The violent, shocking or merely technically advanced have become such staples of top festival line-ups that it has become difficult to impress jaded critics and only slightly less cynical audiences.

So it is that Venice has awaited with bated breath a selection of films by top names of today - and many tipped as tomorrow's best talents - and then exhaled again with a disappointed huff. At mid-point, the Venice festival has still yet to catch fire. Hot films are few and most deals are on the back burner.

The weather has done much to dampen spirits. Torrential rain on Thursday and again on Monday has driven industry types away from their regular outdoor hangouts, the terrace of the Excelsior, the gardens and walkways of the Des Bains hotel and the piazza in front of the casino. While this has meant that screening rooms are fuller, what has been served up has held few positive surprises.

Those that have genuinely pleased include Together (Tilssammans), Lukas Moodysson's out of competition follow-up to Fucking Amal, being handled by Trust Film Sales, Julian Schnabel's competition entry Before Night Falls and Robert Lepage's Possible Worlds. And at this point Chinese director Jia Zhangke's three and a quarter hour Platform is being tipped as a possible competition winner.

The Schnabel film and Ed Harris' Pollock - which does not screen until Thursday - were both in demand before the festival started. Sony Classics is understood to be closing on Pollock after Alliance Atlantis International snapped up international rights last week.

But in general, film sellers have had little to report. Many expect to move on to Toronto by the end of the week and to close deals there. Corridor talk suggests that Miramax is sniffing out remake rights to Dominique Deruddere's Belgian film Everyone Famous (Iedereen Beroemd!) while another French-language picture Thomas In Love has also found some fans.

More disappointing however were reactions to three pictures by directors with big reputations to defend. Takeshi Kitano's out of competition film Brother was seen by many as violent and empty and Tom Tykwer's The Princess And The Warrior as stylistically going little further than his Run Lola Run, while delivering a more complex story that could frustrate his fans. Sally Potter's in-competition continent crossing romance The Man Who Cried has divided critics - especially on the issue of her direction of the stellar cast - but most were downbeat. Some local papers savaged the picture out of hand. Robert Altman's Dr T And The Women was much talked about, but mostly for its sensational ending. And despite its racy subject matter Benoit Jacquot's monotone Sade was sad rather than striking.

For all that Italy is better represented than in recent years, it is not difficult to see why Cannes didn't find any Italian films worthy of competition. So far Marco Tullio Giordano's I Cento Passi is perhaps the best of the bunch, while Gabriele Salvatores' gruesome Teeth (Denti) is still unlikely to provide the much heralded director with his international breakout.

Star power has been at relatively low wattage since Thursday's amFAR bash. None of the A-plus superstars have made the trip to the Lido. And while Clint Eastwood, Sharon Stone, Richard Gere and Sydney Pollack were in attendance the festival has also been without the top youngsters. Only Cate Blanchett and Franke Potente have flown the flag for newcomers. The problem seems to be ongoing discordance between festival schedules and releasing calendars.