Cate slips into royal avatar again

Australian actress Cate Blanchett walks on the red carpet prior to the screening of the movie 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age' at the Rome Film Festival

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Published: Sun 21 Oct 2007, 11:03 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:47 PM

CATE BLANCHETT, in shining armour astride a white horse, surged onto the screen Friday at the Rome film festival for the European premiere of 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age'.

Shown out of competition at the second annual RomeFilmFest, the film directed by India's Shekhar Kapur reveals the queen at the height of her power when she faces down the Spanish Armada while also coming to terms with her own vulnerability as an unmarried, childless woman.

The historical drama offers a second chapter in the life of the 'Virgin Queen' after a first installment, also starring the Australian actress, in 1998. "There will be a third," Kapur told a news conference.

Kapur's first 'Elizabeth', the story of the ascension to the throne of Henry VIII's young daughter, won Blanchett an Oscar nomination.

"It would have been perverse to refuse to play in the sequel," she said Friday. "It's undeniable that Elizabeth I is an extraordinary woman in history."

And unlike Shakespeare's plays, "there's no prescribed text for the story of Elizabeth I, so it's open to interpretation," Blanchett said.

"On a prosaic level you've got a popular film of a holy war, and then you have a kernel within it of a modern dilemma, a woman facing the aging process and feeling isolated," she added.

The 52-year-old queen rejects a succession of blue-blooded suitors when the swashbuckling Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) comes along with inspiring tales of his voyages to the New World.

But Elizabeth must quickly and resolutely overcome her emotions to lead her country in battle against King Philip II of Spain.

Friday's screening won long applause, as did the actress and director at a news conference.

Also Friday, festival-goers saw the in-competition 'Hafez', an austere film by Iranian director Abolfazl Jalili and co-produced with a Japan's Bitters End.

It is Jalili's 14th film, none of which has so far been shown in his country. "I shot and made this film without getting Iranian permission but with the help of the Japanese," Jalili told a news conference.

Billed as an Iranian version of 'Romeo and Juliet', it is based on the story of the 14th-century Persian mystic and poet Hafez, set - but not filmed - in rural modern-day Iran.

A young Koranic scholar becomes the tutor of the grand mufti's daughter, falling in love with her purely on the strength of her voice, since she must stay hidden behind a wall.

The story of impossible love weaves together the themes of orthodox religion, mysticism and secular freedoms while at the same time pitting a man against himself in a grueling quest for self-improvement involving severe privations.

"When I was little I lived in a religious family and had to learn early to live with denial because they stopped me from doing everything. At 15 I wanted to become a journalist but I knew that I could never do it freely. So I chose filmmaking because ... I need to dream."

The festival runs until October 27.

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