Locarno goes international in kickoff


LOCARNO, Switzerland -- The 60th annual Locarno Film Festival got under way late Wednesday with the world premiere of the Japanese animated futuristic film "Vexille" screening to a mostly full Piazza Grande and opening remarks that bounced among English, Italian, French, German and Japanese.

Fukihiko Sori's "Vexille," about a female agent dispatched to late 21st century Tokyo, was met with an enthusiastic response from the crowd in Locarno's most famous venue, the outdoor Piazza Grande.

Beforehand, festival president Marco Solari and artistic director Frederic Maire introduced Sori to the crowd in speeches that jumped between languages and was interrupted several times by applause as fireworks exploded in the background.

The festival, which runs through Aug. 11, has embraced lighter fare over the past two years under Maire's direction. Last year's opening film was "Miami Vice." Although "Vexille" is made with an unusual blend of cutting-edge CG animation and more traditional methods, it is still a far cry from the weighty and intellectual fare the festival has been known for in the past.

"Vexille" was followed by a screening of "Saraband," the final film made by Ingmar Bergman, who died Monday at 89. The film was a last-minute addition to the program, added as an homage to the Swedish director.

In his comments, Maire praised both Bergman and Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, who also died Monday. He was 94.

The festival goes into full swing Thursday, with more than three dozen films, documentaries and shorts screening, highlighted by Piazza Grande screenings for both the international premiere of Italian hit "Mio Fratello e Figlio Unico" (My Brother Is an Only Child) from Daniele Luchetti and the European premiere of the Judd Apatow comedy "Knocked Up."