In a surprise, Russian director Aleksander Sokurov's "Faust" won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion prize on Saturday.
"Faust," which screened somewhat late in the festival, after many critics had left, bested 21 other films in competition, including Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John le Carre’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (with Gary Oldman as super spy George Smiley); George Clooney’s American presidential campaign drama “Ides of March;” and David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method.” Also competing were Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” an adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Broadway play “God of Carnage”; Steve McQueen's sexually charged "Shame"; William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe” (a drama starring Emile Hirsch and Matthew McConaughey); and Todd Solondz’s “Dark Horse,” starring Mia Farrow.
"Faust" is screening at this week's Toronto International Film Festival, where it's likely to now become a hot ticket.
Darren Aronofsky, whose dark ballet drama "Black Swan" opened last year's Venice Film Festival, headed the jury for the 68th annual affair, which began Aug. 31 and wraps up this weekend. In 2008, Aronofsky's Mickey Rourke drama "The Wrestler" won the top prize at Venice.
The Venice festival is considered an important stop for many Academy Award hopefuls, but the Golden Lion is certainly no guarantee of eventual Oscar glory. Last year, Quentin Tarantino headed up the jury, which, in a controversial move, awarded the Golden Lion to Sofia Coppola's moody, faded-celebrity study "Somewhere." In 2009, the prize went to Samuel Maoz’s war drama “Lebanon.” Neither landed Academy Award nominations.
Faust is part of Sokurov's monumental “Men of Power” tetralogy, which kicked off with "Moloch" in 1999. Toronto programmers described the film as a "freestyle fantasy version of Faust, loosely based on the famed literary interpretations by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Mann." The film stars Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinskiy, Isolda Dychauk, Georg Friedrich and Hanna Schygulla.
Faust tells the story of a successful scholar who becomes impatient with the religious limitations imposed on scientific knowledge and is just about ready to sell his soul to the devil for some real enlightenment for a change.
Sokurov’s previous films in the series have concentrated on contentious historical icons of the 20th century including Adolph Hitler ("Moloch"), Vladimir Ilyich Lenin ("Taurus") and Emperor Hirohito ("The Sun"). ...