Red-letter day for Moscow

Fest closes with win for 'Animals'

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Russian director Vera Storozheva's romantic drama "Travels With Domestic Animals" (Puteshesviye s domashnimi zhivotnym) collected the main Golden George prize at the Moscow International Film Festival.

Storozheva told the jury chairman, Australian director Fred Schepisi, and guests at the closing gala in Moscow's downtown Pushkin film theater that the prize was "unexpected and much wished for." Hers was one of three Russian films in the feature competition lineup of 19 international movies.

"We were waiting and hoping and watching how the audience and press reacted," she told journalists Saturday night during the closing-night ceremony.

The best director prize went to Giuseppe Tornatore for "The Unknown Woman" (La Sconoscuita), a thriller about the exploitation of a young Ukrainian woman alone in a provincial Italian city.

The main winner in the Perspectives competition section -- reserved for features by young directors who have already made their debuts -- went to Latvian director Juris Poskus for "Monotony" (Monotonija). The film centers on a young woman whose dreams of becoming an actress are crushed after she fails an audition.

The best actress nod went to Kirsti Stubo for her part in Hungarian director Janos Szasz's period drama "Opium," about a drug-addicted doctor in an asylum who discovers that one of his patients is a gifted writer.

Best male role went to French actor Fabrice Luchini for his part in Laurent Tirard's romping costume drama "Moliere."

Georgian director Aleko Tsabadze's "Russian Triangle" (Russkii tregul'nik), about a Russian man driven to revenge after his Chechen wife and child die in an airstrike in war-torn Chechnya, earned a special jury prize.

The festival's traditional "I Believe in Stanislavsky" -- awarded in memory of Konstantin Stanislavsky, who founded the "method" school of acting -- went to Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski.

Festival president Nikita Mikhalkov, who directed the 1995 foreign-language Oscar winner "Burnt by the Sun," said filmgoing is becoming ever more popular in Russia. About 100,000 viewers watched the 200 films shown during the 10 days of the festival, he noted.

In an oblique reference to management clashes that had plagued the festival during the past year, leading to a change of organizing company just three months before it opened, Mikhalkov praised current and former staffers for maintaining the festival at a level commensurate with its A-list status.

Mikhalkov said that Russian president Vladimir Putin has given a green light to build a new permanent festival center on the banks of the river Moscow near Gorky Park. The site also would house Moscow's famous cinema museum.

The festival lost is former headquarters, the historic Manezh riding school building near Red Square, after a fire in 2004, when a lease dispute also closed the cinema museum. The museum's priceless stock of hundreds of thousands of items associated with Russian and world filmmaking during the past century remains in storage.
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