Turin Ticket Sales Keep Bucking Trends, While Italian Media Applauds Fest's Lineup

Leos Carax - P 2012
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Dustin Hoffman, Leos Carax, and Pablo Larraín add to the fest's star power, but Ken Loach's absence is still creating a buzz.

ROME – The 30th edition of the Turin Film Festival was in its home stretch Thursday with upbeat ticket sales -- uncharacteristic in a weak Italian cinema sector -- and positive feedback in the Italian press for the films screening.

Meanwhile, the scandal involving the decision by director Ken Loach to turn down the festival’s career honor for him again moved to center stage after a former colleague criticized the festival in Biblical terms. But the festival appeared to have plenty of star power even without Loach, as Dustin Hoffman, Pablo Larraín, and Leos Carax are among those who have so far graced the festival’s red carpet under wet conditions.

Film Review: 'Holy Motors'

And the festival also announced that the fifth edition of the TorinoFilmLab’s AdaptLab -- an initiative for books adapted into screenplays -- closed with the selection of eight Italian novels that will now be adapted into scripts over the course of three intensive workshops.

Unlike rival festivals in Venice and, since this year, Rome, Turin does not focus predominantly on world premieres. Most of the festival’s out-of-competition selections have screened elsewhere before making their European or Italian premiere in Turin. But the critical reception in the Italian for much of the lineup, especially Carax’s acclaimed sci-fi drama Holy Motors and The Lords of Salem, a thriller from Rob Zombie has been strong.

The Italian press also proffered kudos to Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet, the festival’s opening film; Mario Balsamo’s Italian-language documentary Noi non siamo come James Bond (We Are Not Like James Bond); Larraín's No, which is Chile’s candidate for the Best Foreign Language Oscar; and Ben Lewin’s The Sessions, in  which female lead Helen Hunt was praised for her role as a sex therapist working with a man on an iron lung who dreams of losing his virginity.

Turin’s strong ticket sales are increasingly an outlier in a beleaguered national cinema market in which ticket sales are on pace to drop by at least 10% for the second consecutive year. Venice, in September, and Rome, earlier in November, both festivals with budgets far bigger than Turin’s, registered drops in ticket sales this year compared to in 2011.

Loach’s pullout, made in protest of alleged workers’ conditions at the festival’s parent organization, the National Film Museum, created a negative buzz that overshadowed the festival’s Nov. 23 opening ceremony. Loach’s decision was largely applauded internationally, but severely criticized in Turin, where outgoing Turin artistic director Gianni Amelio accused Loach of being a “megalomaniac” and the city government has reportedly started the process of suing Loach for damages.

On Thursday, the topic was back in the headlines again after Paul Laverty -- a screenwriter on Loach’s The Angels’ Share, the Cannes jury prize winner that was pulled from the Turin lineup after Loach’s withdrawal, as well as 2000’s Cannes Palme d’Or-nominated Bread and Roses, which address labor issues like the one that attracted Loach’s ire in Turin -- stood up for his collaborator in the Italian media, saying that those criticizing Loach in Turin suffered from what he called a “Pontius Pilate syndrome” of prosecuting noble intentions.

The festival concludes Saturday.