Wild and wet in Locarno

First shots fired from 2 Guns at Swiss festival

by Richard Mowe

Don't rain on our parade: the Piazza Grande crowd before the heavens opened at the opening ceremony in 2013
Don't rain on our parade: the Piazza Grande crowd before the heavens opened at the opening ceremony in 2013
The rain in Locarno falls mainly on the Piazza Grande. At least it did for the Locarno Film Festival’s mid-week opening of the Stateside number one hit by Baltasar Kormákur 2 Guns, a wild buddy exercise set in New Mexico about undercover bank robbers and featuring Mark Whalberg and Denzel Washington.

The drenched crowd’s spirits at the open-air screening seemed undimmed by the downpour, as thunder roared further up the valley of the lakeside resort and lightning gave added excitement to the roller coaster antics on screen. Some of the audience decamped to take up the option of an alternative venue under cover in one of the giant temporary arenas in a college sports facility – always a Locarno fallback position in case of inclement weather – but most hardy souls braved it out.

Before the screening, the Festival bestowed one of its Moet et Chandon Excellence Awards on the legendary British actor Christopher Lee, whose august thespian tones added a note of sobriety to the proceedings – and the spectators simply loved his impeccable Italian. Lee is listed in the Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats as being the international star with the most screen credits.

Lee accompanies a restored version with new missing footage of the cult classic The Wicker Man, which he described as “the best film I have made.” He added: “Obviously the most successful films that I have been in are Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars. That goes without saying, and that will continue to be the case but The Wicker Man has a special place in my affections.”

Generally regarded as one of the best-ever UK horror films, The Wicker Man very nearly sank into obscurity shortly after being made. Balking at subplots involving paedophilia, sexual perversion and the occult, the film’s original distributor EMI refused to release it, and the negative was then nearly bought and destroyed by Rod Stewart in an attempt to preserve his then wife Britt Ekland’s modesty – she appears nude in the film. The action took place off the west coast of Scotland and it was filmed at Plockton, Skye, Ayrshire, and Dumfries and Galloway.

New festival director Carlo Chatrian believes 2 Guns fits perfectly his strategy for the Festival – a big independent film that has a studio feel and crowd-pleasing qualities. Festival president Marco Solari said its philosophy was “freedom” and also, notably, “growth”.

Besides Lee, guests attending the 66th edition include: Faye Dunaway, Anna Karina, Sergio Castellitto, Victoria Abril, Jacqueline Bisset (for the focus on George Cukor), Brie Larson, Virginie Ledoyen, Jasmine Trinca, Isabel Ruth, Nicole Garcia, Reda Kateb, Valérie Donzelli, Moritz Bleibtreu, Danny Pudi, Silvio Orlando, Giuseppe Battiston, Carla Juri, Viv Albertine, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, filmmakers Werner Herzog, Otar Iosseliani, Lav Diaz, Yorgos Lanthimos, Hartmut Bitomsky, Sam Garbarski, Sebastián Lelio, Sandra Nettelbeck, Hong Sangsoo, Corneliu Porumboiu, Albert Serra, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Emmanuel Mouret, Pedro Costa, producers Margaret Ménégoz and Juan de Dios Larraín, special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull, writer Charlotte Roche and musician Peaches.

More than 250 films will be shown between now and August 17 from more than 40 different countries showing across ten venues. The three official competition sections offer viewers an opportunity to take the pulse of contemporary world cinema while other sections are dedicated to the history of cinema and those who have left their stamp on it.

2 Guns is released in the UK on August 16.

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