Locarno fest embraces new 'Bourne'


LOCARNO, Switzerland -- A packed screening of Paul Greengrass' "The Bourne Ultimatum" at the Locarno Film Festival's famous Piazza Grande on Saturday was the highlight of the weekend at the 60th edition of the event, furthering the revered festival's increasingly strong ties with Hollywood.

With seven of 19 in competition films screened as of Sunday night, several films had to be rescreened, as two members of the Cineastes du Present Competition jury were forced to leave the festival on short notice for what festival officials said was personal reasons.

Other weekend highlights included an appearance by Anthony Hopkins, in town to promote his latest directorial outing, "Slipstream," and iconic Spanish actress Carmen Maura who was given a career achievement award but was nearly upstaged by Italian Nobel Prize-winning poet Dario Fo, who presented Maura with the award and who charmed the Italian-speaking crowd with a story about his first visit to the Locarno festival 20 years earlier.

Frank Oz' black comedy "Death at a Funeral" received an enthusiastic response in the sold-out Piazza Grande Sunday night, followed by Robert Rodriguez' ultra violent "Planet Terror," which played to a less-than-half-full Piazza after festival organizers repeatedly warned festival goers about the film's violent content.

"I'm very pleased that my little film can show on this huge screen," Oz told the capacity crowd.

The festival also announced a pair of tributes to recently deceased directors: on Tuesday, a screening of "Zabriskie Point," the lone American-made film by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, who died last Monday; and a day later a screening of "Yi Yi" (A One and a Two), as a tribute to Taiwanese director Edward Yang, who died on June 27. Earlier, Locarno honored the recently deceased Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, who died a few hours before Antonioni.

Italian Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli made the trip to the Italian-speaking Swiss Canton of Ticino -- less then 100 miles from Milan, Italy's second city -- and conducted a press conference in which he declared that after a long lull the best days of Italian cinema might be yet to come.

The European premiere of "The Bourne Ultimatum" -- the third time that a "Bourne" film had its first European screening in Locarno -- produced the festival's first sold-out screening at the 7,000-seat Piazza Grande. Neither Greengrass nor star Matt Damon were on hand, but they recorded a special message in which each spoke some Italian to the crowd. The film was interrupted twice by applause -- once after a long foot chase and fight in Tangiers and again after a car chase scene in New York.

The film was followed by Swiss-Italian co-production "Vogliamo Anche Le Rose" (We Want the Roses, Too), a black-and-white drama from Alina Marazzi that was also well received.

Locarno reported Friday that jury members Nurial Vidal, a Spanish film critic, and Italian director Agostino Ferrente had to leave the festival for personal reasons. They were replaced by Lebanese director Khalil Joreige and Trieste Film Festival director Annamaria Percavassi. Argentina's Diego Lerman, Latvian Laila Pakalnina, and Marc-Olivier Wahler of Switzerland remain on the jury. Organizers said that the competition films Joreige and Percavassi missed would be rescreened for them.

Hopkins was warmly received by the crowd, but "Slipstream" seemed to puzzle viewers, who repeatedly asked Hopkins for help in interpreting the film during a packed press briefing.

Spain's Maura, 61, who co-starred with Penelope Cruz in last year's hit "Volver," did not hide her enthusiasm when she accepted the award from the popular Fo, who said he wished he had more talent to write for films in addition to the weighty poems and stories he is known for.