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‘Buddha’ begins Berlin

The 44th annual Berlin Intl. Film Festival opened Thursday with the unspooling of Italo helmer Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Little Buddha” as the highlight of gala festivities.

Though the Bertolucci pic was greeted with polite approval, the overall atmosphere at the first of the festival’s 11 days was decidedly low-key. Many guests already seemed worn-out by the prospect of schlepping to far-flung venues and weathering upcoming snowstorms.

But while the festival has been hit by a budget cut of 6%, or 500,000 deutsche marks ($ 290,000), organizers have managed to mount a lineup of about 600 films from 31 countries.

Of 22 films vying for prestigious Golden Bear awards, 14 are from Europe and just two from the United States.

Skies were uncommonly sunny, but the halls of the Berlin market were all but empty an hour after opening, with some stand workers still in the midst of hanging posters and setting up. The few guests in attendance were in the cafe and appeared for the most part to be locals.

Meanwhile, at press headquarters in the distant Congress Center, things were slightly more animated. The cafe was close to full and some English and Italian washeard above the German murmur.

Though many reporters and critics were more interested in speculating on further festival budget cuts and where the press will be housed once the German government decides to take over the Congress Center, many came for the sold-out “Little Buddha” screening and Bertolucci’s press conference.

The director told scribes that “in Hollywood film there is too much attack, too little poetry.” He also announced plans to film a low-budget movie in his native Italy.

Fest director Moritz de Hadeln then welcomed guests in English and spotted Jack Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, sitting semi-incognito in the audience. In a fairly conciliatory tone, de Hadeln acknowledged the value of Hollywood films and went on to preach about “building bridges between Europe and Hollywood.” English producer Jeremy Thomas, this year’s jury topper, then presented his fellow jury members.

Like last year, the post-screening party was held at a venue in the eastern sector of the city. Unlike last year, transportation was poorly handled. Upon leaving the Zoo-Palast movie theater in the west, the VIP audience was faced with the sight of one lonely bus, with seats for eight, waiting to make the 15 -minute trip. Fortunately, further transportation arrived before rioting broke out among the well-dressed guests.

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