Locarno fest wraps, hands out hardware

'Skin' grabs Golden Leopard; Briole, Riaboukine take Bronze

LOCARNO, Switzerland — French movies dominated the awards at the 52nd Locarno Intl. Film Festival, with rural family drama “Skin of a Man, Heart of a Beast” nabbing the top Golden Leopard, as well as a Bronze Leopard for leading actor Serge Riaboukine. The debut feature by director Helene Angel is set to unspool at the Toronto fest next month.

The nine-member competition jury, headed by U.S. director Paul Bartel, also gave a Silver Leopard to Noemie Lvovsky’s femme teen ensembler “La vie ne me fait pas peur,” and a Bronze Leopard to actress Vera Briole for her striking lead performance in Laurent Bouhnik’s criss-crosser, “1999 Madeleine,” first of a projected 10-pic series.

Other awards went to Russian postwar drama “Barracks” (Silver Leopard), directed by Valeri Ogorodnikov, and Egyptian drama “The City” (Special Jury Prize), by Yousri Nasrallah.

After 10 days of weather problems in the Swiss-Italian resort town, which resulted in several rain delays and cancellations of open-air screenings in the Piazza Grande, the fest closed on Saturday with the world premiere of the two-hour international version of Giuseppe Tornatore’s “The Legend of 1900,” starring Tim Roth. Pic will be released Stateside by Fine Line in late October.

Low star wattage

Aside from Roth, international name attendees for the main program were mainly absent, though actress Tippi Hedren turned up for a packed Piazza screening of a remastered print of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (shown on Friday, which would have been Hitchcock’s 100th birthday). The same evening, Universal’s “Bowfinger” played to an enthusiastic response, without star support.

Aside from the prize-winners, those drawing some support included Paolo Virzi’s “Kisses and Hugs,” Akihiko Shiota’s “Moonlight Whispers,” and Liu Bingjian’s “Men and Women,” a comedy-drama about gays in Beijing that won the Fipresci (international critics’) award.

Most of the American participation was centered on the festival’s retrospective, “Class of 1970: Joe Dante and the Second Corman Generation.” Dante and Corman joined helmers Allan Arkush, Monte Hellman and Stephanie Rothman; thesps Mary Woronov, Kevin McCarthy and Dick Miller; and producers Jon Davison and Michael Finnell, all of whom tended to multiple Q&A chores.

The 80-title section, including TV work, cartoons, trailers and directors’ cuts, was the most extensive retro in Locarno’s history.

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