Venice fest hit by American invasion

As forecast, it’s American year at the Venice Film Festival. The U.S. made a mighty entry as the curtain rang up on the 50th meet, raising filmgoers’ temperatures with Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence” and Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery.” Both out-of-competition films were highly rated by the critics.

Though many expressed reservations over the two-hour-plus running time of “Innocence” and its lack of emotional payoffs, its stylish period look and description of a stifling New York family in l870 were universally admired.

Scorsese — accompanied by his mother, two daughters, stars Michelle Pfeiffer , Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder, and a clutch of top Columbia brass — had to battle a mob to reach their seats at pic’s premiere at the Palazzo del Cinema.

“And then, when we finally sat down, I realized I had to watch the film again ,” laughed Scorsese. “Personally, I like it, but there’s a lot of pressure watching it with an audience.”

Allen’s European fans were enthusiastic over his latest effort, heralding another box office hit on this side of the Atlantic for the beleaguered director. Though the public was disappointed by Allen’s absence, due to the proverbial last-minute commitments, it showered applause on local son and cinematographer Carlo di Palma.

Fourteen American features are unspooling in various sections of the festival , far more than usual.

The reason, surmised Motion Picture Export Assn. of America chairman Jack Valenti, has much to do with fest chief Gillo Pontecorvo’s reputation as a filmmaker and the sincerity with which he presented his case to Hollywood.

“I’ve been urging people to come to Venice for years,” said Valenti. “Venice’s prestige, tradition and history make it a natural trampoline for American films to leap into Europe.”

Many Yanks (Valenti included) are making only a brief stopover on the Lido before going on to the French trampoline, Deauville.

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