Phila. Film Fest opens Oct. 20

Choices include Sundance and Cannes films, local premieres, docs about two local boxers.

Like Crazy, a "captivating" romance between an American and his English girlfriend who runs afoul of immigration authorities, will open the 20th annual Philadelphia Film Festival on Oct. 20, J. Andrew Greenblatt, PFF executive director, announced Saturday.

The 15-day, 120-movie cinextravaganza closes with The Descendants, Alexander Payne's sharp dramedy starring George Clooney as a father who reconnects with his estranged children. (Although the festival officially ends Nov. 3, its closing night gala is Oct. 29.)

Other highlights of the festival that will feature films acclaimed at the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals are two movies about movies: My Week With Marilyn and The Artist.

Marilyn stars Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in a comedic look at her teaming with Laurence Olivier to make The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957. The Artist, a luminous black-and-white silent that took actor honors at Cannes, is a romance set in Hollywood during the late 1920s.

Other local premieres include A Dangerous Method, Shame, and Melancholia. Method is David Cronenberg's exploration of how the heated friendship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) gives birth to psychoanalysis. Also starring Fassbender, Shame is Steve McQueen's provocative study of a sex addict. In Melancholia, Lars von Trier offers a portrait of the heated relationship between two sisters (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) that parallels the collision between Earth and another planet.

PFF will premiere two documentaries about locally connected boxers: The Real Rocky and Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears. The former profiles Chuck Wepner, whose story inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the story about a certain Philadelphia pug surnamed Balboa. The latter is about heavyweight champ Smokin' Joe, who, like Wepner, went toe-to-toe with Muhammad Ali.

Both Frazier and Wepner will be at the festival screenings of their films. But the biggest star expected is Elmo, star of Sesame Street, playrooms across America, and the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey. Kevin Clash, the puppeteer/subject of the film, will be on hand to demonstrate that it's Elmo's world; we just live in it.

Among the other celebs coming are Jonathan Demme, who will accompany I'm Caroline Parker, a chronicle of a resident of New Orleans' Ninth Ward who rebuilds her life and her home after Hurricane Katrina. Likewise, filmmaker Peter Berg, who will host a screening of his film Friday Night Lights.

Balletomanes will delight in Pina, Wim Wenders' widely hailed 3D concert movie featuring German choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch.

Ticket information is available at 267-239-2941 or the PFF website, www.filmadelphia.org.

 


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@ phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at www.philly.com/flickgrrl/