Steve McQueen leads UK charge at Venice Film Festival

Michael Fassbender, Abi Morgan and Steve McQueen McQueen (r) attended the Shame premiere with actor Michael Fassbender and writer Abi Morgan

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Steve McQueen's Shame, the first of a trio of British films vying for the top award at the Venice Film Festival, premiered in the city on Sunday.

A brother-sister drama, it sees sex addict Brandon (Michael Fassbender) and his wayward sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) seeking solace in New York.

Fassbender, who previously played the lead in McQueen's debut film Hunger, joined McQueen to promote the film.

"I love Brandon," he said. "He's not so far away from most of us."

"Clearly Hunger was a political film but Shame is also political," said McQueen.

"That one was about a prison in Northern Ireland. This one [is] about how someone's freedom can actually imprison them and they need an addiction in order to numb a pain."

McQueen said working with Fassbender, who played IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in Hunger, was "a bit like falling in love".

"When you have it, you recognise it," McQueen told industry paper Variety. "I'm extraordinarily fortunate. I think he's the best actor out there."

'Out of order'

Fassbender was seen at the festival last week promoting David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, in which he plays the psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Al Pacino Pacino received a special award at Sunday's Wilde Salome screening

Mulligan, whose was Oscar-nominated for her breakthrough role in An Education, did not attend the Italian festival.

"It's out of order. She should be here," McQueen told the press in Venice.

The 10-day event has seen a slew of glamorous names attending, including George Clooney, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon.

Al Pacino, whose feature Wilde Salome is showing out of competition, also spoke to the press on Sunday.

The movie is an examination of Oscar Wilde's once-banned play Salome, which tells the story of Herod's obsession for his wife's daughter.

Wilde Salome, Pacino's third film as director, incorporates information about Wilde's life, a reading of the play in Los Angeles and dramatisations of certain scenes.

The 71-year-old admitted to being confused as to what type of film he had made. "I guess what I tried to do is create a story," he said.

"I like to say it's a documentary because it's not a film. But then it's not a documentary either, so I'm confused too."

'Standing ovation'

Monday sees the premiere of Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring such British actors as Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and John Hurt.

The adaptation of John le Carre's novel is directed by Sweden's Tomas Alfredson, best known for his vampire horror Let the Right One In.

The author said on Friday that although he had some "misgivings" about whether the film could compare to the 1979 TV series which starred Alec Guinness, his anxieties had been "misplaced".

Gary Oldman Oldman takes over the role made famous by Alec Guinness in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

"The film, through my very personal prism, is a triumph," the 79-year-old - real name David Cornwell - said in a statement.

"If 'poor Alec' had witnessed Oldman's performance, he would have been the first to give it a standing ovation.

"It's not the film of the book. It's the film of the film, and to my eye a work of art in its own right."

Fish Tank director Andrea Arnold completes the British trio on Tuesday with her version of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, one of 22 films currently in contention for the Golden Lion award.

A 23rd "surprise" title will be added to the competition line-up on Tuesday.

The winning film will be announced on 10 September by a jury led by director Darren Aronofsky.

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