'Wrestler' brings Venice fest to its feet

Darren Aronofsky pic builds buzz, packs theaters

VENICE -- "The Wrestler" was the toast of the Lido on the Venice Film Festival's penultimate day, with star Mickey Rourke's interpretation of an aging wrestler struggling to come to terms with the end of his career creating a buzz that had been absent for most of the festival.

The Darren Aronofsky film helped the 65th edition of the Venice event wind up on a high note after days of steady criticism for what the domestic press has considered a relative lack of strong films in the lineup.

The competition film, which co-stars Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, packed three Venice screenings Friday and prompted speculation among festival participants that Rourke could be a candidate for Venice's best actor prize, which will be announced with the other major awards Saturday.

Meanwhile, Pupi Avati's drama "Papa di Giovanna" (Giovanna's Father) won the Leoncino d'Oro on Friday. The name means "golden lion cub," a play on the main Venice prize, the Golden Lion (Leone d'Oro), and the prize is voted on by a group of local schoolchildren. The winner of the Leoncino usually goes on to win major awards elsewhere and in six of its previous 18 editions, the Leoncino winner also won the Golden Lion.

Ermanno Olmi was presented with Venice's career prize Friday, with actor-singer Adrianno Celetano -- whose 1975 cult classic "Yuppi Du" screened Friday -- on hand to present the prize to the 77-year-old Olmi. The two men are longtime friends.

Among other early honors announced Friday, "Un Altro Pianeta," a drama from Stefano Tummolini that screened in the Venice Days sidebar, won the second Queer Lion Award -- the prize for the festival's best film with a gay theme. And the animated aerial combat story "Sukai Kurora" (Sky Crawlers) from Japan's Mamoru Oshii won the digital cinema sidebar sponsored by the Bologna-based Future Film Festival.

The Venice Film Festival, which got under way Aug. 27, will conclude Saturday with a gala prize ceremony hosted by Russian actress Ksenia Rappoport and a reprise screening of the film selected as the festival's best.