London's Leicester Square was getting a dose of Hollywood glamour Wednesday with the opening of the 49th annual London Film Festival. Stars Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz and master spy writer John Le Carre were due to walk the red carpet before the opening-night screening of "The Constant Gardener," Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' adaptation of Le Carre's novel of international diplomacy and betrayal.
The festival closes Nov. 3 with George Clooney's McCarthy-era drama "Good Night, And Good Luck." In between, it will screen 180 feature films and 130 shorts from some 50 countries.
Among this year's highlights are Steven Soderbergh's low-budget murder mystery "Bubble," Michael Haneke's French thriller "Cache," Romanian director Cristi Puiu's wry "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," Atom Egoyan's sensuous "Where the Truth Lies" and Michael Winterbottom's postmodernist 18th-century romp "A Cock and Bull Story."
London star-spotters can watch out for visiting celebs Kirsten Dunst and Susan Sarandon from "Elizabethtown," "Proof" star Gwyneth Paltrow and "Shopgirl'"s Claire Danes, as well as a host of British and European actors and directors.
Many of the big films have won awards at festivals in Cannes, Venice or Toronto; several have already had commercial runs in North America. Festival director Sandra Hebron said the London event's main aim was to show the best of the past year's world cinema to a British audience.
"There's a healthy industry aspect, but it's all about the public," Hebron said.
Hebron said many films confronted, in wildly differing ways, the uneasy, uncertain political mood around the world, reports the AP. I.L.