Locarno Film Festival Draws to a Close

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A Piazza Grande screening of Vincente Minnelli's 'An American in Paris' was the highlight of the 64th annual film fest.

LOCARNO, Switzerland – The 64th Locarno Film Festival began to draw to a close Friday, with a career honor presented to 1960s Italian diva Claudia Cardinale and the highlight of the festival’s well received retrospective of celebrated film director Vincente Minnelli: a Piazza Grande screening of his 1951 classic An American in Paris.
A large Japanese contingent of journalists and industry figures were also in town Friday in connection with the international premiere, also in the Piazza Grande, of Saya Zamurai (Scabbard Samurai), the story of an ageing samurai coming to terms with a past that made him throw away his sword and put his life in danger. The film, from actor-turned-director Hitoshi Matsumoto, was also greeted warmly by a nearly full Piazza Grande crowd.
The Minnelli retrospective turned out to be one of the festival’s most talked about events, starting with the appearance of Leslie Caron – who starred opposite Gene Kelly in An American in Paris -- and finishing with Friday’s Piazza Grande screening of the same film. All told, the festival showed ten Minnelli films and included appearances by critics and authors familiar with the director’s works and, to the surprise of many, a video link with Kirk Douglas, who starred as artist Vincent Van Gough in Minnelli’s 1956 effort Lust for Life.
The popular retrospective made second-year artistic director Olivier Pere 2-for-2 in his choices for retrospectives, after focusing on Ernst Lubitsch last year.
The selection of Cardinale for the festival’s second-to-last career honor – it previously honored actors Harrison Ford, Isabelle Huppert, and Bruno Ganz, producer Mike Medavoy, and directors Villi Hermann and Abel Ferrara with similar honors – was another popular choice, drawing strong applause from the crowd and giving organizers good reason to screen Federico Fellini’s classic 8 1/2, where Cardinale starred opposite Marcello Mastroianni.
The final career prize will go to 82-year-old Claude Goretta, the Swiss director nominated for the Palme d’Or in Cannes three times and the winner of the jury prize in 1973 for L’invitation in 1973. Goretta’s prize will be handed out just before the awards ceremony Saturday in the Piazza Grande and the festival’s final screening, Et si on vivaint tous ensemble? (And if We All Lived Together?) from French director Stephane Robelin.
The festival overcame rainy weather over the first five days of the festival -- fortunately for movie lovers, the rain slowed to a drizzle for opening film Super 8 and the Saturday screening of Cowboys & Aliens, both of which screened in the open-air Piazza Grande -- to draw what organizers say still has a chance to be the largest overall attendance figures in the festival’s history.
The festival got underway August 3.