August 31, 2005

Venice rolls out red carpet with martial-arts epic

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - The Venice Film Festival was set
to open on Wednesday with Hong Kong martial-arts spectacular
"Seven Swords," underlining the prominence given Asian cinema
at this year's event.

The line-up at the world's oldest cinema competition was
slimmed down to just 56 films after organizers came under fire
for overloading the 2004 edition of the festival.

But directors say they have stayed faithful to the
festival's tradition of variety, with offerings that include a
retrospective to commemorate 100 years of Chinese cinema and a
tribute to Venice's legendary lover, Casanova.

Some of Hollywood's biggest stars are expected to grace the
Lido's red carpet, including Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger.
George Clooney's black-and-white McCarthy-era film "Goodnight
and Good Luck" will lead the line-up of major pictures vying
for the Golden Lion with its Thursday premiere.

But the honor of stepping out first on to the pine-fringed,
beachside walkway will be granted to the standard bearer of
Hong Kong action movies, Tsui Hark, with his out-of-competition
adventure extravaganza.

"Seven Swords," part of a revival of the "wuxia" or martial
chivalry genre, is an intense, action-packed tale of morality
and heroism Chinese-style, full of brutal sword-fights,
elaborate acrobatics and improbable weaponry.


"Wuxia culture is like another dimension that provides us
with strong emotion, strong passion," Tsui told a news
conference, surrounded by a cast that includes heartthrob and
action movie star Donnie Yen.

"I have always been a fan of Wuxia movies. They give us a
refreshed view of what we had before, of the values and of the
way we looked at life," he said.

Based on a popular novel by Liang Yu-Shen, the film tells
the story of seven unlikely heroes battling to save a village
from a mercenary general in the early 17th century.

More bloodthirsty than Ang Lee's successful "Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Seven Swords" uses sweeping shots of
bleak north western China and galloping music to keep pulses
racing over two and a half hours.

"It was tough for everyone, but I was the only woman. They
were all a lot taller than me," said actress and singer Charlie
Young, who plays the only female "sword."

Tsui, describing his movie as an homage to Akira Kurosawa's
1954 classic "Seven Samurai," said the picture was the first in
a series of up to six epics.

"Seven Swords" kicks off a series of Asian offerings this
year, including Korean director Park Chan-wook's "Sympathy for
Lady Vengeance" and Stanley Kwan's "Everlasting Regret,"
starring pop diva Sammi Cheng. Out of competition, Peter Ho-sun
Chan will present "Perhaps Love."

European films featured at the 62nd edition of the festival
include the latest film from 96-year-old Portuguese director
Manoel de Oliveira and movies starring France's Juliette
Binoche and Russia's Nikita Mikhalkov.

Italy's own filmmakers have three films in competition,
vying for the country's first top prize on home soil since