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Venice festering

Figgis stung over handling of 'Loss'

ROME — A cease-fire has been called in the feud between the producers of Mike Figgis’ “The Loss of Sexual Innocence” and Venice Intl. Film Festival curator Felice Laudadio, who last week pulled the film.

News broke early last week that the film’s backer, Summit Entertainment, had notified Venice of its intention to pull the title from the fest’s non-competitive Perspectives section, where it was scheduled to bow Sept. 6 (Daily Variety, Aug. 26).

But in typically combative style, Laudadio refused to comply with Summit’s demands. Instead, he stated that the screening would go ahead as planned, brandishing a signed entry form as a binding contractual commitment from Figgis and the pic’s producers to screen in Venice.

Laudadio’s position appeared to be strengthened by the fact that Venice had received a print that had been translated for Italian subtitling.

However, following a reportedly threatening letter from lawyers on behalf of Figgis, Laudadio backed down. A news release Thursday stated simply — and mystifyingly, given the the print sitting in Venice — that despite previous reassurances from Figgis, the film will not be completed in time.

“I chose to put it in this very cautious, civil way, rather than going into all the details, to avoid the usual uproar from the Italian press and to avoid causing embarrassment to Figgis over this incredible choice he has made,” said a still-steaming Laudadio.

“What really offends me about all this … is that I didn’t pursue this film,” he adds. “They came after me to get it into Venice, with Figgis himself insisting that I fly to London and see it.”

The fest chief has fired off a personal letter to Figgis expressing his anger at the decision, especially in light of the amicable relationship established between the director and Venice last year, when Figgis’ “One Night Stand” was chosen for official competition.

“I can’t comment yet … because I first need to have a conversation with the director of the festival,” Figgis told Daily Variety.

“This is a very small film with a very small budget, which I’ve been working on for 14 years,” he added. “I have taken a personal financial loss to make this film, and obviously, in order to market and represent the film, I have to be incredibly careful about how I go about this. It’s very fragile.”

Sources said the decision to withdraw “Innocence,” which was produced by Figgis and Annie Stewart, was taken by Summit after realizing that neither the director nor the principal cast would be able to attend the Venice premiere. The wish of U.S. and U.K. distrib Sony Pictures Classics to make a splash at the Sundance Film Festival in January also is understood to have been a factor in the withdrawal.

(Adam Dawtrey in London contributed to this report.)

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