georgia)

VENICE HORIZONS

“East of Paradise” (Lech Kowalski, Poland, US)

VENICE HORIZONS DOCUMENTARY

“The First on the Moon” (Aleksey Fedortchenko, Russia)

LABEL EUROPA CINEMAS – VENICE DAYS 2005 PRIZE

“Le Petite Lieutenant,” (Xavier Beavois, France)

FIPRESCI (INTL. CRITIC’S ASSN) COMPETITION PRIZE

“Good Night, And Good Luck” (George Clooney, US)

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