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Faye Dunaway, Piazza Grande Double Bill Highlights at Locarno Fest Friday

Wrong Cops - H 2013
From "Wrong Cops"

The sun finally emerged in Locarno, just in time for "The Human Factor" and "Wrong Cops" to screen to a near-capacity Piazza Grande crowd.

LOCARNO, Switzerland – Faye Dunaway was the main guest of honor at the Locarno Film Festival Friday, where the skies cleared just in time for an unusual double bill on the festival’s famous Piazza Grande venue.

Dunaway , 72, is being honored in Locarno by a special retrospective -- Sidney Lumet’s Network was Friday’s selection from the retrospective -- a standing-room-only open-microphone conversation with film fans, the Piazza Grande screening of a montage of some of her best-known film roles, and then the presentation of the festival’s first-ever Leopard Club award.

“In all my years this is the first time a festival ever created an honor just for me,” said Dunaway, who earlier in the day wowed crowds with memories of acclaimed leading men she worked with, including Marlon Brando and Warren Beatty.

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It was Dunaway’s first visit to Locarno, and she said it made her ponder the world’s love of cinema. “On the way over here I was thinking about what makes us love cinema so much,” Dunaway said. “I think the reason is that it combines so many different art forms.”

The presentation of the Leopard Club honor -- Dunaway kissed the leopard statue when she received it -- preceded back-to-back Piazza Grande screenings of La variabile umana (The Human Factor) from Bruno Oliviero and Quentin Dupieux’s Wrong Cops.

Both films are about police and both directors are Locarno regulars, but the similarities end there: La variabile umana is a brooding tale about a reluctant detective’s difficult relationship with his young daughter, while Wrong Cops is a quirky story about a group of humorously corrupt city cops.

La variabile umana is the first Italian film to screen in the Piazza Grande in six years, as well as the feature film debut for Oliviero, a prize winning documentary maker. Oliviero was on hand for the presentation, but it was the film’s star, Silvio Orlando, who turned the most heads, “complaining” that he drank so much champagne over the course of the day that he had a hard time concentrating.

“There are 8,000 of you, but honestly speaking I am seeing 16,000,” Orlando said. “Or maybe 32,000, or 64,000. It looks to me that there are so many of you that the crowd stretches clear from Cannes to Venice.”

Locarno artistic director Carlo Chatrian said the screening of the film was the realization of a goal of his.

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"One of my goals was to bring an Italian film back to the Piazza Grande," Chatrian said. "I have known about La variabile umana for some time, during its production, and I have thought all along it would be ideal for the Piazza Grande."

Dupieux, meanwhile, did not come to Locarno this time (he made the trip in connection with two other films in previous years). The film was instead represented by producer Gregory Bernard and several cast members (Goth singer Marilyn Manson had a role in the film but did not come to the festival). Bernard said he was “pleased and honored” to come to Locarno’s Piazza Grande with one of Dupieux’s films for the third time, noting that this year was the first time the screening took place in good weather.

“I took a photo of the crowd and the piazza and sent it to Quentin, who said he was both pleased and jealous,” Bernard said.

The clear whether was also welcomed by the near capacity crowd in the 8,000-seat venue. The festival got underway Wednesday, and Friday was the first time the unusually grey skies cleared.

Reports are that they’ll stay clear over the weekend, including for a Saturday slate that includes the screening of three more competition films and a Piazza Grande premiere for We’re the Millers from U.S. director Rawson Marshall Thurber, followed by Mikkel Norgaard’s The Keeper of Lost Causes – Jussi Adler-Olsen.

The 66-year-old Locarno wraps up August 17.

Twitter: @EricJLyman