Ang Lee's tale of the homosexual love between two cowboys set in the conservative West of the 1960s won the Venice Film Festival's top award Saturday.
"Brokeback Mountain," starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, topped 19 other competitors, including favorite "Good Night, and Good Luck," George Clooney's black-and-white movie set in the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.
Receiving the Golden Lion award, Lee described his movie as a "great American love story" that is "unique and so universal."
"I'm so glad it's prevailed here and was received so warmly here," he said.
Based on a novella by "The Shipping News" author E. Annie Proulx, the movie has sweeping vistas, lonesome men, bucking broncos and smoldering campfires. It also has sex scenes between two men whose lives are changed, disturbed and entwined after being hired to tend sheep for a summer in Wyoming.
Lee's other films include "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Hulk," "The Ice Storm" and "Sense and Sensibility."
One of the stars of Clooney's film, David Strathairn, got the top acting award for men. Strathairn played American broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, who systematically scrutinized the methods of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's quest to root out communists and their sympathizers.
Strathairn said the movie was a reminder of the responsibility of journalists, addressing his remarks to "all of you here, and all of those who will see this movie, all of those who are out there trying to bring truth to all of us so that we can make better decisions about our lives."
The top acting award for a woman went to Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno for her role in the movie "La Bestia nel Cuore" (The Beast in the Heart).
The film tells the story of an apparently happy woman who suddenly is plagued by dreams that reveal a dark part of her childhood, when she was abused by her father. She eventually uncovers her past with help from her brother. It is based on a 2004 book by Cristina Comencini, who also directed the movie.
The Silver Lion for directing went to Philippe Garrel for his film "Les Amants Reguliers" (The Regular Lovers),
French actress Isabelle Huppert was given a special award for her contributions to cinema, and Italian Stefania Sandrelli received a lifetime achievement award.
Clooney and Grant Heslov took the prize for best script for "Good Night," in which Clooney plays a principled and practical CBS television producer, Fred Friendly, who later became a professor at Columbia University and encouraged a generation of journalists to ponder responsibility and ethics.
The festival's special jury prize went to the movie "Mary," by Abel Ferrara.
Others awards Saturday:
- William Lubtchansky for his photography in Garrel's "Les Amants Reguliers."
- Menothy Cesar, the Marcello Mastroianni prize for an emerging young actor, for his role in "Vers le Sud," (Towards the South) by Laurent Cantet.
- Lech Kowalski, the Horizons prize for the movie "East of Paradise."
- Lin Chien-ping, the Leone Citroen for the best short, for "Xiaozhan" (Small Station).