Coppola lights up Rome fest

Director's 'Youth' hit of weekend

The world premiere of Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth" and the winding down of the Business Street market were the highlights of the first full weekend at the RomaCinemaFest.

Organizers also announced that tickets were selling faster than expected and were on track to easily beat last year's levels.

Coppola's first film in a decade — a symbolic and cerebral tale of an elderly man given a second shot at youth after being struck by lightning — screened twice Saturday to packed houses.

The weekend provided plenty of exposure for the Coppola family: The director's wife Eleanor participated in a question-and-answer session related to her documentary "Coda: Thirty Years Later," and children Sofia and Roman both were on hand for "Youth."

In a meeting with the press, Coppola said "Youth" was the most personal film he had ever made.

"Thanks to some early successes, I had the career of a veteran filmmaker when I was young," Coppola said. "So now I guess I want to have the career of a young filmmaker now that I'm old."

The four-day Business Street event closed Sunday with a flurry of activity along the city's famous Via Veneto. Final statistics about the informal market will be released today.

Among the weekend's other big premieres were Francois Girard's "Silk" starring Keira Knightley and Michael Pitt, and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," which features a star- studded cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei.

The European premiere of Shekhar Kapur's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" kicked off the weekend with a well-attended Friday night screening.

Also on Friday, Sophia Loren was presented with a lifetime achievement award. Loren was given a standing ovation and later charmed a standing-room-only crowd with tales about her early career. "I never forgot how lucky I have been to have had the long career I've had," she said.

During the first three days of the festival, about 42,000 tickets had been sold, well ahead of last year's pace at the same point. The festival concludes Saturday.