ROMEFILMFEST 2006 - WRAP
STARS BRING BUZZ TO B CLASS ROME FEST
The buzz around the inaugural RomeFilmfest was palpable as the likes of Nicole
Kidman, Richard Gere, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio sang the city’s
praises. The earlier spat with the Venice Festival up the road seemed to fade
into insignificance as Romans turned up in droves to view what the Festival had
to offer and to support the new local event. Helen Barlow reports.
It’s a festival of the people where even the competition entries are decided by
popular vote. And while to my mind it will never match the splendour of Venice,
where celebrities and their films come to be on their own secluded island with
other celebrities at the Hotel Cipriani, it has as much money from the Italian
government to ensure it will continue—and that’s the idea.
Benito Mussolini had first tried to stage the event way back when he was a
dictator with artistic inclinations in 1935. But it never caught on and the idea
was abandoned. Another Rome Festival started up in 1946 and lasted just one
year. Festival organisers knew they had to pull out the stops this year and
Kidman was just the woman to do it.
When the Kidman-starring Fur was announced as the event’s opening film just as
the Venice Festival was about to begin, Venice director Marco Mueller was
annoyed as this went against a prior agreement. He’d already been spurned into
action by the imminent Rome event and had ensured his Festival’s 22-film
competition was all world premieres, while Rome has five, but after the Rome
announcement he said that the only reason Fur was in Rome was because Venice had
rejected it as had Cannes. (According to Variety it is rumoured that the festival spent a six-figure sum
to have Nicole Kidman and her entourage at the event.)
Would Venice really have rejected Fur if Kidman was prepared to give the film a
push? I doubt it. There were many far inferior films in the Venice competition
line-up. Still, Fur, the imagined story of photographer Diane Arbus, pales
beside her previous edgy film, Birth, a Venice premiere, even if the Fur
storyline is more intriguing.
"Overall, the RomeFilmFest was not in the premium
The festival did not lack for stars and was said to have stolen a lot of the
potential guests from the recently wrapped San Sebastian Festival, the foremost
Spanish language event, which opened in a rather lacklustre fashion with Nick
Broomfield’s documentary Ghosts (which was nevertheless an excellent account of
the deaths of 23 undocumented Chinese workers in England in 2004). A leading
sponsor, the BNL bank, also switched allegiances to Rome from the smaller
Taormina Festival, which has been reduced and looks likely to struggle in the
Overall, the RomeFilmFest was not in the premium quality department. Perhaps
that’s what festivals are for--to screen all those films that will struggle to
make it to cinemas. So it came as something of a surprise that Lasse Hallstrom’s
The Hoax, which features Richard Gere as the real-life Clifford Irving, who in
the early 70s attempted to publish a fake biography on Howard Hughes, should be
so enthralling. Gere is simply wonderful and should garner Oscar attention. The
57-year-old star joked about being a sex symbol at his age, though certainly
looked in good shape. He also likened the hoax pulled by Irving to some of the
false reports about himself these days on the internet. It had been reported in
the Italian press that Gere had come to Rome to coincide with the visit of the
Dalai Lama, but the actor pointed out it was not the case.
The big-budget, star-studded Hollywood movie, The Departed, staged its European
continental launch at the Festival, with director Martin Scorsese on hand as
well as his new muse, Leonardo DiCaprio.
“I worked with De Niro six times and now already with Leonardo I have a long
working relationship too,” Scorsese said in Rome. “It’s lasted already six and a
half years. It re-inspires me, because while De Niro was from my generation,
Leonardo is 30 years younger.”
The New Yorker of Italian parentage sang Warner Brother’s praises for giving him
lots of money and still allowing him to experiment--even if he will now move
onto a low budget production, Silence. The film will be based on Shusaku Endo's
novel, which follows the story of two 17th century Portuguese missionaries who
travel to Imperial Japan and witness the persecution of Japanese Christians.
“Though I’d be happy to do a big budget Hollywood movie again, it’s like a
drug,” he conceded.
Indian-born director Mira Nair’s The Namesake is another gem of a movie screened
at the Festival and it’s a big improvement on her previous Vanity Fair
adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon. Set in the director’s favourite cities of
Calcutta and New York, it tells of a surprisingly successful arranged marriage
between a New York-based Indian academic and a young Indian girl (Bollywood star
Tabu). The film is as much about their America-born offspring, played by Kal
Penn (from the Harold & Kumar and Van Wilder movies) in his first dramatic role
as a lad rebelling against his heritage, by having a rich American girlfriend
(Australian actress Jacinda Barrett). It’s warm view of eccentric family
relationships reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine—and is definitely worth the
price of admission when the film releases in Australia.
Monica Bellucci starred in two disappointing festival films, the French-Italian
co-production The Stone Council, and Napoleon and Me, an Italian comedy of
sorts, with Daniel Auteuil as the Gallic emperor during his brief exile on the
island of Elba. Bellucci described her character as “a pleasure-loving baroness
who is a bit of a hooker”.
"to watch Sean Connery speak for two hours about his
The big-budget Spanish period epic Alatriste proved elaborate though
uninvolving. American star Viggo Mortensen nevertheless looked dashing as a 17th
century army man, and stunned audiences with his ability to speak Spanish. At
the film’s press conference the Argentina-born star, who suits the mantle of
rustic hero after his rise to fame in The Lord of the Rings, responded in
Italian as well.
Aging James Bond fans were out in force at the festival to watch Sean Connery
speak for two hours about his career, as he had done previously in Edinburgh.
Easy work if you can get it.
Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige about rival magicians
played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman was disappointing and surprising
stodgy, even if it boasted some intriguing plot twists, as might be expected
from the Memento director. I kept wishing someone would tell Bale to speak up as
he tends to mumble. Ultimately that other magician movie The Illusionist
starring Ed Norton might now stand a chance in the Australian marketplace.
The Unknown from Italy’s Giuseppe Tornatore, marked a more serious turn for the
Cinema Paradiso and Malena director. The thriller, about a young East European
prostitute-turned-cleaning lady who must carry out a mysterious mission in
Italy, impressed the Italian critics, though had too many plot holes to thrill
the English-language crowds.
The Festival also paid tribute to Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo (The Battle
of Algiers), who died on October 12 at the age of 86. Robert De Niro, in support
of the Festival as the founder of its sister event, New York’s Tribeca, was in
town to show footage from his latest directorial effort, The Good Shepherd,
starring Matt Damon.
Determined by a jury made up of 50 members of the public and presided over by
Ettore Scola, the RomeFilmFest’s official awards were:
Best Film Award : Kirill Serebrennikov’s Playing The Victim, about a man
playing the victim in murder reconstructions for the police, who tries to cheat
his own death.
The BNL Best Actress Award : France’s Ariane Ascaride for the poignant
drama Armenia directed by her husband and frequent collaborator, Robert
Guédiguian, who returns to his roots to tell a story about people and their
relationships, as he usually does in France, particularly Marseilles.
The Chamber of Commerce Best Actor Award : Giorgio Colangeli in
Alessandro Angelini’s Salty Air about a father and son who are reunited in
unusual circumstances after years of estrangement.
Special Jury Award : This is England by Shane Meadows, who tells his own
story of becoming a skinhead at an early age. Variety describes it as the best
film ever from the British director, whose previous film was Dead Man’s Shoes,
with Paddy Considine.
Published October 26, 2006
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Playing The Victim
This Is England
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni and Robert De Niro