Taormina: 'Song for Marion' Brings Festgoers to Tears at Screening

3:39 PM PST 06/17/2013 by Eric J. Lyman

Attendance at the picturesque Sicilian festival has been up so far this year, based in part on cooperation from local hotels.

TAORMINA, Sicily – Song for Marion, a comedic melodrama about a curmudgeonly widower who decides to honor his deceased wife by joining her choir, was the highlight of the Taormina Film Festival on Monday, leaving plenty of wet eyes among the crowd at the festival’s famous Teatro Antico venue.

Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, the tearjerker that has screened in some territories under the name Unfinished Song was well received by a partially full Teatro Antico crowd. Though the movie premiered in Toronto last year (where it was the closing film) and has made the festival rounds since then, Monday’s screening was the first time the film was seen in Italy, where it is scheduled to go into release Aug. 29.

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The Hollywood Reporter film critic John DeFore gave the film a qualified thumbs up when he reviewed it in Toronto, writing it is “less sentimental than it sounds, but not by much.” The film stars Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton, and Christopher Eccleston.

Three days into the eight-day Taormina event, the crowds have diminished since the opening-night continental European premiere of Zack Snyder’s big-budget Man of Steel. Appearances by much of the cast drew the biggest Taormina crowd in recent memory, nearly filling the 4,500-seat, 2,400-year-old venue. Overall attendance has still been up compared to previous years at the 59-year-old festival, at least in part because of increased cooperation from area hotels that has resulted in tourists not necessarily in town for the festival getting involved.

Earlier Monday, the festival screened Kira Muratova’s Nastroyshchik (The Turner), part of Taormina’s new Focus Russia initiative.

On Sunday, Oscar winner Giuseppe Tornatore -- a native of Sicily -- was in town to participate in a Tao Class, the festival’s version of a master class, along with Francesco Rosi, the 90-year-old acclaimed director who participated via video link from his home in Rome. Tornatore, whose Nuovo Cinema Paradiso won the Oscar for best foreign-language film in 1990, is creating a buzz this year with The Best Offer, an English-language drama that stars Geoffrey Rush as an auctioneer fascinated with a reclusive heiress.

Taormina also honored Tornatore on Sunday ahead of the Teatro Antico screening of Mark Steven Johnson’s Killing Season, a thriller that stars Robert De Niro and John Travolta as a pair of Bosnia war veterans who clash in a remote part of the Smoky Mountains. 

The festival, which got under way Saturday, concludes June 22.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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