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Lean's restored 'Madness' ends Venice festival

The Venice Film Festival was due to close last night with a tribute to the beauty of the Italian city in a restored print of the director David Lean's favourite of all his own films.

Summer Madness will also serve as a tribute from the British film industry to its star, Katharine Hepburn, who died this summer. The 1955 movie had been in danger of being lost for ever as its colour was fading quickly.

Later Lean epics, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, were made for big American studios which have taken care of the conservation of their classics. But Summer Madness was one of the last independent films the director made and the most important in need of restoration.

The work has been carried out by experts at the British Film Institute at a cost approaching £60,000 with support from the American Academy Foundation and the David Lean Foundation.

Kevin Brownlow, David Lean's biographer, said: "Colour film has a horrible habit of fading and this was in Eastmancolor, which wasn't a permanent colour.

"But Lean was such a visual artist it is important to get it as close as possible to what it originally looked like. What is strange about Summer Madness is that it was his favourite film. It's a curious choice for someone who made Lawrence of Arabia.

It stars Hepburn as a lonely woman on holiday in Venice who is propelled into an intense relationship with a suave antiques dealer, played by Rossano Brazzi.

Anthony Minghella, the BFI's chairman, had been due to present the film at tonight's closing gala, but was forced to pull out.

Amanda Nevill, its director, will present the new print in Venice instead and British cinema-goers will get the chance to view the restoration at the London Film Festival next month.

The Venice festival closed last night with several films in contention for top honours. Critics have loved The Return by the Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev and a new film, Zatoichi, by the cult Japanese director Takeshi Kitano.

But there were strong rumours that festival organisers will be under pressure to select a homegrown winner, which may mean success for Biongiorno, Notte, directed by Marco Bellocchio.

Last year The Magdalene Sisters, by the Scottish actor/director Peter Mullan, won the Golden Lion, the festival's top prize.