66th Locarno Film Fest Gets Off to Wet Start

Piazza Grande
Reto Albertalli/AFP/Getty Images

Locarno's vast open-space screening area the Piazza Grande will welcome several current Hollywood films including J.J. Abrams' "Super 8,"  Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis comedy "Friends With Benefits" and "Cowboys & Aliens."

Rains dampened attendance at the festival's outdoor Piazza Grande venue, but skies should be clear for the weekend's activities.

LOCARNO, Switzerland – The 66th edition of the Locarno Film Festival got off to a wet start Wednesday and Thursday, with rains dampening consecutive nights in the outdoor Piazza Grande venue.

But the wet weather did not wash away enthusiasm for an encounter with Count Dracula icon Christopher Lee (best known to younger viewers for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars) at the lakeside Swiss festival. The 91-year-old Lee received the festival’s first major career honor, and he thrilled the film lovers by recounting his on-screen battle with the Yoda character in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones from 2002.

“The fight against Yoda? I did it,” Lee said. “We really fought. There were no stunt doubles!”

The films rained out were the international premiere of 2 Guns, the thriller from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur and Sam Garbarski’s comedy Vijay and I. With a few die-hard spectators sitting through the rain to watch the films in the Piazza Grande, the films were also shown in Locarno’s indoor Fevi cinema -- its second largest venue after the Piazza Grande -- where they were well received by wet but enthusiastic crowds.

On Thursday, Locarno also honored Italian actor Sergio Castellito with a career honor. Castellito revealed that Locarno played an important role in his development as an actor, and was the first festival he ever attended.

Also honored Thursday was Anna Karina, the acclaimed Dutch actress who introduced an afternoon screening of Justine, part of the festival’s retrospective of director George Cukor.

The weather is expected to improve for the weekend, just in time for Friday’s Piazza Grande premiere of Bruno Oliviero’s La variabile umana (The Human Factor). The feature film debut from the prize-winning documentary maker, La variabile umana is the first Italian film to screen in the Piazza Grande in six years.

The festival concludes August 17.

Twitter: @EricJLyman