Locarno launches with J-toon


The 60th annual Locarno Film Festival got under way late Wednesday with the world premiere of the Japanese animated futuristic film "Vexille" 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 in speeches that jumped among languages and were interrupted several times by applause as fireworks exploded in the background.

The festival, which runs through Aug. 11, has embraced lighter fare during 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 still is a far cry from the weighty, intellectual fare the festival has been known for in the past.

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

In his comments, Maire praised Bergman and Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, who also died Monday at age 94.

The festival gets into full swing today, with more than three dozen films, documentaries and shorts unspooling, highlighted by Piazza Grande screenings for the international premiere of the Italian hit "My Brother Is an Only Child," from Daniele Luchetti, and the European premiere of the Judd Apatow comedy "Knocked Up."