Montreal boasts star sightings

Brian De Palma, a longtime supporter of the Montreal World Film Festival, officially inaugurated the 19th edition of the fest at the opening night ceremonies at Place des Arts Aug. 24, and the celebration kicked off with a screening of “Feast of July,” a British period piece produced under the Merchant Ivory shingle.

But aside from De Palma, stars were in short supply on opening night, with a black-tie crowd that featured more Quebec and Canadian politicians than big-screen names.

For the second consecutive year, Montreal-based Astral Communications threw an apres-film bash at the chalet on the top of Mount Royal, which overlooks the city, and most of the industryites on hand at the party were muted in their praise of “Feast,” many suggesting the slow-moving pic was a dreary, rather downbeat way to initiate the festival.

The Touchstone Pictures release tells the tragic story of a young, pregnant woman abandoned by her lover. The film is the first feature outing from veteran BBC helmer Christopher Menaul.

But the festival promises big names: Gallic bigscreen star Gerard Depardieu also will be making the trek to Montreal. The star of “Green Card” and “Cyrano de Bergerac” has been named honorary president of this year’s fest.

Other thesps set to attend the Montreal event include Treat Williams, star of “Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead”; Jennifer Jason Leigh, who appears in “Georgia”; Jacqueline Bisset, set to show to talk up French pie “La Ceremonie”; and Jennifer Tilly and Lesley Ann Warren, who will be in town promoting “Bird of Prey.” Italian actress Laura Betti, who appeared in many of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films, is coming as part of an exhaustive tribute to the late Italian helmer. Veteran Walt Disney animator Frank Thomas will attend the festival for a special tribute that will include the presentation of a lifetime achievement award and a gala screening of “Frank and Ollie,” a Walt Disney Pictures docu directed by Frank’s son, Theodore. The homage will take place Sept. 2.

The free, outdoor screenings are back for a second year, with 10 features set to play on a giant screen on downtown’s St. Catherine Street. for a week beginning Friday. The al fresco fare features everything from rockumentaries (“Get Back,” helmer Richard Lester’s Paul McCartney profile) to French yuks (hit comedy “Les Visiteurs”).

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