'Dahlia' takes bow on Lido

VENICE — The 63rd Venice Film Festival kicked off Wednesday with Brian De Palma’s noir “The Black Dahlia” giving the Lido some sparkle.

Pic’s stars Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart strutted past the giant Golden Lions on the red carpet as the paparazzi went into a frenzy.

Among others filing into the Palazzo del Cinema were jury prexy Catherine Deneuve, Italian culture minister Francesco Rutelli, Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari and a host of Italo industry figures.

De Palma’s adaptation of James Ellroy’s novel, which delves into the underbelly of 1940s Hollywood as it reconstructs the murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, was received warmly, although inevitable comparisons with Curtis Hanson’s “L.A. Confidential,” also from an Ellroy novel, were not always in its favor.

However, Ellroy, also at the Lido, praised De Palma for “isolating the key themes of sexual obsession, redemption and the triangulation of one man (Hartnett) between two women (Johansson and Hilary Swank).”

The gala screening was followed by a lavish dinner on the Excelsior beach, complete with fireworks.

Given De Palma’s recent track record (his “Femme Fatale” went straight to vid in some territories), some believed Venice topper Marco Muller was taking a risk by opening the fest with “Dahlia.”

Pic opens Stateside Sept. 15 via Universal; 01 Distribution will release it in Italy Sept. 29.

Davide Croff, prexy of the Biennale, the foundation that oversees the Venice fest, used the occasion to plead with the pols on hand for government coin to get a new palazzo built.

“This is a project that can no longer be delayed,” said the Biennale boss during the opening ceremony.

Muller appealed for movies, rather than local squabbles, to take center stage, so that Venice can function full steam as a promotional vehicle.

“We want this festival to exist here in Venice for 11 days. But then we want the life of the films to begin again and have a new life in the theaters. Right now that is really our main concern,” the Lido topper said.

Earlier in the day, Rutelli and Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni issued a joint statement to announce that they “will examine the possibility” of moving the nascent RomeFilmFest’s date away from Venice next year.

The fests are just one month apart this year, which has caused friction.

Croff welcomed the news, adding, “But from now until the end of the festival, let’s just talk about Venice.”

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