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Bernardo Bertolucci to be honoured at Venice film fest

Italian cinema legend Bernardo Bertolucci was to receive a special award on the 75th anniversary of the Venice film festival on Friday, the final day of screening in the competition.

"His movies are at once a declaration of love for the cinema and a manifesto of future utopias, the ones which will be reborn from those of the past," festival director Marco Mueller said of Bertolucci, 67.

The director of "Last Tango in Paris" (1973), "The Last Emperor" (1987) and "Little Buddha" (1993) will be given a special Golden Lion to mark his achievements.

Also Friday, Egyptian director Youssef Chahine offers "Heya Fawda" (Chaos), a hair-raising trip through Egypt`s endemic corruption wrapped in a dangerous tale of unrequited love.

And Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov will present "12," a rowdy courtroom drama about a Russian jury asked to convict a Chechen youth for the murder of his stepfather that reveals volumes about deep-seated prejudices.

There will also be an out-of-competition documentary, "The Man from Plains" by Jonathan Demme, a biopic of former US president Jimmy Carter.

Meanwhile, excitement grew ahead of the awards ceremony on Saturday, with the French film "La Graine et le Mulet" (Grain of Life) by Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche among the favourites for the best film Golden Lion from Venice`s all-director jury.

The Bob Dylan biopic by Tom Haynes, "I`m Not There" was also well received, as was the US film "Redacted" by Brian De Palma about the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by US soldiers.

Dylan is conspicuously absent but omnipresent in the kaleidoscopic "I`m Not There," but Cate Blanchett, whose character most closely resembles Dylan at the height of his stardom, seems set to triumph here as best actress.

On Thursday, British director and art house favourite Peter Greenaway illuminated some of the many secrets of the Rembrandt masterpiece "The Nightwatch" in his sensuous film "Nightwatching".

The movie explores the three women in Rembrandt`s life and the influence of his home life on his painting, while also offering an explanation for the "riches to rags" story of the 17th-century Dutch master of light and shadow.

"I can`t prove every single fact, but you can`t disprove it either," Greenaway told a news conference.

To play his Rembrandt, he chose the British comic actor Martin Freeman, a star of the hugely popular BBC sitcom "The Office" as well as the recent movie adaptation of "A Hitchhiker`s Guide to the Galaxy."

Freeman was initially "puzzled" over being approached for the role, but said he later realised it was because Greenaway wanted a "lightness of touch and sense of humour" that he could bring to the character.

Also Thursday, leading Hong Kong director Johnnie To revealed the "surprise" entry to this year`s festival -- his latest police thriller "Mad Detective."

Starring Andy On, the fast-moving film co-directed by Wai Ka Fai sneaks up on you from a standard plotline of a rookie cop teaming up with a former officer -- in this case a schizophrenic played by Lau Ching Wan -- to hunt down a serial killer.

As the plot develops, it turns into a psychological teaser that blurs the line between truth and lies, reality and delusion.

The top prize here last year was clinched by the surprise candidate, "Still Life" by Chinese director Jia Zhangke.

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