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From Minnelli to Matsumoto


One of the most famous musicals in cinematic history was airing on Locarno’s Piazza Grande on Friday.

An American in Paris is arguably the most popular of American director Vincente Minnelli’s 34 films. First released in 1951 with a George Gershwin score, the film was showing in a double bill with the international premiere of Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Saya Zamurai (Scabbard Samurai).

The festival is showing all of Minnelli’s works as part of a retrospective on the Oscar-winning director but this is the first to feature on Locarno’s big screen. It was the idea of festival director Olivier Père to push the “masters of cinema” angle again this year with a classical retrospective. Although talk of the Minnelli look-back has been positive, audience figures so far have been slightly below last year’s acclaimed retrospective on early Hollywood heavyweight Ernst Lubitsch.

Japanese director Matsumoto has not only brought his third feature film to Locarno, but a film crew is also tagging along behind. His promotional tour is being recorded for a documentary on his life by NHK television. Ahead of the premiere, he admitted to “I am a very bad filmmaker because I have seen very few films in my life.”

All he wanted was to make an original film, he said. His story of an ageing samurai who must make a sad prince smile - or face death – is surely unique.

Jessica Dacey in Locarno,

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