Big pix take their bow at Venice fest
“The Queen” reigned over the weekend on the Lido, where Stephen Frears’ depiction of friction between Tony Blair and Britain’s monarch following the death of Princess Diana earned ovations. Pic goes out through Miramax Stateside, and the crowd sparked to Helen Mirren’s bravura performance as Queen Elizabeth II; Mirren recently won an Emmy for HBO’s “Elizabeth I.”“The Queen,” which unspooled Saturday in competish, has also thrust Frears back into studio focus after the B.O. disappointment of “Mrs. Henderson Presents.” Industry folks are predicting big breakout biz in all territories where auds are interested in the Brit royal family. Reaction to another Blighty-set pic, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men,” set in a totalitarian 2027 England in which man can no longer procreate, has been mixed. Pic unspooled in competish Sunday. With its naturalistic long shots of a world that does not look that different from the present, Cuaron’s P.D. James adaptation, which stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, poses a marketing challenge for Universal. Darren Aronofsky’s highly awaited “The Fountain,” which screened Monday, likewise looks problematic for Warner Bros. Stateside and for Fox Intl. overseas. Ambitious millennium-spanning fantasy romancer centered around the possibility of immortality seems to be splitting Lido critics, drawing both boos and cheers at press screenings. Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” follow-up, which stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, also unspools in Toronto. Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center,” which unspooled out of competish on Friday, looks like a tougher sell for Universal outside North America as some Euro critics perceive it as patriotic pro-Bush propaganda. “Disgusting” was the verdict of one French industryite. “It was as though George Bush directed the movie.” But a few boos at the press screening were countered by a standing ovation at the gala, attended by New York policemen John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, who were portrayed in the film. While Hollywood has held court during the first part of the fest, several European pics have also unspooled, including Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book.” WWII drama drew a mostly positive response, though some were uncomfortable with Verhoeven’s mixing the serious Holocaust subject matter with his trademark vulgar sexual content (lots of bare breasts and versions of Mae West’s classic “Is that a gun in your pocket?” quip). Gaul helmer Alain Resnais’ “Private Fears in Public Places” also went over well. Based on an Alan Ayckbourn play, pic is currently among top contenders to be Lionized by the Catherine Deneuve-topped jury, according to the Italian press. Venice will now be taking on a more European feel, with Italian entries “The Missing Star,” by Gianni Amelio, and “The Golden Door,” by Emanuele Crialese, unspooling, among other non-Yank fare, in the fest’s second half. Both titles are from RAI Cinema. Medusa, Italy’s other production/distribution powerhouse, is conspicuously absent from the Lido following a June squabble with Venice topper Marco Muller, who reportedly rejected several of its local pics submitted for the official selection. Fest runs through Saturday.