Critics find Rome lineup wanting

French films among the bright spots

ROME -- As the Rome International Film Festival heads into the home stretch, many critics are complaining that much of the festival's lineup would have been better off left back at the starting gate.

Italian critics have been unusually harsh toward the third edition of the festival, calling the lineup a "cast of misfits" and "a collection of rejects" from other festivals. International critics have been more measured, but the general consensus is clearly that the lineup has been a letdown.

One bright spot, according to critics, has come from the French films in the lineup, with "Un Barrage contre le Pacifique" (The Sea Wall) from Rithy Panh, Agnes Jaoui's "Parlez-moi de la pluie" (Let it Rain), and "Aide toi, le ciel t'aidera" (With a Little Help From Myself) from Francoi Dupeyron among those attracting positive attention.

The heavy focus on Italian films, most critics agree, has thus far been among the festival's biggest disappointments.

But artistic director Piera Detassis defended the lineup, arguing this year has been a problematic one for film.

"In this difficult climate, I have to say I'm proud of the lineup we put together," Detassis said in a brief interview on the festival's rain-soaked red carpet Tuesday. "I think there have been five or six very strong films, with a few nice surprises. That's not bad for a year as tough as this one."

The festival, which got under way Oct. 22, concludes Friday.