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September 15, 1998 2:00 AM
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Venice Film Fest Awards their Own, Artistic Director Steps Down

Venice Film Fest Awards their Own, Artistic Director Steps Down

by Anna Basoli




Venice awarded her own at the closing night ceremony of the 55th Venice
International Film Festival Sunday night on the Lido. Winning the Golden Lion
for Best Film was "Cosi ridevano" ("The Way They Laughed") by Gianni Amelio, a
bitter sweet drama about the difficult relationship between two working class
brothers emigrating north in search of better opportunities. A feisty
controversy ensued among critics who argued that the choice was politicized
and the film undeserving. Italy garnered two other prizes: Best Cinematography
for Luca Bigazzi for "Cosi ridevano" and "L'Albero Delle Pere" ("The Pear Tree")
by Francesca Archibugi - both in competition. And winning the newly established
Mastroianni Prize for most promising young actor was Niccolo Senni, the young
interpreter in "The Pear Tree."


Eric Rohmer won Best Screenplay with his film "Comte d'Automne" ("Tale of Autumn").
Sean Penn won Best Actor for his role in the upcoming Fine Line Features release,
"Hurlyburly" and Venice darling Catherine Deneuve won the Coppa Volpi for Best
Actress in "Place Vendome" -- a prize that should have rightfully gone to Emily
Watson ("Breaking the Waves") for her phenomenal interpretation of Jackie Dupre
in festival sleeper "Hilary and Jackie" or even to Rachel Griffith who plays
her sister in the film. The Silver Lion for Best Director went, predictably,
to politically correct Emir Kusturica for his new film "Chat noir, chat blanc"
("Black Cat, White Cat"). Negotiations are apparently underway with North
American distributors and one hopes that this film will hit U.S. theaters sooner
than Kusturica's previous film, "Underground." Nothing is certain though, and
Venice is a little retentive when it comes to industry. Yet another Golden Lion
for Career Achievement was awarded to Warren Beatty (at Venice to screen
"Bulworth") who joined this year's two other recipients, Sophia Loren and
Andrzej Wajda.


In the heart of every Italian film buff there is a special place for Abel
Ferrara who was awarded "The White Stick" prize, a prestigious award for
filmmakers whose insight produced the most groundbreaking work. A book on
Abel Ferrara's work was also presented in the course of the festival and his
premiere film "The New Rose Hotel", though announced incomplete, was received
warmly by the audience and skeptically by the press.


But it was mostly glamour with a vengeance, at this year's festival. Due to
the tremendous efforts made by Artistic Director Felice Laudadio to bring the
festival back to its legendary splendor, stars flocked to the Lido for world
premieres, press conferences and black tie parties "like in the old days",
commented some. "Saving Private Ryan" opened with a bang, literally, and
was followed by an innumerable list of challenging and unconventional films
both in and out of competition, among them: "Another Day in Paradise" by
Larry Clark with an extraordinary performance by Melanie Griffith and Bryan
Singer's malicious follow-up to "The Usual Suspects," "Apt Pupil."


But the logistics of the festival, tickets, screenings, accreditations,
invitations etc. were plagued by unbelievable red tape which turned the
whole event dysfunctional and were symptomatic of the underlying feud between
administration and the artistic department which culminated with Artistic
Director Felice Laudadio's resignation at the end of the festival.
It's a shame, as there was plenty of gold among the glitter and it would have
been nice to see it continue.

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