MOSCOW — Moscow’s Intl. Film Festival kicked off its 25th jubilee year Friday with a restrained opening ceremony.
The only politico who showed for the event was Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who promised support for a new festival venue, something for which the event has long been lobbying. He went on to extoll the virtues of locally made films, while criticizing the imported product that dominates Russia’s screens for a number of faults including, bizarrely, its depiction of sadism and karate.
The opening pic, “The Stroll” by Alexei Uchitel, paid special tribute to St. Petersburg, which is marking its 300th anniversary. Pic follows the fortunes of three young people as they wander the streets of the city.
The opener, strongly lobbied for by fest prexy Nikita Mikhalkov, segued to Georgi Daneliya’s 1963 classic “I Walk in Moscow,” set on the streets of the city and starring the young Mikhalkov in one of his earliest screen roles. The Moscow opening paid a special tribute to the film’s scripter Gennadi Shpalikov.
Main guests include thesps Max von Sydow and Gina Lollobrigida, who will be honored with a retrospective, and Peter Greenaway, whose “Tulse Luper Suitcase,” a co-production with Russia, played to packed late-night gala houses at the weekend.
The lifetime achievement award, presented by Sophie Marceau, was awarded to a Moscow veteran, the Japanese director Kaneto Shindo, who has won a record three main prizes here since his first visit in 1961.
The energetic 91-year-old helmer was in Moscow to collect the prize and to present his latest film “The Owl” in competition.
Fest jury is chaired by Russian-American helmer Sergei Bodrov, alongside directors Babak Payami, Mika Kaurismaki, Agnieszka Holland and Ken Russell, and thesps Moritz Bleibtreu and Olga Budina.
Russian competition representation is strong this year, with three films in the 19-pic slate. Screening on fest’s second day was Irina Yevteeva’s “Petersburg,” a technically brilliant combination of paint-on-glass animation and scenes from classic Soviet films.