Event looks to balance daytime, nighttime fare

LONDON — Locarno is letting its hair down for its 60th jamboree — and Hollywood is providing a lot of the fun.

After years of uneasy flirting on both sides, the fest and Tinseltown have climbed into bed together — at least for the giant Piazza Grande open-air screenings in the Swiss-Italian lakeside town. In his second year in the hot seat, confirmed movie buff Frederic Maire has thrown caution to the winds and decided: Let’s party!

“Last year we had mainstream titles in the Piazza, like ‘Miami Vice’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ ” the fest’s artistic director says, “so it wasn’t necessarily planned this way for our anniversary. But it’s a nice celebration.”

Even without the heavy U.S. presence — including retro-tuner “Hairspray”; actioner “The Bourne Ultimatum”; comedies “Death at a Funeral,” “Knocked Up” and “Waitress”; Stephen King frightfest “1408”; and genre monster mash “Planet Terror” — there’s still plenty of other fare to sample on the Piazza’s giant screen.

Says Maire, “I want to balance our ‘daytime festival,’ the more edgy and difficult movies in competition, with our ‘nighttime festival,’ which is all about event movies in the Piazza.”

Fest opens with the world preem of CGI Japanese anime actioner “Vexille,” to be screened in hi-def, inaugurating the fest’s partnership with digital cinema service operator XDC. It closes with a docu on last year’s World Cup soccer final, “Winners and Losers,” told from the spectators’ p.o.v. — proof of Locarno’s eclectic spirit.

Over in the more serious part of the fest, Maire has assembled a trim, 19-pic Intl. Competition with no less than 15 world preems, almost half of them first features. European pics take the lion’s share.

Party continues with nightly anniversary shorts in the Piazza Grande, courtesy of local broadcaster SSR.

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