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‘Banquet’ is toast of Locarno fest

LOCARNO, Italy — Winding up his second year as Locarno Intl. Film Festival chief, Marco Muller saw attendance reach 110,000 at the Aug. 5-15 event — up 20 % from last year.

The most-watched films in the 6,500-seat Piazza Grande were Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist,” Ken Loach’s “Raining Stones” and Lee Ang’s “The Wedding Banquet,” which won the audience prize. Least appreciated was the premiere of Jacques Doillon’s difficult “Un Homme a la mer,” which was greeted by whistles and walkouts from audiences (but thumbs-ups from the critics).

Two small, personal films from former Soviet republics went home with top honors at the 46th festival. An international jury awarded the Gold Leopard to “My Life on a Three-Cornered Hat,” directed by Ermak Shinarbaev of Kazakhstan. The film recounts the existential journey of a 20-year-old boy. The Silver prize went to a Georgian film by Dino Tsindsadze, “Pushed to the Limit,” whose apathetic hero finds himself drawn into the civil war.

Patricia Maguy’s directing debut, “Travolta et moi,” took a Bronze Leopard home for France.

Acting awards went to Andre Eisemann in the title role of Peter Sehr’s “Kaspar Hauser: Attack on the Spiritual Life of a Human Being,” and to Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi as a psychiatric patient in Laurence Ferreira Barbosa’s “Normal People Have Nothing Exceptional About Them.”

The jury awarded a special Swissair prize to Mijke De Jong’s courageous “Broken Hearts.”

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