`Frida,' story of artist Frida Kahlo starring Salma Hayek, to open Venice Film Festival

Tuesday, July 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) _ ``Frida,'' the long-awaited biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo starring Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas, will open the 59th Venice Film Festival, organizers announced Tuesday.

Another attention-grabbing entrant at the Aug. 29-Sept. 8 festival will be Steven Soderbergh's ``Full Frontal,'' with an ensemble cast including Julia Roberts and David Duchovny.

The festival consists of two competitions: Venezia 59, in which 21 films expected to have wide appeal will battle for a Golden Lion; and Countercurrent, with 17 movies considered less mainstream vying for best film.

In addition to ``Frida,'' another key film in the Venezia 59 competition is ``Road to Perdition,'' starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. The movie, by ``American Beauty'' director Sam Mendes, already has opened to acclaim in the United States.

In the Countercurrent section, Soderbergh's ``Full Frontal'' was drawing buzz. The film, which opens Friday in the United States, is considered an unofficial sequel to ``sex, lies, and videotape,'' the low-budget 1989 movie that launched the career of the director of ``Traffic'' and ``Erin Brockovich.''

A curio at the festival will be ``Between Strangers,'' a feature-film debut directed by Edoardo Ponti, the 29-year-old son of actress Sophia Loren and producer Carlo Ponti. The film, which is not in contention for an award, stars Loren and Mira Sorvino.

Julie Taymor's biography of Kahlo, which is expected to open in the United States in late October, comes with the artist's popularity on the rise. Kahlo, who was married to artist Diego Rivera and died in 1954, is known for haunting self-portraits with surrealistic touches.

Festival director Moritz de Hadeln said that among the top stars expected to attend were Hayek, Hanks and Loren as well as Julianne Moore, who will accompany her film ``The Hours,'' which co-stars Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep and was directed by Stephen Daldry.

De Hadeln, who was hired earlier this year after having run the Berlin Film Festival for two decades, said he had been expected to ``realize the impossible'' by getting the festival in shape with so little time.

``I was chosen four months and one week ago. In four months I had to make miracles,'' he said, adding that he and assistants had waded through hundreds of films to choose the participants announced Tuesday. ``In the end we had to choose, which means some sadness.''

Chinese actress Gong Li will lead the Venice Film Festival jury. In 1992, she won the best actress award in Venice in director Zhang Yimou's ``The Story of Qiu Ju,'' which took the Golden Lion for best film that year.

The festival will also present an honorary Golden Lion to Italian director Dino Risi for his career's work. The 85-year-old is best known for films such as ``Poor But Beautiful'' (1957) and ``The Easy Life'' (1962).