VENICE — Youth triumphed at this year's Venice Film Festival, helping to answer critics who have derided the event as out of touch and a poor cousin to the Cannes and Berlin movie carnivals.
For the second year running, a young director won the coveted Golden Lion and the festival was packed with emerging talents from as far afield as Iran and Cuba.
Tran Anh Hung, the Paris-based Vietnamese director of "Cyclo," took the Golden Lion at Saturday night's awards for his tale of a young pedal-cab driver sucked into a vortex of violence in Ho Chi Minh City. The award was the first major international prize given to a Vietnamese director, according to L'Unita newspaper.
Veterans of the moviemaking establishment did not do badly however, picking up a clutch of career awards. And Hollywood heavyweights turned out in force for a festival many had shunned in the past.
Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner, Jack Nicholson, and Mel Gibson were just some of the stars in town with their latest films. The critics did not reward their presence, however, slamming Sean Penn's "The Crossing Guard" starring Nicholson.
The other American film in competition, Spike Lee's "Clockers," did not make the prize list despite leaving a strong impression.
The blockbuster boom was too much for some critics, who criticized Pontecorvo's choice of opening film - director Tony Scott's "Crimson Tide" - as a purely commercial decision.
But although the deep-sea thriller - was dismissed by many critics, leading actor Denzel Washington's arrival in Venice aboard a submarine was a spectacular way to open the 11-day festival.
The Europeans did well, with top acting honors going to Germany and France - Goetz George in Romuald Karmakar's "Der Totmacher" (The Deathmaker), and Sandrine Bonnaire and Isabelle Huppert in Claude Chabrol's "La Ceremonie" (The Ceremony).
The most sought-after award beside the Golden Lion, the Special Jury Prize, went to Portugal's Joao Cesar Monteiro for "A Comedia De Deus" (God's Comedy) and Oscar-winning Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore for "L'Uomo delle Stelle" (Starman).
The American contingent did not leave empty-handed: Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese picked up career achievement awards.