In Venice, U.S. gives ‘Lola’ a long look

'Truman,' 'Elizabeth' delight in non-competitve screenings

VENICE — After the 55th Venice Intl. Film Festival got under way last week with appreciative nods for some early Golden Lion contenders, the official competition has started to provoke more ambivalence than applause as it nudges up to the midway mark, with many of the best receptions going to pics in parallel sections.

The most concrete buyer interest around any competition title still seems to center on German director Tom Tykwer’s inventively structured thriller, “Run Lola Run.” U.S. buyers here are unanimous in their praise of the MTV-esque pic, but point out its youthful target aud in the U.S. normally wouldn’t be caught dead within a mile of a subtitled movie.

While hopes still remain high for new pics still to come from Emir Kusturica, Abel Ferrara and Gianni Amelio much attention has turned to the fest’s non-competitive sections.

Not surprisingly, the Euro bow in the Nights and Stars midnight lineup of Peter Weir’s “The Truman Show” was a major critical success, boosted by Jim Carrey’s typically exuberant appearance here. And Polygram’s rip-roaring historical soap, “Elizabeth,” directed by Shekhar Kapur and screening out of competition Sept. 8, looks destined to be a crowd-pleaser after a strong response at the first press screening.

The independently programmed Intl. Critics Week has generated two hits: Don Roos’ “The Opposite of Sex” and Peter Mullan’s black comedy-drama about a grieving family, “Orphans.”

One of the selection’s most eagerly anticipated titles, Anand Tucker’s “Hilary and Jackie,” swept in on a wave of support from British critics who had caught early screenings of the biopic about the turbulent relationship between British cellist Jacqueline Du Pre and her sister. But the response here from international press was fiercely divided, despite wide acknowledgment of the fine performances in the Intermedia/Channel 4 movie, which October Films will release domestically.

Matt Damon’s visit to promote John Dahl’s “Rounders” from Miramax added to the star luster over the weekend, but the drama set against New York’s gambling underworld stirred a low-key reaction.

Italian entries also deflated prior expectations. The controversy that was anticipated around Alessandro D’Alatri’s revisionist Biblical saga, “The Garden of Eden,” fizzled after its take on the unchronicled early years of Jesus Christ was surprisingly conventional.

(Adam Dawtrey contributed to this report.)

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