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Venice Film Festival Opens, Strong American Selection, Figgis Withdraws

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire September 8, 1998 at 2:0AM

Venice Film Festival Opens, Strong American Selection,Figgis Withdraws
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Venice Film Festival Opens, Strong American Selection,
Figgis Withdraws

by Anna Basoli




Having to pick from close to 700 submissions, the curators of this
year's Venice Film Festival led by Artistic Director Felice Laudadio,
yielded a selection this year of some 90 films, 20 of which are in
competition, 57 are world premieres and the rest are divided up among
other categories such as Perspectives, Night and Stars, Out of
Competition and Video Perspectives.


The international jury is composed of judges from 9 countries, with
renown Italian director Ettore Scola, presiding. Other members of the
jury include Brazilian filmmaker Hector Babenco, Sharunas Bartas from
Lithuania, Kathryn Bigelow from the United States, Reinhardt Hauff from
Germany, French critic Daniéle Heymann, Ismail Merchant from India, the
Chilean writer Luis Sepulveda whose bestseller "The Story of a Little
Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly" has been the inspiration of
the short-film by the same title in competition, and finally, Tilda
Swinton, actress and director from the United Kingdom.


At the Awards Ceremony on Closing Night two new prizes will be given out
this year: the Marcello Mastroianni Prize to a promising young actor or
actress, and the Silver Lion for best short film. The jury for
short-films includes the French producer Georges Benayoun, the Italian
actress Chiara Caselli and American director Abel Ferrara (premiering
his new film "New Rose Hotel").


Opening Night kicked off last week at the Palazzo del Cinema with the
enthusiastic European premiere of "Saving Private Ryan." The Italians
loved the film's special effects and held up Matt Damon as a new star.
Michelangelo Antonioni presented the Gold Lion for Career Achievement to
Sofia Loren. The actress was unable to attend for health reasons, so
the award was accepted on her behalf by her husband and son, Carlo and
Edoardo Ponti. Also awarded a Golden Lion for his filmmaking career was
Polish Director, Andrzej Wajda, who received the award from French
Minister of Culture, Jacques Lang.


Deborah Young one of the curators of the 55th Venice International Film
Festival and Italian correspondent for Variety, spoke to indieWIRE
about this year's program: "We're very excited to have 'Saving Private
Ryan' for our opening night film," she remarked. "I was with Felice
Laudadio in the States when we were selecting films for the festival and
there was a lot of excitement from the United States about Venice, this
year. We have some high profile world premieres in the program like Abel
Ferrara's 'New Rose Hotel,' Woody Allen's 'Celebrity' out of
competition, Spielberg, of course. John Dahl's 'Rounders'. So I feel
we have a promising selection."


On the high number of American films cutting across all categories,
Young commented, "A lot of American filmmakers wanted to participate,
there's nothing they wouldn't have given us or done for us." Among
them: Don Roos' "The Opposite of Sex," Susanne Styron's "Shadrach" and a
number of high profile studio pics like Bryan Singer's "Apt Pupil,"
Stephen Soderbergh's "Out of Sight," Spike Lee's "He Got Game," Peter
Weir's "The Truman Show" and James Ivory's "A Soldier's Daughter Never
Cries
."


Hotly anticipated international films that Young recommended include
"Underground" director Emir Kusturica's latest and world premiere "Chat
Noir, Chat Blanc
" (which can be seen next month at the New York Film
Festival); Tom Tykwer's "Lola Rennt," a top grossing film in Germany,
and Italy's "Cosí ridevano" by Gianni Amelio; Daniele Lucchetti's
"Piccoli maestri," and Francesca Archibugi's "L'albero delle Pere."
Other popular directors with competition films include Eric Rohmer with
"Tale of Autumn," "Terminus Paradis" from Romanian director Lucian
Pintilie ("The Oak") and Mohsen Makhmalbaf's "The Silence."


Also notable in competition are two American screen adaptations of
plays. David Rabe's adaptation of his play "Hurlyburly," which is being
distributed in the U.S. by Fine Line and stars Sean Penn and Kevin
Spacey as well as "Dancing at Lughnasa" (from Brad Friel's play), being
released in November from Sony Pictures Classics, which features Meryl
Streep and Michael Gambon. "These were Broadway hits a few years back,"
said Young.


In other news from the Lido, Mike Figgis withdrew his film "The Loss of
Sexual Innocence
" from the perspective section of the Venice Festival.
The official version has it that the film did not yet have North
American distribution and Mr. Figgis preferred to screen it at the
upcoming Montreal Film Festival. Unofficial sources report that there
was a falling out with Venice Festival director Felice Laudadio who
refused or was unable to accommodate the 50 person entourage traveling
alongside the British director. In its place will be screened "The
Gardens of Eden
" by Italian director Alessandro D'Alatri, chronicling
the 18 lost years in Jesus' life between his last recorded appearance as
an adolescent at the temple and the beginning of the scripture as
written by the apostles, according to The Bible. The film will be
screened in competition, bringing the number of films eligible to win
the Golden Lion up to twenty.