Hong Kong's Woo accepts career award at Venice filmfest

Veteran Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo accepted a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice film festival, dedicating the honour to his "dear mother".

"When I was a younger man, when becoming a filmmaker was a crazy dream, I learned that the impossible could become possible," said the 63-year-old Woo, who has known success in both Asia and Hollywood, which first took notice when he came up with "The Killer" in 1989.

"I dedicate this award to a person who first brought me into the cinema, and set a course for my life, who said 'If you set your mind to something then you should do it,' and that's my dear mother."

Friday also saw the premier of Woo's new action-packed "Reign of Assassins", co-directed with Su Chao-Pin, pitting Chinese megastar Michelle Yeoh against ruthless killers.

The "Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger" star is herself an assassin in the film, tasked with protecting the remains of a mystical Buddhist monk said to be the repository of an ancient power-wielding secret.

Festival director Marco Mueller, flanking Woo at a news conference earlier Friday, said that in his films "you have the perfect union of Chinese tradition and avant-garde films."

Woo, who recently returned to China after 16 years in Hollywood, notably directing John Travolta in "Broken Arrow" and Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible 2", said: "I am starting a new chapter with new dreams."

Sharing the limelight with Woo on Friday was Sofia Coppola, presenting "Somewhere," about A-list actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) and his daughter Clio (Elle Fanning), who are adrift in the lonely world of Hollywood moviemaking.

Going into the gala screening, the 39-year-old Coppola told Italian television that Clio's character was based on the daughter of a Hollywood friend.

Elle Fanning, 12, taking to the red carpet in a strapless blue and green A-line dress, said of Johnny Marco: "He sort of wakes up and becomes a better father."

Coppola, who won an Oscar for "Lost in Translation," said earlier that she had won her own dad's seal of approval for "Somewhere".

Multiple Oscar winner Francis Ford Coppola "thought it could only be made by me, and we should all make the movies that only we can make," the daughter said.

Also Friday, French director Antony Cordier unspooled "Happy Few", a vehicle for multiple sex scenes about a wife-swapping foursome that asks the question, "Can one love two people at once?"

"The ultimate perversion in the film, the painful moment, is when they feel conjugal desire for the lover," Cordier said.

In the end, "they're characters who try to live a utopia, but they are like everyone else: they're jealous, they suffer, and so on," said 37-year-old Cordier, one of a horde of young directors showcased at this year's Mostra.

The three films are among 24 competing for the coveted top prize Golden Lion to be announced on September 11 at the world's oldest film festival, now in its 67th edition.

On Saturday the Mostra presents the much anticipated comedy "Potiche" by Francois Ozon, 43, starring veteran French actors Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.

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