Actor-director George Clooney's Venice competition film Goodnight,And Good Luck has emerged as one of the first buzz films at the festival.

Screen International reviewer Lee Marshall said thefilm "represents George Clooney's consecration as a serious writer anddirector" (see review, opposite).

Goodnight was well received by critics atits Venice press screening, ahead of its gala world premiere screening onThursday (Sept 1).

At a packed-out Venice press conference, Clooney joked thathe found his directing style by "stealing from all the other directors."

Clooney - arguably the biggest Hollywood star at thefestival - told journalists that after he had finished shooting his first filmas director, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he had sent an email toMike Nichols.

"I apologised to him for stealing his shots," he joked.

The picture is a black-and-white1950s-set drama starringDavid Strathaim as a journalist determined to bring down Senator JosephMcCarthy, the man behind the communist witch-hunt in Hollywood. The film alsofeatures real archive footage. "For this film, I just stole from a lot ofdocumentary-makers," Clooney smiled.

Despite the political nature of his film, Clooney tried tosteer clear of any controversy in Venice. "My goal isn't to attack anadministration. It's to raise a debate about civil liberties," he said.

Still, Clooney did make some loosely veiled references tothe Bush administration's policies. "It doesn't matter whether people are spiesor not. What matters is whether they can face their accusers. And that's stilltrue today."

International sales on Goodnight are handled by 2929International.