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I haven't followed the Venice Film Festival for as long as I have the Cannes festival, nor with the same ardor. As the years go by, I wonder why not. The fact that the Lido seems less compulsively drawn to star auteurs is both a boon and a drawback. It's harder to project the "kind" of film that wins a Golden Lion than one might say about the Palme d'or, which in itself is refreshing. On average, I learn more new names from each year's Venice roster than from the familiar, mostly welcome faces who appear year after year at Cannes. At the same time, this occasionally makes the Venice selections seem esoteric for their own sake. Through no fault of their own, they're also harder to catch up with, since U.S. niche distributors remain more smiten with the summery glamour of the Croisette than the autumnal burnish of the Lido. The prizes, which arrive in a somewhat confusing raft (is the Silver Lion a "Best Director" prize or more of a runner-up to the top gong?), sometimes gravitate to promising but incomplete films or, more recently, given the early-fall timing of the event, to Anglo-U.S. prestige projects that are anointed as barely-veiled assists to incipient Oscar campaigns. In any event, here is a rundown of the top dogs (or, I suppose, the top cats) from nearly seven decades of festivals, with more thorough yearly coverage linked at the left-hand margin.

My Preferential Rankings of
The Golden Lion Winners


Bellissimo!
66 The Battle of Algiers dir. Gillo Pontecorvo
86 The Green Ray dir. Eric Rohmer
67 Belle de jour dir. Luis Buñuel
61 Last Year at Marienbad dir. Alain Resnais
00 The Circle dir. Jafar Panahi
80 Atlantic City dir. Louis Malle
08 The Wrestler dir. Darren Aronofsky
04 Vera Drake dir. Mike Leigh
87 Au revoir, les enfants dir. Louis Malle
51 Rashômon dir. Akira Kurosawa

Bene!
06 Still Life dir. Jia Zhangke
03 The Return dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev
07 Lust, Caution dir. Ang Lee
93 Three Colors: Blue dir. Krzysztof Kieślowski
94 Before the Rain dir. Milcho Manchevski
93 Short Cuts dir. Robert Altman
05 Brokeback Mountain dir. Ang Lee
09 Lebanon dir. Samuel Maoz
02 The Magdalene Sisters dir. Peter Mullan

Così-così
80 Gloria dir. John Cassavetes
48 Hamlet dir. Laurence Olivier*
10 Somewhere dir. Sofia Coppola
01 Monsoon Wedding dir. Mira Nair

Si scherza!
?? Happily, none yet! Will that change?
Winners Left to See
(In Chronological Order)


Some Huge Gaps Here!
47 Siréna dir. Karel Stekly*
49 Manon dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot
50 Justice Is Done dir. André Cayatte
52 Forbidden Games dir. René Clément
54 Romeo and Juliet dir. Renato Castellani
55 Ordet dir. Carl-Theodor Dreyer
57 Aparajito dir. Satyajit Ray
58 Rickshaw Man dir. Hiroshi Inagaki
59 Il General della Rovere dir. Roberto Rossellini
59 The Great War dir. Mario Monicelli
60 The Crossing of the Rhine dir. André Cayatte
62 Family Diary dir. Valerio Zurlini
62 Ivan's Childhood dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
63 Hands over the City dir. Francesco Rosi
64 Red Desert dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
65 Sandra dir. Luchino Visconti
68 Artists under the Big Top: Perplexed
          dir. Alexander Kluge
81 Marianne & Juliane dir. Margaretha von Trotta
82 The State of Things dir. Wim Wenders
83 First Name: Carmen dir. Jean-Luc Godard
84 The Year of the Quiet Sun dir. Krzysztof
          Zanussi
85 Vagabond dir. Agnès Varda
88 The Legend of the Holy Drinker
          dir. Ermanno Olmi
89 City of Sadness dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien
90 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
          dir. Tom Stoppard
91 Close to Eden dir. Nikita Mikhalkov
92 The Story of Qiu Ju dir. Zhang Yimou
94 Vive l'amour dir. Tsai Ming-liang
95 Cyclo dir. Tran Anh Hung
96 Michael Collins dir. Neil Jordan
97 Fireworks (Hana-bi) dir. Takeshi Kitano
98 The Way We Laughed dir. Gianni Amelio
99 Not One Less dir. Zhang Yimou

* Note that the top prize in 1947 and 1948 was not yet called the "Golden Lion"
** Prize-giving was abolished after the 1968 festival out of political principle. Lions for career achievement and other trophies were slowly re-introduced during the 1970s, but no competition prizes were awarded until the 1980 festival.

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