VENICE — When Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition shook up the Venice Film Festival at the end of last year and ousted its director Alberto Barbera, supporters of the media mogul-prime minister proclaimed the Lido event was a has-been that needed Hollywood pics and glamorous stars.
New fest helmer Moritz de Hadeln has programmed seven U.S. pics in competitions and persuaded American stars to spend Labor Day on the Lido.
“After 30 years on the film festival circuit, de Hadeln must be calling in the favors,” one producer surmised.
Since the arrival of Gwyneth Paltrow and the cast of Miramax’s “Frida” on the opening-night red carpet, stars are flocking to the fest. They include Tom Hanks and Sam Mendes (“Road to Perdition”); Steven Soderbergh (“Full Frontal”); Julianne Moore, Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon (“Far From Heaven”); Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, accompanied by Calista Flockhart and Miranda Richardson, respectively (“K-19: The Widowmaker”); and John Malkovich (“Ripley’s Game”).
Sophia Loren was accompanied opening night by Giorgio Armani and her son, Edoardo Ponti, whose “Between Strangers” screened out of competition.
Catherine Deneuve showed up to plug Tonie Marshall’s “Au plus pres de paradis.” French icons Johnny Halliday and Jean Rochefort are due at the end of the week to support Patrice Leconte’s “The Man From the Train.”
But despite the star presence, the international press turnout seems skimpy, although fest officials say the numbers are on a par with last year.
“It’s hard with Deauville and Venice running at the same time,” a DDA publicist told Daily Variety Monday. “Before they just overlapped. That certainly narrows down the Swiss, Belgian and French journalists. Plus the festival is making journalists choose between the first or second weekend, whereas before they were invited the whole time.”
And apart from next Wednesday’s bash hosted by Lauren Bacall and Milla Jovovich for AIDS charity Amfar, and last Friday’s Miramax party for “Frida” and “Full Frontal,” latenight reveling has been limited to private dinners at Harry’s Bar or the Cipriani.
At the fest halfway mark, only a couple of films have generated buzz. Several buyers predict that two dark and edgy independent films, Lukas Moodysson’s “Lilja 4-Ever” and Peter Mullan’s “The Magdalene Sisters,” will be picked up by indie distribs Stateside. And insiders say Dylan Kidd’s “Roger Dodger” is the front-runner so far for the first film award.
Sunday night, Monica Bellucci and Alessandro Gassman presented Italian director Dino Risi with the Golden Lion career award. Risi, 85, helmed classics such as “Poor But Beautiful,” “The Priest’s Wife” and the original “Scent of a Woman.”
Risi told the audience at the Palazzo del Cinema that earlier in the day, he had stopped by a screening of a restored version of his 1962 pic “The Easy Life” and was amazed to see such a young audience. Hugging Alessandro Gassman — the son of his best friend and longtime collaborator, the late actor Vittorio Gassman — Risi added, “There would be no cinema without the audience.”