The beautiful town of Locarno, on the shore of Lake Maggiore in the southernmost canton of Switzerland, offers a perfect place for the fusion of nature and art. Every August the city hosts the Locarno International Film Festival, the fourth largest film festival in Europe. Once again the town is festooned with yellow and black banners: the colors of the festival's emblem, the leopard.
The festival has been around since 1946, making it one of the oldest. It may not be as glamorous as the Big Three – Cannes, Venice and Berlin – but it more than makes up for this through the quality of films chosen by artistic director Charlo Chatrian and his team, and the vast selection available to the public. This year, around 300 films were screened in a dozen venues around this small town. Nineteen films screened in the main competition. Locarno has always been a platform for young filmmakers, and this year was no exception.
The lifetime achievement awards, Pardo d’Onore (The Leopard Award), were given to Marco Bellocchio and Michael Cimino: one Italian, the other Italian- American. Bellocchio took Locarno by storm in 1965 with his debut Fists in the Pocket, still a milestone in the festival's history. As for Cimino, there are two milestones to his claim. First, The Deer Hunter (1978) won five Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. His second claim to fame is his follow-up, Heaven's Gate (1980), widely considered one of the biggest box office disasters of all time, contributing to the near-collapse of its studio, United Artists.
There was also a retrospective for Sam Peckinpah. It was great fun seeing these movies of another era with deserts and guns, outlaws and fistfights. Who can forget the great director's The Wild Bunch (1969)? One wonders when and why Hollywood westerns, the cowboy movies, of our childhood became unfashionable. (Bhaichand Patel)
Film Festival Locarno: www.pardo.ch