Scorsese says ciao to big films for a while

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ROME -- Martin Scorsese stole the spotlight at Rome's inaugural film festival when he revealed Sunday that the $90 million "The Departed" would be his last big-budget film for some time.

The director was speaking after a RomaCinemaFest screening of "Departed" at Rome's Auditorium. "I think I am figuring out that when a film has a very big budget that means that fewer risks can be taken," Scorsese said. "I don't know how much longer I can hold out in regard to the kind of movie the major studios would like to make and the kind of film I would like to make."

His statements came amid the beginning of the new Rome festival, where U.S.-made films have dominated so far.

American films premiered on each of the festival's first three days. On Friday, it was Steven Shainberg's "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus," starring Nicole Kidman as the famed photographer. Saturday saw the screening of the Richard Gere starrer "The Hoax," and on Sunday it was "Departed."

Sunday's impromptu remarks from Scorsese about his career dominated the festival chatter.

With a cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, "Departed" centers on a mobster undercover in the Boston State Police and an undercover cop infiltrating the city's Irish Mafia.

Scorsese stressed that he had no ax to grind with Warner Bros. Pictures -- the studio that backed "Departed" -- but he said he did feel like big studios acted in a way that restricted directors' creativity. "This is an industrywide problem," he said, while noting that "Warner Bros. Pictures was very supportive, considering this was an experimental film."

His next film will be a low-budget departure for him, Scorsese said: an adaptation of Shusaku Endo's novel "Silence," which tells the story of two 17th century Portuguese missionaries who travel to Imperial Japan and witness the persecution of Japanese Christians.

" 'Silence' is a small-scale, lower-budget film that I have wanted to make for 15 years," Scorsese said. "I am looking forward to this a great deal."

Despite his complaints about the problems with big budgets, he said he would find it tough to turn down a script as "compelling" as that of "Departed" if he were also offered the same size budget and freedom to direct the film as he saw fit.

"I would be tempted because this is like a disease, like a drug," he said.

The festival got under way late Friday with an unlikely mix of glamour and sadness as Australian Kidman became the first big-name star to walk the Rome event's pristine red carpet amid the flashes from an aggressive phalanx of Italian and international photographers. The festival also mourned the death of innovative Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, who died Thursday at age 86. Pontecorvo is best known for "La Battaglia di Algeri" (The Battle of Algiers), which earned him a best director Oscar nomination in 1969. The festival planned several tributes in Pontecorvo's honor, including a screening of "Algeri," which premiered at the Venice Film Festival nearly 40 years ago.

Notable films on tap over the coming days include Shane Meadows' "This Is England"; Mira Nair's "The Namesake"; "The Prestige" from director Christopher Nolan and starring Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine and David Bowie; "La Sconosciuta" (The Unknown) from Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, best known for the 1989 hit "Cinema Paradiso"; and the French-Italian co-production "Le Concile de Pierre" (The Stone Council) from Guillaume Nicloux and starring Monica Bellucci.
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