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Culture was the buzzword in Rome Saturday night as Gucci and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation hosted the world premiere for a digitally restored version of the Italian classic film “La Dolce Vita” at the 5th International Rome Film Festival.

Italian movie-industry workers protesting government cuts to the sector didn’t stop Scorsese, Gucci creative director Frida Giannini and chief executive officer Patrizio di Marco, Eva Mendes, James Franco and the evening’s surprise attendee, Anita Ekberg, from honoring the 50th anniversary of Federico Fellini’s masterpiece at the city’s Auditorium Parco della Musica.

This story first appeared in the November 2, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“‘La Dolce Vita’ changed everything, it broke the rules,” said Scorsese as he introduced the remastered version, created from the original camera negative by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata, at a press conference held earlier in the day. The filmmaker presented unseen footage unearthed during the film’s restoration, funded by Gucci, and stressed the importance of preserving culture. “We have an obligation to our children to at least let them know it’s here,” he said, referring to the cinema classic.

Ekberg received a standing ovation on the red carpet from the hordes of paparazzi. “I didn’t think anyone would know I was here,” said the emotional actress. When quizzed about her memories of shooting the classic, she said, “Enough! For 50 years I’ve been asked to remember. I don’t want to remember anymore.”

Despite her protests, she admitted filming her iconic Trevi Fountain scene with co-star Marcello Mastroianni — shot in January — was a chilly affair. “The water in the fountain arrives from the mountains and Marcello was afraid to get in,” she said, before revealing the Italian actor sported waterproof trousers under his suit to brave the cold. When they finally completed the scene, “I couldn’t feel my legs anymore.”

The festival’s cultural emphasis was bolstered by the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, bestowing Giannini with the Lupa Capitolina (the Wolf of the Capital) award in honor of her creative contributions to the Eternal City. An emotional Giannini, who hails from Rome, accepted the prize, waving to her proud parents in the audience.

Gucci threw a post-screening party at the Hotel Cavalieri’s rooftop terrace. Breathtaking vistas of the city were the backdrop as Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci mingled with Charlotte Casiraghi, Ekberg, Mendes and Franco, while Scorsese held court amid a sea of Italian starlets — including Vittoria Belvedere, Bianca Brandolini d’Adda, Isabella Ferrari, Ginevra Elkann, Giulia Bevilacqua and Valeria Solarino — actors Luca Argentero and Guillaume Canet, and ‘il Divo’ director Paolo Sorrentino.

“It’s perfetto here,” said Mendes, in town to promote her latest film, “Last Night,” which also stars Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington. “I obviously support culture, but we were blindsided,” said the actress, in a one-off ruby strapless Gucci gown, about having to sidestep the festival’s opening night red carpet on Thursday because of protesters. “We had no idea what was going on; we turned up and there were about 800 people on the carpet,” she said. It was the second film festival of the week for Gucci’s creative director, having flown directly from the London premiere of James Franco’s latest film, “127 Hours,” directed by Danny Boyle. “I’ll leave that to Tom,” she said when asked if she’d consider making a film herself.

“We’ll definitely continue the project,” said di Marco about Gucci’s partnership with Scorsese’s nonprofit organization. “We’re already discussing ideas for the next film restoration with Marty.”

Despite the celebrations in the historical capital, party talk turned to the future. “Marty came here from shooting a 3-D film in London,” said di Marco, referring to “Hugo Cabret,” the director’s first foray into 3-D, “and Gucci launched glasses with 3-D lenses this week.”

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