Venice film festival kicks off with Italian epic

3rd September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The first Italian opener in two decades at the grande dame of international film festivals is a love saga set in the town where Oscar-winning director Giuseppe Tornatore grew up.

Venice -- The Venice film festival kicked off Wednesday with Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore's Baaria, a sentimental journey to his Sicilian hometown in an epic covering three generations.

The first Italian opener in two decades at the grande dame of international film festivals is a love saga set in the town where the Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso director grew up.

"Sounds, people, frustrations, dreams, happiness, challenges -- I thought all of these themes could be turned into a movie," Tornatore told a news conference after the press screening at the 66th Mostra in the lagoon city.

He said turning 60 had finally pushed him to complete a long-planned project, which spans the Fascist period, World War II, the rise of the Italian Communist Party and the first decades of the post-war era.

Ennio Morricone, who scored the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, wrote the soundtrack for Baaria more than 20 years after that of Cinema Paradiso, which won the Oscar for best foreign film in 1989.

Noting that he spent the first 27 years of his life in Sicily, Tornatore said: "That's how I see things. It's my take on life."

Describing the film as "allegorical," the director said: "All those who were born in a small town will find similarities.... We should recover our sense of duty, the ability to teach our children how important it is to forge a relationship with the rest of the community."

Since both leads are Sicilians -- Francesco Scianna was born in Bagheria (nicknamed Baaria) itself -- they are native speakers of the island's dialect.

With a cast of many homegrown stars, including Monica Belluci who offers a cameo appearance as a prostitute, Italians will feast on a red carpet bonanza at the gala opening Wednesday evening.

Organisers could not confirm press reports that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi would be on hand for the official screening, but his son Piersilvio is expected to attend.

The festival will showcase US directors on Thursday with Life During Wartime by cult filmmaker Todd Solondz, who won the International Critics Prize in Cannes for Happiness (1998).

Life During Wartime starring Demi Moore, Paul Reubens, Paul Dano, Hope Davis and Faye Dunaway is a dark comedy involving intersecting love stories.

Next up is The Road by John Hillcoat, a post apocalyptic sci-fi thriller based on a best-selling novel by Cormac McCarthy, a drama in which a father goes all out to ensure the survival of his son.

The jury for the 11-day festival is chaired by Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning director of Brokeback Mountain, which also won in Venice in 2005.

In all more than 80 films will be presented at the prestigious festival, which has a strong American presence both in and out of competition.

US stars include Nicolas Cage as a new Bad Lieutenant, this time in New Orleans in Werner Herzog's film which the German director insists is not a remake of Abel Ferrara's 1992 cult thriller with the same title.

Also out of competition, Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney stars with Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey in Men Who Stare at Goats, set in Iraq, and Matt Damon stars in Steven Soderbergh's comedy The Informant!

The Wrestler, starring resurgent American actor Mickey Rourke, won the Golden Lion last year.

Gina Doggett/AFP/Expatica

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