Sokurov's retelling of Goethe tragedy takes top kudo; 'People' gets Silver lion

Russian helmer Alexander Sokurov’s “Faust,” a passionate, personal retelling of the Goethe tragedy, is the winner of the 68th Venice Film Festival’ s Golden Lion.

The complex nearly 2 1/2-hour-long art pic is the final installment in the revered Russian auteur’s tetralogy on the nature of power that began with “Moloch” in 1999.

Unquestionably difficult pic screened late in this year’s genre-heavy fest, finding plenty of fans, and also some detractors.

Jury prexy Darren Aronofsky said the seven jurors were unanimous in their praise.

“There are some films that make you cry, there are some films that make you laugh, there are some films that change you forever after you see them; and this is one of them,” Aronofsky enthused.

In his solemn acceptance speech, Sokurov bemoaned that it is becoming increasingly difficult to finance “quality, deeply felt auteur cinema,” noting that there is coin from 38 countries behind his “Faust.”

Ever since preeming at Venice Thursday, Berlin-based and Films Distribution-owned Films Boutique, has been seeing a slew of sales on “Faust.” Pic now segues to Toronto where it will be a hot ticket. It will go out via Archibald in Italy.

The Silver Lion for best director went to Chinese helmer Cai Shangjun’s powerful sophomore outing “People Mountain People Sea,” the fest’s surprise movie.

Fact-based drama, which has not been approved by Chinese censors, is a dark tale of murder and corruption which exposes major flaws in China’s law enforcement system.

Venice’s Special Jury Prize went to Italo helmer Emanuele Crialese for his “Terraferma,” a morality tale which turns on African boat people on a Sicilian isle. Pic is produced by Cattleya and RAI Cinema.

The Best Actor nod went to Michael Fassbender for his powerful perf as a lonely sex addict in British artist/helmer Steve McQueen’s “Shame.” A fest fave, “Shame” had been considered a top lion contender by crix.

“It’s just really nice when you take chance and you do something that you think is relevant – you hope is relevant – and people respond the way they did,” said Fassbender.

The best actress prize went to Hong Kong’s Deanie Yip for her role as an aging domestic helmer in Hong Kong helmer Ann Hui’s moving “A Simple Life.”

Greek helmer Yorgos Lanthimos and his co-scripter Eftimis Filippou took the screenplay prize for “Alps,” an absurdist black comedy about a company that provides special services for relatives of the recently deceased.

“Wuthering Heights” by Andrea Arnold scooped the cinematography for lenser Robbie Ryan.

The Marcello Mastroianni prize for best emerging young actor(s) went to Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido who play two teens contending with Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami in daring manga adaptation “Himizu” by Sion Sono.

The Lion of the Future Luigi De Laurentiis for best first work went to Italian helmer Guido Lombardi’s “La Bas. A Criminal Education.” a Critics’ Week entry which also scooped the Critics’ Week nod. The Lion of the Future comes with a $100,000 check.

This was an especially strong edition of Venice with high-profile English-language titles making up almost half the competition lineup, bolstering the Lido’s status as an awards season launching pad.

That well-received new works by big name helmers – including Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” and other high-profile titles like Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” and George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” – went empty-handed is not unusual at festivals like Venice or Cannes, which generally reward underdogs, and does not diminish the Lido’s launching power.

But the Lido, besides inadequate infrastructure, was plagued by some inexcusable screenings snafus.

Fest topper Marco Mueller’s eight-year mandate is up this year. Though Mueller says he plans to go back to producing, he is expected to instead make a bid to be reupped.

WINNERS OF THE 68TH VENICE FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL AWARDS

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION JURY

GOLDEN LION

“Faust” (Aleksander Sokurov, Russia)

SILVER LION

“People Mountain People Sea” (“Ren Shan Ren Hai”) (Shanjun Cai, China, Hong Kong)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

“Terraferma”(Emanuele Crialese, Italy)

ACTOR

Michael Fassbender (“Shame”)

ACTRESS

Deanie Yip (“A Simple Life,” China, Hong Kong)

MARCELLO MASTROIANNI PRIZE FOR YOUNG PERFORMER(S)

Shota Sometani, Fumi Nikaido (“Himizu,” Japan)

BEST SCREENPLAY

Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou (“Alps”, Greece))

TECHNICAL CONTRIBUTION — Best Cinematography

Robbie Ryan for (“Wuthering Heights,” Andrea Arnold, U.K.)

LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS LION OF THE FUTURE

“Las Bas. A Criminal Education, by Guido Lombardi (Italy)

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