And the award for top film goes to ...

I attended the Viennale as a member of the Film Critics International Federation jury, charged with encouraging new talent by honoring a movie from a first- or second-time director.

Our prize went to "Suzhou River," an innovative drama by Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye, who spins tales within tales centering on a roguish young man, a criminal scheme, and a vulnerable girl. Among the other unusual qualities of this film, which opens in the US Nov. 8, are its references to the 1958 classic "Vertigo," also about a man searching for a mysterious woman who's vanished from his life. Alfred Hitchcock's suspenseful spirit is clearly alive and well.

Other films considered for the prize included "Mysterious Object at Noon," a rollicking Thai movie that follows an improvised story from one region of the country to another; "The Taste of Others," a well-made French comedy-drama; and "Together," a good-natured Swedish comedy about a '70s hippie commune.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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