‘Rossini’ hits high note at B.O.

BERLIN — Helmut Dietl’s send-up of the Munich film world “Rossini — or the Murderous Question of Who Slept With Whom,” rocketed to No. 1 status at the box office last weekend, getting the German film industry off to an excellent start in the New Year. The movie is on track to becoming the first domestic film of ’97 to draw more than 1 million visitors.

“Rossini” saw a four-day gross of 4.9 million marks ($ 2.99 million) on 349 screens, the strongest opening for a German movie since the smash hit “Werner — That’s Hot!!!” (Das muss Kesseln!!!) broke domestic records in June last year.

Set in Rossini’s, an Italian restaurant where a regular crowd of filmpeople do business, have sex in the back room, back-stab and fall in and out of friendships, the film is centered on a nervous director, a bankrupt producer and an ambitious actress.

“A lot of people have said “Rossini” is an insider’s film about the film world,” director and co-producer Dietl told Daily Variety, “but for me it’s about human themes — love, sex, money — problems that everyone has.”

Still in its first frame, “Rossini” has already picked up several prizes. The Bavarian Film Prize honored Dietl as the best director and Heiner Lauterbach as best actor. The Ernst Lubtisch prize awarded annually to the best German comedy, was awarded to “Rossini” on Jan. 29.

With a cast of Germany’s most sought-after actors, beginning with Mario Adorno as the host Rossini, scheduling was a hard task. Heiner Lauterbach was engaged with “Faust” in Hamburg, Goetz George was busy filming a fol-low-on series, but finally they all came under one roof.

As preparation for the film Dietl spent 20 years visiting the same Bavarian restaurant, “Romagna Antica in Mu-nich. It’s better than TV,” Dietl said. He co-wrote the script with friend and author Patrick Sueskind. The film was eventually shot in a German rail warehouse.

This is Dietl’s first film since the smash domestic hit “Schtonk” from 1992, which won the script prize in Tokyo, the director’s prize in Palm Springs and was a Golden Globe nominee.

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