Montreal revival riding on renovations

'Mansfield Park' opens fest

MONTREAL — Construction crews were racing against the clock to finish renovations at the Wyndham Hotel, the nerve center of the Montreal World Film Festival, in time for the fest’s launch today, and festival spokesman Henry Welsh said everything would be set for the official kick-off.

The fest has already had to deal with one major organizational headache as a result of the lengthy labor dispute at Place des Arts, previously the festival’s main venue for nighttime competition screenings. Those screenings have been relocated to the nearby Loews multiplex. The 23rd annual fest continues until Sept. 6, with a lineup that includes 288 films from 68 countries.

‘Park’ preems

Fest opens with the world preem screening of “Mansfield Park,” Canadian helmer Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. The U.K.-shot Miramax production is the first non-Canadian pic from Toronto-based Rozema (“When Night is Falling”), and the period piece’s cast includes Frances O’Connor, Hugh Bonneville, Jonny Lee Miller, Embeth Davidtz and Harold Pinter. National Film Board of Canada animated film “When the Day Breaks,” which won the Palme d’Or in the short-film category at Cannes, will also screen at the opening ceremonies.

The closing-night pic is “La Dilettante,” a Gallic pic directed by Pascal Thomas and starring Catherine Frot, Sebastien Cotterot and Barbara Schultz.

In many ways, this will be a decisive year for the Montreal event. Last year, there was media and industry grumbling about the lack of business activity, the restricted party schedule and the downbeat mood at the host hotel. Fest organizers have already started trying to combat these problems by beefing up the industry presence at the fest, increasing the number of social events and relocating the press office and the fest market to the central piano-bar area of the hotel to concentrate activities.

Panel power

The market’s symposium has also been strengthened, with higher-profile panelists and a larger number of sessions than in recent years. The symposiums will be held Wednesday and Thursday, with panels on international sales, financing, feature distribution and casting.

The list of thesps and helmers set to make the trek to Montreal includes Gerard Depardieu and Carole Bouquet, for the French film “The Bridge” (Un Pont Entre Deux Rives), co-directed by Depardieu and starring Depardieu and Bouquet; helmer Phillip Noyce and Denzel Washington for the Universal Pictures thriller “The Bone Collector”; Italian filmmaker Ettore Scola for “The Dinner”; seasoned Spanish director Carlos Saura for competition entry “Goya in Bordeaux”; and Gallic thesp Olivier Martinez for the Spanish-French-Portuguese co-production “The City of Marvels.”

Tribute ceremonies will honor Walt Disney and Richard Dreyfuss. Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller will be on hand Sept. 4 to take part in the homage to her father’s life and work. Other guests include actress Hayley Mills, production designer Peter Ellenshaw and film critic Leonard Maltin. Also Sept. 4, Dreyfuss — who starred in the Montreal-set pic “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” — will be given a Grand Prix Special des Ameriques by fest prexy Serge Losique. The Dreyfuss tribute will include a screening of “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

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