Fest sets silver slate

Locarno locks in 'Men,' 'Conspiracy'

LONDON — Blasting off with Fox’s “Men in Black” and closing with WB’s “Conspiracy Theory,” the Locarno Intl. Film Festival (Aug. 6-16) announced Tuesday a silver anni lineup thick with world and international preems, plus buff events.

Highlights of the 18-title competition include the Iranian “The Mirror” by Jafar Panahi (“The White Balloon”), described by fest topper Marco Muller as “Shirley Temple meets Zavattini”; Cindy Sherman’s low-budget femme horror “Office Killer,” with Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn; Tony Gatlif’s Gypsy yarn “The Mad Stranger”; Egidio Eronico’s Roman mini-cuts “Metropolitan Fables”; the 11th-century Chinese Western “Journey to the Tungut Empire,” first pic by “Farewell My Concubine” scripter Lu Wei; the Andre Techine-scripted exotic meller “Ocean Liner” by France’s Christine Laurent; and “Winter Sleeper,” second feature from Germany’s Tom Tykwer following his acclaimed “Deadly Maria.”

Also vying for Golden and Silver Leopards are Daniel J. Harris’ “The Bible and Gun Club,” Davide Ferrario’s hip twentysomethinger “We All Fall Down,” and Fruit Chan’s adolescent dropout drama “Made in Hong Kong.”

“Though we changed our rules last year, almost half our competition films are still first or second works, in the Locarno tradition,” Muller said.

The Swiss fest’s showpiece screenings, in the 6,500-seat Piazza Grande ozoner, feature a more heavy-hitting selection than last year. Joining “Men in Black” and “Conspiracy” are John Woo’s “Face/Off,” Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm,” Cannes co-Palme d’Or-winner “The Eel” by Shohei Imamura, Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter,” and Mike Leigh’s “Career Girls.” Muller also hopes to world preem the cut and completely re-edited version of Wim Wenders’ Cannes competer “The End of Violence,” but noted that “Wim’s still working on it.”

Cozy with majors

After several years of courting the U.S. majors, Muller now calls the relationship “ideal.” “Thanks to their Swiss and London offices, the message has got through to almost all the American majors that our Piazza screenings are an ideal launch pad for their titles,” Muller told Daily Variety.

On his relationship with the Venice fest over Italian titles, Muller said that it’s “more cordial with (new boss) Felice Laudadio. I helped him get Zhang Yimou’s ‘Keep Cool,’ and he made several gestures towards Locarno.” Under previous Venice topper Gillo Pontecorvo, relations were icy.

Among special events, Muller has pulled off several firsts for the 50th, including a showing of the first version of Cannes co-Palme d’Or-winner “The Taste of Cherries,” shot on video three years ago with helmer Abbas Kiarostami playing the lead; a 12-title midnight retro devoted to cult Japanese B-movie director Kato Tai that will later tour the U.S.; and the world preem of Jonas Meeker’s full “Diaries,” 60 hours of footage shot over 50 years.

Zhang Yimou and German music producer Manfred Eicher are joining the 10-member jury, whose final lineup includes thesps Maria de Madeiros and Katrin Cartlidge, and directors Marco Bellocchio, Claire Denis and Richard Dindo. American photog Nan Goldin, Swiss cultural minister David Streiff and Cinematheque head Freddy Buache have also signed on for judging chores.

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