Connery fete opens the RomeFilmFest

Italo event kicks off with 'Fur' screening

ROME — The curtain finally rises on the RomeFilmFest today, starting with a protracted Sean Connery celebration prior to fest opener “Fur,” amid hopes that a high-profile shindig in the local film-industry hub can become a catalyst for an Italo cinema boost.

After plenty of ballyhooing in the local press over Rome’s rivalry with the recently ended Venice fest, the Eternal City event debuts with a more metropolitan feel than the Lido (similar, in fact, to that of Rome’s partner, the Tribeca Film Festival), plus a bona fide market component in an attempt to make up for the loss of Milan’s defunct Mifed.

The Via Veneto, where the three-day Business Street mart is being held through Monday in the Excelsior and Bernini hotels and in nearby cinemas, has been revamped with new lampposts, wider sidewalks and a giant screen where old photos of the swanky street’s “La Dolce Vita” glory days are being beamed. Some 250 industryites — two-thirds of them sellers, most of them European — are expected.

Connery received his Bulgari-designed Marcus Aurelius lifetime achievement nod on Thursday, before the fest officially started, at a gala evening ceremony held in Rome’s Teatro Dell’Opera opera house. A classy concert of film scores by Nino Rota, including themes from “The Godfather,” “The Leopard” and “La Strada,” conducted by Riccardo Muti, followed.

Today the 76-year-old Scot will reminisce about his career in a two-hour public interview conducted by fest co-topper Mario Sesti in front of an aud of regular Romans, after a screening of Connery’s 1969 docu “The Bowler and the Bonnet.”

Nicole Kidman will be in attendance for Steven Shainberg’s “Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus.”

Also unspooling in the fest’s first few days are comic biopic “Napoleon (and Me),” for which Monica Bellucci will be prancing down the Rome Auditorium catwalk; “The Departed,” with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio in to tubthump; and Lasse Hallstrom’s “The Hoax,” for which Richard Gere is expected.

Organizers said 45,000 tickets have been sold, while 6,000 attendees are accredited, including some 700 foreign journalists.

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