"Easy Virtue" tops favorites at Rome film festival

Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:51pm EDT
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ROME (Reuters) - "Easy Virtue," a bubbly comedy based on Noel Coward's play about English high society in the 1920s, has emerged as a hot favorite to win the best film award at the Rome festival, which winds up on Friday.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera called the film, a British production directed by Australian Stephan Elliott, "a little gem" and gave it 3-1/2 stars out of four -- its highest marks for a movie screening in the main 20-title competition.

La Repubblica newspaper also tipped the film as a winner for its witty dialogues, praising actress Jessica Biel's performance as a glamorous and free-spirited American woman storming into the lives on an old-fashioned English aristocratic family.

France's "With a Little Help from Myself," about a family of African immigrants in the suburbs of Paris, was another favorite, while "Galantuomini," about a female mafia boss, was the most applauded of the six Italian films in the contest.

The race for the best film award ended on a light note with "With A Warm Heart" by Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi, a grotesque comedy which screened on Wednesday as the last competition film of the festival.

It tells the story of a rich oligarch in search of a donor for a heart transplant who sets his sights on a jobless young man bent on committing suicide.

The unscrupulous businessman, a symbol of eastern Europe's new wealthy, is played by Bohdan Stupka, one of Ukraine's most famous stage actors and a former culture minister.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi, editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>Actors (L-R) Ben Barnes, Jessica Biel and Colin Firth arrive for the premiere of "Easy Virtue" in Leicester Square, London, October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>