Saturday, October 27, 2007

Waiting for the stars

Determined fans sitting in the Cavea at the Auditorium waiting for the stars to arrive on the red carpet at the Festa del Cinema di Roma. It was a bitterly cold evening when I took this shot but the light was amazing...

Waiting for the stars

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch at 'Into the Wild' Premiere at Rome Film Festival

Sean Penn
Originally uploaded by minimum_photo
Last night's première at the Rome Film Festival attended by Sean Penn and the star of Into the Wild, Emile Hirsch, was probably the event I'd been most looking forward to over the last few days. I'm a huge fan of Sean Penn as both an actor and director and loved his directorial debut The Pledge starring Jack Nicholson, so it was a real thrill to have got tickets. And what a film...With Into the Wild he's made a heartbreakingly beautiful film – an uncompromising masterpiece. Based on the true story recounted in the bestselling book of the same name written by mountaineer Jon Krakauer, the film tells the story of two extraordinary years in the life of passionate idealist Christopher McCandless (Hirsch), a middle class Emory University graduate, who in 1990 gave away all his possessions, his $24,000 life savings to Oxfam and began hitch-hiking across the US under the name of Alexander Supertramp, heading eventually to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

Emile Hirsch, who is on screen for virtually the entire film, conveys the charismatic power and passion of this unique young man and the effect he has on the people he meets on his travels, and is supported by a brilliant cast of better known actors – the always brilliant Christine Keener is particularly good, as are Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn and Hal Holbrook. The film as a whole avoids sentimentality and never flinches at also showing the terrible pain that McCandless' decision causes for his parents (played by Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt) and sister (Jena Malone). The film is also enhanced by a wonderful soundtrack by Eddie Vedder.

The Rome audience responded with a standing ovation and long applause for both the director and star who had remained in the theatre till the end of the film.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lions for Lambs Première at Rome Film Festival

Tom Cruise and Robert Redford, together with actors Andrew Garfield and Michael Peña were in Rome last night for the première of Lions for Lambs. Cruise arrived a good hour early to sign autographs for an ecstatic crowd of fans who had lined the red carpet. Inside the theatre the atmosphere was equally charged...this evening was clearly an event! On entering the Sala Santa Cecilia at the Auditorium the stars were met with rapturous applause, with Robert Redford in particular receiving a standing ovation and cheers.

Lions for Lambs, is an excellent, totally engrossing film which addresses head-on the foreign and domestic policy dilemmas facing the US today in a period of widespread anti-Americanism. Playing like a stage production, the action runs almost real time, touching on the moral responsibilities of politicians through an ambitious Republican Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) whom we see in conversation with Janine Roth (Meryl Streep), a TV journalist who is forced to admit to the uncomfortable responsibilities of the propagandist role of the press in recent years. This exchange is shown in contrast to the political apathy of the disaffected youth of America, through the dialogue between an idealistic university professor Dr. Malley (Robert Redford) and well-to-do but unmotivated student Todd (Andrew Garfield). The story that connects the two conversation pieces is that of Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Peña), two of Dr.Malley's students who are, at that very moment, fighting for their lives in Afghanistan. With all six leading actors, including newcomer Garfield, mesmerising, an excellent script and Redford's quiet direction, the film is a winner, and quite rightly received warm and prolonged applause as the credits rolled.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Extraordinary cast tackle extraordinary 'Rendition'

Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and director Gavin Hood, together with Hollywood heartthrob and Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal braved the sudden bitingly cold weather in Rome last night, to sign autographs along the red carpet outside the Auditorium as they arrived at the première of Rendition. Lucky enough to have tickets for the film I was more then happy to watch their arrival on the big screen inside the theatre and leave the shivering to the dedicated die-hard fans!
So to the film - Rendition is a post 9/11 political thriller which illustrates one fictional personal story (as opposed to allegedly thousands of real life stories) of an Egyptian chemical engineer (played by Omar Metwally), resident in The US for most of his life and married to Isabella (Witherspoon), who after a terrorist attack in an unnamed north African country in which a CIA agent is incidentally killed, finds himself under suspicion and is 'disappeared' to a secret detention centre outside the US under the dubious legislative powers the US Government euphemistically calls 'extraordinary rendition'. To say very much more about the plot would risk divulging spoilers galore, so I'll limit myself to saying that I very much enjoyed this intelligent and engaging movie. Gavin Hood directs a stunning cast; because of the various locations in the film some of the stars share very little, if any, screen time together and yet the whole effect is that of a closely knit ensemble piece with every actor's contribution, however small, fitting perfectly into the whole. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of scenes during the phone conversation between CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (Gyllenhaal) who leaves a casbah and steps out onto a balcony above a chaotic north African street scene to take a call from anti-terrorism boss Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep) in her pristine, white and perfectly ordered kitchen back in the US. Kelley Sane, as screen writer, has also produced a very tight and clever script - a message film, without being preachy, this is one to see.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cate Blanchett in Rome for the Premiere of 'Elizabeth:The Golden Age'

Oscar winners Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush, together with director Shekhar Kapur, were present at the première of Elizabeth: The Golden Age at the Rome Film Festival - Festa del Cinema - yesterday evening. I admit I have a weakness for over-the-top historical costume dramas so with the stellar cast list and the stunning cinematography of this film I was more than happy to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the show! Blanchett, continuing in the role she played so well in Kapur's previous Elizabeth biopic, which focused on the queen's early life, is brilliant and brings a curious mix of steely regal distance combined with real flesh and blood reality to the role – not to mention how stunning she looks, whether she is the vulnerable queen stripped, quite literally, of her gowns, make-up and wigs or in full battle armour astride a white horse rousing her troops. Meanwhile, she is supported admirably by a charismatic Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, Geoffrey Rush as Elizabeth's stalwart Sir Francis Walsingham and the surprisingly effective Samantha Morton as Mary Stewart. Spanish actor Jordi Mollà drips evil as the bad guy of the movie King Philip ll of Spain in a performance that is borderline grotesque and which has provoked cries of anti-Catholicism (there's a lively thread on IMDB dedicated to the subject), although at the press conference the director specified that the film seeks to underline the dangers of all religious extremism. The whole film is directed with panache, is perfectly paced and there are some amazing set pieces – the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the unusual detail of the struggling and panic-stricken horses on board the ships was particularly impressive. And as for historical inaccuracies? Well that's what Wikipedia is for, isn't is?! Enjoy Elizabeth: The Golden Age for what is is – a dazzling blend of historical facts, legends and myths about a fascinating woman and period.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The two faces of Rome

Cipro Metro Station, Rome, Italy

Cipro Metro Station, Rome, Italy
Browsing the Internet the other day I happened upon a Flickr gallery which in turn led me to a blog which was perfectly synchronized with my own personal grumblings about my adoptive city – Migliora Roma (Improve Rome). I thought I'd post a link here and invite readers to take a look at a site which documents brilliantly the many problems citizens face – pollution, traffic, petty crime and crumbling infrastructures. Yesterday, I took a two minute walk to my local Metro stop Cipro and took a few shots of my own. Cipro station is the official Metro stop for the Vatican Museums – we're not talking about a run down, outer Rome station – this is a relatively new station, inaugurated in 1999, which for some tourists will be the first thing they see on their first day in Rome as they emerge from the underground and head for the Vatican Museums.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni has just won the leadership race for the newly created Italian Democratic Party but claims he can continue to juggle the two jobs – an obvious invitation for critics to accuse him of leaving less than to be desired when he had just the one job!

Peeling Poster for Rome Film Festival
Meanwhile, the second edition of the Rome Film Festival - Festa del Cinema - will soon be upon us, accompanied by concerns about how much the whole deal is costing the city. Veltroni, to give him his due, has always been very good at pulling off big events and drawing celebrities for free concerts and the like. Rome is an easy draw, after all – what major star wouldn't want to play to a million people in front of the Coliseum? Moan as I may about the day to day running of Rome, however, I do find the lure of the Film Festival and the sight of Hollywood stars on a red carpet irresistible I'm afraid. I've managed to get tickets for a few film premières and will blog about them here over the next couple of weeks. Whether, Rome viewed as a whole is actually worthy of hosting a major film festival, is yet to be seen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

La Bocca della Verità - The Mouth of Truth!

Bocca della Verità

I've just updated my Living in Italy T-Shirt store - reduced the summer t-shirts in price and added some autumnal items like this new Mouth of Truth "distressed" inside-out look sweatshirt!

The Mouth of Truth is thought to be part of an ancient Roman fountain or perhaps a "manhole" cover, portraying a river god. From the Middle Ages onwards however, it was believed that if one told a lie with his hand in the mouth of the sculpture then it would be bitten off. It is now found in the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church in Rome. Do you remember the great scene in with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday?

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