Allen makes Venice debut

— Woody Allen has a past in Venice: The 67-year-old filmmaker got married here, he's filmed in the canal city and he's won awards here. But never before has he turned up at the world's longest-running film fest -- until now.

"They've invited me many times, and I've always made some excuse and never come," Allen told a packed news conference. "Last year, I went to the Cannes Film Festival because the French people have been so supportive and I felt that I had to make some gesture. I felt the same about the Italian people."

The film he offered Venice on Wednesday -- "Anything Else" -- tells the story of a young comedy writer (Jason Biggs of "American Pie") who falls for a manipulative seductress (Christina Ricci) and then struggles with the consequences. Allen plays another comic who becomes Biggs' mentor, offering fatherly and sometimes paranoiac advice.

"Anything Else" was the main draw here on the first day of the 11-day festival. However, Allen's film is not in competition for the Golden Lion award.

Top contenders for that prize include "21 Grams," by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who gained fame with "Amores Perros" in 2000; as well as Christopher Hampton's "Imagining Argentina," with Antonio Banderas; and "Zatoichi," by Takeshi Kitano.


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