A colossus of a trophy chase in Rome

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As the second RomaCinemaFest draws to a close, the race for the event's Marcus Aurelius prize for best film appears as wide open as the path down the festival's red carpet is well worn.

With critics and the local media split on the best films of the festival, attention has focused on the red carpet which, despite a smattering of last-minute cancellations, has nonetheless hosted a steady stream of A-list talent.

The most recent stars to waltz down the crimson path to the Parco della Musica were Ang Lee and Sean Penn, with Halle Berry expected to be the focus of paparazzi flashbulbs today.

Lee came to town for the official screening of "Once Upon a Time in the West." The Sergio Leone classic was refurbished by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation, of which Lee is one of the leading lights.

Penn, meanwhile, came to Rome ahead of the screening of his fifth directorial effort, "Into the Wild," which tells the story of a 22-year-old who gives away everything to set out on a life of adventure. An enthusiastic Penn and the film's Emile Hirsch charmed the three-deep crowd along the red carpet for several minutes, signing autographs and posing for photos.

As of Thursday, no competition film seemed to attract more than its fair share of attention. It was a marked contrast from last year, when the eventual winner, Kirill Serebrennikov's Russian drama "Playing the Victim," had become a critics' darling. Among the 13 competition films to have screened through Thursday, at least seven had been mentioned in the local media as a possible prize winner.

Today will see the arrival of Berry with her dramatic love story "Things We Lost in the Fire," which co-stars Benicio Del Toro and David Duchovny. The final competition title, Jason Reitman's "Juno," also premieres today.

The festival's prize ceremony takes place Saturday.
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