Venice Diary: Burton and Bonham Carter bring a hint of gothic glamour

* * *

From midweek there was a distinct feeling of the festival winding down as the mighty behemoth of the Toronto Film Festival kicked into gear on Paltrow's side of the Atlantic. Venice has always been notoriously front-loaded, but this year it seemed to have thrown in the towel as plane-loads of journalists and celebrities began decamping for Canada on Tuesday.

Marco Muller, the combative festival director, rejected claims that this was the case, pointing to the premiere of Tim Burton's latest stop-motion picture, The Corpse Bride, on Wednesday. There was a rapturous reception on the Lido for Burton, who actually co-directed the film, with partner Helena Bonham Carter by his side.

Bonham Carter, wearing a picture of their two-year-old round her neck, appeared later in red velvet to field questions at a junket. While not exactly the corpse bride - after all, she and Burton aren't married - there is something delightfully gothic about this improbable Belsize Park couple.

* * *

Venice has been slimmed down (there are 16 fewer films) and has pretty much worked like clockwork after the chaotic scenes of 2004. The celebrity frenzy of last year has also been toned down - to the relief of many.

Critical favourites this time round have included Patrice Chéreau's end-of-a-marriage tale Gabrielle, adapted from Joseph Conrad's novel The Return and starring Isabelle Huppert, and the British film The Constant Gardener, which includes Ralph Fiennes's most resonant performance since The English Patient. Adapted from the Le Carré novel about a diplomat who takes up his late wife's fight against dodgy pharmaceutical dealings in Africa, it's a stunning piece of work.

* * *

Unlike many a festival director, Marco Muller also produces and makes films. A sinologist who speaks six languages, he is especially good at getting films from China and Japan. Friday's ceremony awarding Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki a Golden Lion Career Achievement Award proved the unlikely hottest ticket in town. Miyazaki, notoriously shy and reclusive, is rarely coaxed out of his native Tokyo for this kind of thing.

Liev Schreiber was moved to tears last week by his standing ovation for Everything is Illuminated, his directorial debut, and Miyazaki looked slightly stunned by his wild reception from the general public. In a city that is no stranger to over-enthusiasm, this at least was thoroughly deserved.

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