Jason Reitman pic among festival's leaner slate

ROME — The Rome Film Festival on Friday unveiled a leaner lineup graced with a high-profile competition that includes Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air,” with star George Clooney expected on the red carpet, and a mixed bag of works by international directors.

Fourteen entries are vying for the event’s Marcus Aurelius nod, as opposed to 20 last year.

Fest opens Oct. 15 with “Triage,” a wartime drama toplining Colin Farrell and helmed by Bosnia’s Danis Tanovic, and closes Oct. 23 with “Julie and Julia,” screening out of competition and coinciding with the fest’s lifetime achievement nod to Meryl Streep.

Michael Hoffman’s Leo Tolstoy biopic “The Last Station,” starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, is also in competition along with German helmer Margarethe von Trotta’s “Vision,” toplining Barbara Sukowa as a 12th century protofeminist Benedictine nun.

“We tried to create a competition that mixed things up a bit,” said artistic director Piera Detassis, who is overseeing the entire selection for the first time.

For its fourth edition, Rome has done away with its gala section that relegated star-studded titles to a red carpet ghetto.

While a half dozen titles in Rome are European launches segueing from Toronto world preems, the Eternal City has secured several world preems of its own, including “Brotherhood,” about a same-sex affair between two members of a gay-bashing neo-Nazi group; “The City of Your Final Destination,” helmer James Ivory’s first pic after the death of producing partner Ismail Merchant, which was made in 2007 and is yet to be released; “Le Concert” by Romanian helmer Radu Mihaileanu; and a sneak peek of vampire tale “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” which was partly shot in Italy.

Besides “Up in the Air,” U.S. fare will include Joel and Ethan Coen’s “A Serious Man,” screening out of competition, and the European bow of “Astro Boy” in the Alice in the City kiddie section.

American indie directorial duo Alexei Kaleina and Craig Macneill will bow their first feature, “The Afterlight,” in the Extra section dedicated to more cutting-edge works.

Extra will pay homage to Heath Ledger with what is being touted as the first fest screening of several videos Ledger shot with L.A. art collective the Masses, whose members will be on hand. Terry Gilliam will also make the trek with Ledger’s last movie “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

As for Rome’s Business Street market, topper Roberto Cicutto said industry attendance is up 16% compared with last year. Some 600 companies are booked for the informal Oct. 15-19 mart that has added an Italian screenings section and secured use of the 16th-century Villa Medici above the Spanish Steps for evening bashes.

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