ROME - The 8th Rome Film Festival kicked off Friday with a home crowd pleaser, Rome-set social comedy "The Fifth Wheel," by frequent Italo hitmaker Giovanni Veronesi, bowing positively, albeit in somewhat subdued mode, prior to plenty of upcoming high-profile Hollywood and international pics, and a panoply of stars expected in coming days.
Produced by Warner Bros. Italia and Fandango, "Wheel" toplines thesp Elio Germano in a potent perf as a Roman proletarian through whose eyes the past four decades of Italian life - including terrorism, corruption scandals, and Silvio Berlusconi's rise to political power - unfold. Germano won a Cannes best actor nod in 2010 for Daniele Luchetti's "Our Life." Warner Bros. is releasing "Wheel" in Italy on November 14.
Alessandra Mastronardi and the film's main cast (pictured), producer Domenico Procacci, Italo pop star Elisa, jury prexy James Gray, John Hurt, fest artistic topper Marco Mueller, and opening-night master of ceremonies, actress Sabrina Ferilli ("The Great Beauty"), were among those prancing down the Eternal City's Auditorium Parco della Musica red carpet on a balmy Roman autumn evening.
Earlier in the day Mueller praised "Wheel" at the opening presser as "marking the return of a great season of Italian comedy." The Italo box office has just been revitalised by another Italo laffer, the crass but very funny "Sole a Catinelle" ("Sun in Buckets"), starring TV comic Checco Zalone which has pulled in a whopping $31 million since its October 31 release via Medusa.
Among Mueller's other offerings on day-one was South Korean helmer Bong Joon-ho's hot sci-fi epic "Snowpiercer" with star John Hurt in tow. Hurt will hold the fest's first masterclass tomorrow. Jonathan Demme, Wes Anderson in tandem with Roman Coppola, and Spike Jonze, are among others booked for other upcoming masterclasses.
Top talent soon expected on Rome's red carpet includes Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers' Club," which unspools Saturday; and Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix, and Rooney Mara for Spike Jonze's "Her," which unspools Sunday.
After insisting on having all world preems for his hastily assembled debut edition last year Mueller this time has taken a different tack. He's turned more populist and cherry-picked some recently unveiled films, including Scott Cooper's "Out of The Furnace," which will screen in Rome Tuesday after bowing at AFI.
But Mueller also has plenty of world preems in his mix of newcomers and world class helmers which combines both auteur and genre fare.
His change in philosophy and format seems to be paying off with advance ticket sales already up twenty percent compared with last year, according to organizers.
The 8th edition of the Rome fest runs through November 17.