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Established 1995 serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.


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Rome a publishing house double feature

So much is happening here that the only way to keep track of events and films is this -- a free associational diary, plus a wing and a prayer. But let me preface it by noting that this is the most sensational film festival
I have ever attended, period.

SUNDAY: Two films and two remarkable press conferences. The day starts with a 9 AM press screening of Scorcese's "The Departed" in the big hall. This is followed by a meeting with the press with Scorcese and Di Caprio up on the stage, accompanied by the actress Vera Farmiga, who plays a police psychiatrist in the film. There is an excellent (sexy) interpreter by the name of Olga, translating -- not only the words but the body language as well -- smoothl from English to Italian and vice versa, without missing a beat. Present in his usual front row seat is Steve Ashton of the Napa valley Vino-and-Film festival. Last saw him at San Sebastian only a couple of weeks ago. "Hey Steve, you're back in Europe again after only a two week break? -- "Hell, no, says Steve --"Been hanging out in Barcelona 'cause I didn't wanna miss this one." -- Smart decision.

Short pause to recover from the "Departed" conference, and before long the next personality up on the stage is Richard Gere doing a solo flight, repping his new film "The Hoax" and somewhat in a hurry to get back to location in Croatia where he's in the midst of shooting his next film. Still in the same room, the next event is a screening of the new Mira Nair film, "The Namesake", a Bengali-English family study which turns out to be a beauty -- her best film ever in my opinion, and I've seen all of her work up to now (and not really been enthralled by any of it)...

MONDAY: Morning coffee and croissant at my local Café on Santa. Maria Maggiore Square, while perusing all the festival stories in four Italian newspapers. The big party the night before was the "Napoleon" reception where the Belle of the Ball was Monica Belluci, still clad in her skin-tight blood red gown from the gala screening before. All papers full of Bellucci in full color and B/W --Bellucci images everywhere --not at all hard on the eye to say the very least. Among the guests at the party with his new skinhead coiffe, actor Willem Dafoe, who now makes his residence in Italy, Isabella Rossellini, and just about every other living Italian film personality except for Sophia Loren. Don't get to the fair grounds until early afternoon, just in time to catch three films, but no press conferences. However, lots of shmoozing between times, coffee and mixing with lots of people, all in a very good mood.

The films: All three were viewed at the fourth theater on the fair grounds, the "Pala Roma Uno" which is a temporary screening hall set up just for the festival, to be taken down afterward. While not fancy and elegant like the Auditoriums inside the complex, this turns out to be the best place to actually watch films. Very spacious with the feeling of a circus tent, but set up specifically for film viewing and nothing else -- roomy seats (well over a thousand), a giant screen, great sound and unobtrusive air-conditioning. Film number one

"Les Ambitieux" (Ambitious), French, written and directed by distaff helmer Catherine Corsini, was a total delight and a discovery in every way -- all actors unknown to me, and all excellent, brilliant photography, brilliant dialogue, a script that keeps you guessing while pulling you inexorably along, and reaches a heart-warming conclusion -- after some harrowing ups and downs -- freeze-framing on a final clinch between reconciled hero and heroine -- who could ask for anything more? The funny thing is that this story about a frustrated young writer (Eric Caravaca) and an extremely sexy, slightly older woman book editor (the mavellous Karin Viard), is set in the rarified world of Parisian book publishing, whereas the very next film on the agenda, "The Hoax", is also a publishing world tale centering on a frustrated writer, (Clifford Irving) this time set in the ecenfied and intense New York publishing scene. Come to think of it, that was a helluva (unplanned) "double feature" and it would be very interesting to hit the public with these two films in tandem, back to back, just to see what would happen.

Gere's "The Hoax" directed by Swede Lasse Hallstrom, is a semi-documentary recounting of the biggest hoax in American publishing history -- the fake "autobiography" of Howard Hughes foisted upon gullible editors and public alike in the mid 1970s by hack writer Clifford Irving. (Okay, maybe he wasn't such a hack, but can you imagine Richard Gere in a red Bruce Springsteen wig doing anything else but hacking?) In all justice to Gere he does a terrific job -- a bravura performance, to put it bluntly (and he does) -- a role that fits him like a glove and he it. All that Tibetan Bhuddism aside (and I do not question the sincerity of the actor's commitment in that particular sphere of reality) Richard is a past master at portraying sleazy types, and Clifford Irving is perhaps his all-time sleaziest characterization. In his press conference Mr. Gere had much to say about the difficulty of portraying an actual living human being as opposed to a fictional character, but added, pointedly, that real life is far more bizarre than fiction! The picture itself is bizarre from beginning to end, such that I still don't know quite what to make of it, but will attempt to pull my thoughts together in an upcoming report. Let's just say for now that Gere was very convincing as Irving -- maybe even too convincing! The character of Howard Hughes lurking constantly in the background practically turns the recluse billionaire into a ghostly co-star -- plaudits here to the director for his clever use of Hughesian imagery. There are parts of the film where, Gere-Clifford becomes so obsessed with pretending to be Hughes that he dresses up as the man whose autobiography he is faking, and even masters the nuances of Hughes' odd vocal delivery -- to such an extent that one wonders whether Martin Scorcese didn't make a big mistake by not casting Gere in the Hughes role instead of Dicaprio. With Dicaprio it was basically a phoney Hollywood dud -- with Gere as Hughes it might have gone down as one to remember.

The third film of the day was the Castilian Viggo mortensen starrer "Altamira", but about that, manana --domani!
Alex in the press room --closing time


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