- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

A pattern seems to be emerging with the opening selections for the spring film festivals. Woody Allen plans to introduce "Hollywood Ending," his new comedy about the contemporary movie business, next month at the Cannes Festival in France. Peter Bogdanovich will be in Washington Wednesday to open the 16th annual Filmfest DC with "The Cat's Meow," his adaptation of a play about a fateful movie-colony yacht voyage to Santa Catalina Island in 1924.

The 12-day Filmfest DC begins at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium in the Foggy Bottom area of Northwest.

Mr. Bogdanovich's movie scheduled for commercial openings April 26 or May 3 tells the story of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, portrayed by Edward Herrmann, and his vivacious mistress, actress Marion Davies, played by Kirsten Dunst. One of their guests, the film producer William Ince (Cary Elwes), ended up with a mortal head injury and died within days of the party's return to port.

Speculative scandal has shadowed the episode through the decades. Playwright Steven Peros supplied the interpretation Mr. Bogdanovich depicts. In this scenario, Ince hoped to insinuate himself with Hearst, already steaming from rumors of a love affair between Davies and Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), an amorously reckless guest. Between the business and sexual intrigue, one thing leads to another. Jennifer Tilly and Joanna Lumley are cast as two other celebrated guests: respectively, Hearst's Hollywood correspondent Louella Parsons and the English novelist and social pundit Elinor Glyn.

Although Mr. Bogdanovich first became a fixture in the movie world during the 1960s as the author of Museum of Modern Art monographs about noted directors John Ford, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles he has not resurrected legendary Hollywood names on the screen before. This also is his first movie for the big screen rather than television in nine years.

A champagne-and-dessert reception will be held after the opening, in a tent that will be installed across the street. Lisner is at 730 21st St. NW.

The local festival will feature approximately 100 film programs. Asian movies are being singled out as a focus of attention, but countries from around the globe are amply represented. Festival organizers also are reviving free programs for children and seniors and the discussion sessions with participating filmmakers and performers called Director's Roundtable and CineCafes.

The French Embassy will be the host for the local premiere of Marion Vernoux's "A Hell of a Day," which observes the struggles of a half-dozen Parisian residents. One of the hottest tickets is likely to be the French-Austrian import "The Piano Teacher," directed by Michael Haneke, with Isabelle Huppert as a Viennese instructor in classical music whose private life is on the kinky side.

Pal Sletaune, the director of the witty Norwegian movie "Junk Mail," released in 1998, returns with a new comedy, "You Really Got Me," about the tribulations of a harried restaurant owner.

An admirable new Iranian film, "Baran," scheduled to open May 3 after a prolonged postponement, will get a Filmfest preview. A haunting fable about young people who meet under very inhibiting circumstances at a building site in Tehran, the movie was directed by Majid Majidi, who was responsible for "The Children of Heaven" and "The Color of Paradise."

Mr. Majidi's new movie has closer affinities to Italian filmmaking in the decade after World War II than any other recent example. Coincidentally, Martin Scorsese has assembled a massive personal tribute to the Italian directors Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica and Luchino Visconti that will be shown during Filmfest DC.

The highly idiosyncratic appreciation, "My Voyage to Italy," runs more than four hours and incorporates lengthy excerpts from several movies of the 1940s and 1950s. The excerpts are so lengthy in certain cases that providing the full-length versions in a nearby venue might make more sense. Nevertheless, it's gratifying to share Mr. Scorsese's fond impressions of such classics as "Paisan," "The Bicycle Thief," "Gold of Naples" and "Umberto D." His study may be an eye-opener for those unfamiliar with an important period of movie history.

The most playable art-house attractions to emerge from last year's Filmfest were "With a Friend Like Harry" and "Startup.com." If the selections run true to form, a handful of discoveries await festival audiences this year.

Major sponsors for Filmfest DC include the city's Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Mayor's Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Westlake Consulting Group and other municipal agencies. Visiting celebrities and dignitaries probably can be found at the Radisson Barcelo Hotel.

WHAT: Filmfest DC

WHERE: Several participating theaters and institutions, including George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, the National Geographic Society, the National Gallery of Art, the American Film Institute and Loews Cineplex Theaters

WHEN: Wednesday through April 28

TICKETS: $8.50 for most programs. Selected programs free for children or seniors. Opening-night premiere and reception $40. Tickets can be booked through Tickets.com or by calling 703/218-6500.

PHONE: 202/628-FILM. The festival Web site is www.filmfestdc.org.

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