"Easy Virtue" tops favorites at Rome film fest

ROME Wed Oct 29, 2008 2:52pm GMT

Director Stephan Elliot (R) takes a photo as he poses with actor Ben Barnes (L) and actress Jessica Biel during the photo call for their movie ''Easy Virtue'' at the Rome Film Festival, October 27, 2008. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Director Stephan Elliot (R) takes a photo as he poses with actor Ben Barnes (L) and actress Jessica Biel during the photo call for their movie ''Easy Virtue'' at the Rome Film Festival, October 27, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

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ROME (Reuters Life!) - "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)

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