The motion picture, starring MICKEY ROURKE, was handed the GOLDEN LION on Saturday at the end of the 11 day fest.

German director WIM WENDERS, head of the seven member jury, was full of praise for the actor: “This is for a film with a truly heartbreaking performance in the very sense of the word, and if I say heartbreaking, then you know I am talking about Mickey Rourke.”

Mr. Aronofsky’s film, running in contention with 20 other movies, concerns a retired wrestler who begins a romance with a stripper. The American director’s previous films include REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and THE FOUNTAIN.

Russia’s ALEKSEY GERMAN won the award for BEST DIRECTOR for BUMAZNYJ SOLDAT (PAPER SOLDIER), which is about the early days of the space program in the Soviet Union.

Italian SILVIO ORLANDO captured BEST ACTOR for his role in PUPI AVATI’S IL PAPA DI GIOVANNA (GIOVANNI’S FATHER), which chronicles a parent’s relationship with his troubled adult daughter.

DOMINIQUE BLANC of France won BEST ACTRESS for playing a jealous woman in L’AUTRE (THE OTHER ONE), directed by PATRICK MARIO BERNARD and PIERRE TRIVIDIC.

TEZA, by Ethiopian director HAILE GERIMA, picked up both the SPECIAL JURY AWARD and BEST SCREENPLAY. The film follows the life of an Ethiopian intellectual who flees his country during its Marxist “red terror” phase only to be attacked in Germany by racists.

American actor JENNIFER LAWRENCE was named BEST EMERGING ACTOR for her role in THE BURNING PLAIN, appearing alongside OSCAR winner KIM BASINGER.

THE WRESTLER marked a triumphant return for MICKEY ROURKE, whose star has dimmed considerably since the golden days of the 80s when the actor had a string of hits including BODY HEAT, DINER, ANGEL HEART and the infamous 9 1/2 WEEKS.

He said that Mr. Aronofsky was brutally honest before he decided to hire him. MICKEY ROURKE has had several run ins with the law and his personal life has been bleak and rather difficult. He even returned to his original career – boxing – for a brief period in the 1990s.

“Aronofsky said, ‘I have a film I want to do with you. But you have to listen to me, you must never disrespect me, you can’t go out every night – and I can’t pay you either.’ “

MICKEY ROURKE’S performance wowed critics. He said portraying the washed up wrestler, RANDY (THE RAM) ROBINSON, required some masterful interior contemplation.

“I realized Darren needed me to revisit some dark places I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to think about my ex wife or my family. But I knew he would want his pound of flesh and there was no way I could skirt around it.”

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