Gere plays Judge Dread at Moscow film festival

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The Independent Online
WITH Richard Gere in the starring role, it would have made a zany comedy, maybe one good enough to win the grand prize at the Moscow International Film Festival. But the actor's adventures in Russia were all too real. Still, you had to laugh, writes Maryann Bird.

Gere, who had already attracted attention by being arrested on an out- of-town fishing trip, smooching with a mystery lady and allegedly shirking some of his duties as festival jury chairman, announced on Friday that none of the 22 screened films was good enough for the top award of $50,000 (pounds 31,250).

Une Femme Francaise came the closest, garnering the best actor and best actress prizes for Gabriel Barylli and Emmanuelle Beart, and a shared best director honour for Regis Warnier.

Hints that Gere was having some trouble emerged earlier in the week, after the press criticised him for leaving town twice and for walking out of at least one film, by a Yugoslav director.

"It's very hard on the mind and eyes to watch six hours of film a day," he protested. As for the Yugoslav work: "Just because it's from a country at war doesn't make it a good film."

The Moscow festival bears the coveted Category A classification, held by the prestigious Berlin, Cannes and Venice events. Even before the projectors rolled, however, critics were complaining about the selections, saying some did not meet the category's standards.

Another curious thing happened last weekend, when Gere visited the countryside. "I was arrested for illegally taking caviare from the river,'' he said, ''but I'm not allowed to talk about that."

Then there was the kiss. "Masha, come here!" Gere called out during the opening of the festival. A slim figure in baggy trousers and deck shoes appeared on stage. He bestowed a major smacker on her, then told the audience: "This is Masha Valentinova. We met in 1988."

"Who is this Masha?" demanded Komsomolskaya Pravda. "And how did they meet in 1988? And why did Gere shout heart-rendingly to her - and then kiss her on the lips? This is the biggest intrigue of the festival."

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