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Last Updated: Friday, 7 September 2007, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Charm and chaos at Venice Festival
By Emma Jones
In Venice

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, at the Venice Film Festival
Media favourites 'Brangelina' dominated the festival headlines
As Brad Pitt gets out of his water taxi on the Venice Lido, past the scores of photographers straining behind a metal barrier, a woman manages to climb over and envelop him in a bear hug.

Immediately a SWAT team of guards are on the scene, but the damage is done - Brangelina's security has been breached.

That sums up each year at the Venice Film Festival.

Set in arguably the most beautiful city in the world, it attracts some of the biggest Hollywood names.

But whether it's premieres starting two hours late, thunderstorms over the red carpet, or Brad getting grappled to the floor - beneath the glossy veneer, it's gloriously disorganised.

Inevitably, Brad and partner Angelina Jolie's appearance at the 2007 festival grabbed all the headlines.

I do know what it feels like to be hunted
Brad Pitt, on being the focus of media attention

Happily, the film Pitt was promoting, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, was also rather good - although none of the world's media wanted to talk about that.

I was one of the lucky few getting a five-minute audience with the great man.

Before getting there I had to walk past 15 bouncers and a publicist warning there should be no personal questions.

I still asked him how on earth he stayed sane with the media circus going on around him: "I go home and change diapers and I'm about there.

"I never get used to the smell though," he said.

Then he added, rather poignantly, "Like Jesse James, I do know what it feels like to be hunted and to have a bounty on my head."

Sir Michael Caine (l), Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law, at Venice
Sir Michael was delighted by the ovation at the Sleuth premiere

The paparazzi have had plenty of other faces to keep them occupied, while critics agree it's been a year of outstanding films - some of them British.

Keira Knightley and James McEvoy were chosen to open the event with Joe Wright's highly acclaimed Atonement.

And Sir Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law received a seven and a half minute standing ovation for Sleuth.

Branagh told me that Sir Michael had timed the ovation, and throughout the screening had been peering at the public to see if they were going to the bathroom - the mark, according to the actor, of a bad film.

British director Ken Loach has also been praised for his latest film, It's A Free World, which looks at the treatment of immigrant workers in the UK.

The Essex actress Kierston Wareing, who was on the point of becoming a legal secretary when she got the part in Loach's film, makes her film debut and has received rave reviews.

She told the BBC she was pinching herself

Kierston Wareing
Wareing is tipped for glory for her role in Ken Loach's It's a Free World

Wareing is seen as the best award hope for Britain - although critics suspect Ang Lee's Chinese-language movie, Lust, Caution, and a French film, La Graine et le mulet, will win the key prizes.

Two films in competition on the subject of the Iraq war, Brian De Palma's Redacted and Paul Haggis's In the Valley of Elah, have also caused a stir.

De Palma told me his film, a highly critical look at the US troops and propaganda surrounding the war, was already being savaged in the States.

In the Valley of Elah, starring Charlize Theron, is a more considered view of the mental effect of the war on US troops.

Woody Allen showed off his latest London-inspired movie, Cassandra's Dream, starring Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell and Tom Wilkinson.

Farrell cheerfully admitted that his and McGregor's 'estuary' accents were "tragic, Dick Van Dyke" approximations in a soundbite which won't be put on any promotional posters for the film.

Colin Farrell (l) and Ewan McGregor
Farrell (l) and McGregor co-star in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream

As always, the press conferences, full of journalists from all over the world, were a highlight.

The UK's Daily Mail inevitably asked the personal questions that had serious critics tut-tutting.

From Keira Knightley reportedly being airbrushed for a perfume advertisement, to Brad Pitt's children, to mentioning Owen Wilson's suicide attempt, there was no subject out of bounds.

Now, as journalists swollen with spaghetti return home, Venice has announced that next year the festival will have a new look.

But I guarantee that however good the facelift, underneath it the event will still be the same - chaotic and charming in equal measure.

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