‘Lust’ wins top prize in Venice

Brad Pitt wins best actor for 'James' role

In a surprise verdict that divided critics and festgoers, Ang Lee’s controversial drama, “Lust, Caution” took home the Golden Lion award for picture at the 64th Venice film festival on Saturday.

Lee was thought to be an outsider having won the Golden Lion two years ago with “Brokeback Mountain,” and having returned to the Lido with a film that pleased audiences but split critics.

Many found the tale of a student who’s bait in a plot to assassinate a Chinese collaborator in Japanese-held WWII Shanghai slowgoing.

Speculation was rife that jury prexy Zhang Yimou had pushed for his compatriot. However, Zhang said at the presser that the verdict from the all-director jury was unanimous.

Meanwhile, Brad Pitt nabbed actor honors for his role as Jesse James in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Zhang praised Pitt’s perf as an important departure from his customary Hollywood roles.

Pitt’s co-star, Casey Affleck, had been the rumored to be the favorite.

Brian De Palma won the Silver Lion for director for his graphic film, “Redacted,” which tells the true story of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers.

Again, the choice caught festgoers by surprise because, while the film packed a strong anti-war message, it was considered less powerful in both visuals and performances than Paul Haggis’ similarly themed “In the Valley of Elah,” which went home empty-handed.

After long deliberation, Todd Haynes’ much-publicized Bob Dylan biopic “I’m not there” tied for the special jury prize with French entry “The Secret of the Grain,” from helmer Abdellatif Kechiche. Both pics received the award after execs met to modify the rules to make that possible.

Cate Blanchett took actress for her role as one of six Dylan impersonations in the film.

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