During a torpid start to this year's Mostra, some industry figures have been questioning the expense and inconvenience of Venice, but French powerhouse Wild Bunch has given the festival a ringing endorsement.

The company is in the process of closing a deal with Italian distributor Lucky Red for its new Hayao Miyazaki film, Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea (a premiere in Venice this year.)

And a long-awaitedUS deal for the Steven Soderbergh's Cannes-screened Che films in the next few days may put the icing on the cake.

Wild Bunch has found numerous deals on the Lido in recent years for films ranging from The Magadalene Sisters to La Zona.

Ithas arrived in Venice with a bumper crop of half a dozen titles in official selection. 'If it wasn't for Marco Mueller, we would not come with so many films. Marco has always defended our cinema with our point of view,' Wild Bunch's Vincent Maraval said of Venice's artistic director.

'He always thinks about the international sales and distribution. He is one of the directors who is talking the most with international sales agents. When you compare to Berlin, Venice has a very good level.'

Among the Wild Bunch titles on the Lido is Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, which is screening at the end of the festival - not a coveted position given the overlap with Toronto. Maraval stated that the film had originally been offered a slot this weekend but that the film wasn't ready and won't be fully mixed until just prior to its Venice screening.

Part of the delay is down to US rock star Bruce Springsteen, who has written a new song to be used over the credits. 'It is difficult to rush him (Springsteen),' Maraval said.

The late slot won't hamper Wild Bunch's sales drive on the movie. 'The Wrestler is almost sold everywhere. To sell the remaining territories, we will have Toronto. It is not a problem to be at the end,' Maraval said, adding that Venice provides a 'quality' launchpad for the film.

Maraval expects to close the US deal on Steven Soderbergh's Che Guevara film - which screened in two parts in Cannes - in the next few days.

'The film has been done to be exploited in two parts. We did that screening of the two films together only for Cannes. The idea is to release them separately. But Steven would like for the US to have a small exploitation of the film as one film,' Maraval said.

It now looks likely that the long version of Che that screened in Cannes will initially be road-showed in the US, although it remains to be seen how wide this release will be. 'My position is to do two cities maximum. The position of the distributor and Steven is to do many more cities.'