In Venice, Russian, Chilean films favoured for Golden Lion
Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko's "Silent Souls" and "Post Mortem" by Chile's Pablo Larrain were favourites Friday to win the Venice film festival's Golden Lion.
Fedorchenko's sombre story involving Russia's minority Merya culture and Larrain's snapshot of the days after Chile's 1973 military coup lead the pack of 24 films vying for the top prize, according to a tabulation of 21 international critics.
Close behind are French director Francois Ozon's comedy "Potiche" starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu and Sofia Coppola's father-daughter drama "Somewhere".
The popular vote online leans towards Hong Kong blockbuster "Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame", a Tang Dynasty whodunnit by Vietnamese-born Tsui Hark.
Monte Hellman, who at 78 is among few directors aged over 50 at this year's Mostra, is tipped to receive a career achievement award.
The veteran US director, whose cult following began with the 1971 road movie "Two-Lane Blacktop", is in Venice with "Road to Nowhere", a complex romantic noir thriller.
He was the executive director of the 1992 crime flick "Reservoir Dogs", the debut film of "Pulp Fiction" creator Quentin Tarantino, who heads the jury this year.
The Venice paper Il Gazzettino noted that Tarantino was especially enthusiastic at the offical screenings of "Post Mortem" and "Silent Souls" as well as "A Sad Trumpet Ballad" by Alex de la Iglesia of Spain and "The Ditch" by China's Wang Bing.
Tipped for best actor is Paul Giamatti, who plays a politically incorrect but lovable rogue in "Barney's Version", the screen adaptation of Canadian Mordecai Richler's best-selling novel.
Deneuve's performance in "Potiche", about a housewife who takes over her ailing husband's factory, may earn the French icon a rather redundant best actress award or another lifetime achievement honour, according to rumours on the Lido.
Two aspirants for the Marcello Mastroianni award for best young actress are Yahime Torres of Cuba, who starred in "Hottentot Venus" about an African slave's humiliation as a freak show attraction in 19th-century Europe, and Alba Rohrwacher in Saverio Costanzo's haunting "The Solitude of Prime Numbers".
Winners in the 11-day festival were to be announced Saturday from 7:30 pm (1730 GMT).
© 2010 AFP