Quiet start for Roma fest

Weather, cab strike curb turnout

The second RomaCinemaFest got under way Thursday with a low-key reception along the red carpet and high expectations for the coming days.

"The Second Wind," a French gangster flick starring Italian actress Monica Bellucci, art house star Daniel Auteuil and retired soccer star Eric Cantona, opened the festival.

Director Alain Corneau joined the film's stars on the red carpet, where the number of photographers rivaled the number of fans on a day when threatening weather and a citywide taxi strike might have collaborated to limit interest.

Bellucci, wearing a long, black dress, sparked a smattering of applause when she sauntered down Rome's wide red carpet and paused to sign a handful of autographs. But the rest of the opening-night personalities walked by to little reaction from the crowd.

Operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli sang later in the evening to conclude the opening day's activities.

The atmosphere is expected to be considerably more charged today, the festival's first full day. The day's centerpiece will be the high-profile European premiere of "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," in which Cate Blanchett reprises the role that earned her an Oscar nomination in 1998's "Elizabeth."

Today also is India Day at the festival, with a special India-Italy business forum, the screening of four Bollywood films and a number of special cultural events.

The world premiere of Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth" — perhaps the festival's most hotly anticipated film — takes place Saturday. The film is Coppola's first in a decade, and the five-time Oscar-winning director is expected to attend the opening with members of his family and "Youth" co-stars Tim Roth and Bruno Ganz.

The festival concludes Oct. 27.