The 2011 edition of the biggest film festival in Switzerland was definitely a mixed bag of varying pleasures. For the first three days, its most prominent guest was not warmly welcome: rain. Our socks still remember it. But it didn't dissuade the evening audiences on the Piazza Grande, the greenest (no car allowed) and greatest drive-in in Europe with 8,000 spectators. Run for the second year by Olivier Père, the Festival del Film Locarno saw the return of Hollywood on the Piazza, with open-air screenings of Super 8 by J.J. Abrams, Cowboys and Aliens by Jon Favreau, and Friends with Benefits by Will Gluck.
A number of more 'cinephile' events echoed back to Père's previous life as a programmer at the Cinemathèque Française: tributes to the Gérard Depardieu-Maurice Pialat partnership, to Harrison Ford, Leslie Caron, Claudia Cardinale and Isabelle Huppert, and an extensive Vincente Minnelli retrospective (which prompted many festival attendees to whisper the mantra "there's always a good film to see in Locarno... and it's a Minelli!") On the industry side, following on from last year's inaugural event, a film market was organised.
The heart of the Locarno festival remains its International Competition, welcoming newcomers and established names, and displaying a large spectrum of contemporary auteur cinema: we noticed various artistic forms such as American "indie" (Another Earth by Mike Cahill and Terri by Azazel Jacobs), documentary (Special Flight [Vol spécial] by Fernand Melgar), animated documentary (Crulic — The Path to Beyond [Crulic — drumul spre dincolo] by Anca Damian) and 'epic' (Saudade by Katsuya Tomita, running 167 minutes).
There was also a strong French presence with such different films as Low Life by Nicolas Klotz and Elisabeth Perceval, Last Screening (Dernière séance) by Laurent Achard, Smuggler's Songs (Les chants de Mandrin) by Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche and Goodbye, First Love by Mia Hansen-Løve. The FIPRESCI prize went to Back to Stay (Abrir puertas y ventanas) by Milagros Mumenthaler. This Swiss/Argentinian co-production also won the Pardo d'Oro or Golden Leopard Award for Best Film in the International Competition, while from its cast Maria Canale took the Silver Leopard for Best Actress. (Léo Soesanto)
Locarno International Film Festival: www.pardo.ch