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Festival Life, by Alexandra Gill
Viva Italia! La Sophia dazzles them all

By DIERDRE KELLY, The Globe and Mail
September 13, 2002

Fashion and film have long been cozy bedfellows -- think of the powerful influence of movies like On the Waterfront, which spawned a craze for the black leather jacket that maddens us still. So last night's opening of Viva Italia at Holt Renfrew in Toronto was the love affair writ large.

The 40-day celebration of the greatest of Italian style -- food, fashion and the performing arts -- coincides with the Toronto International Film Festival and last night's splashy black-tie event attracted a sultan's purse worth of screen stars who pulled up to the Bloor Street flagship store in long, white stretch limos that had the plebes on the street screaming and waving as if royalty was arriving.

The Queen of Cinema, Sophia Loren, was the guest of honour.

Ms. Loren walked down the red carpet on the arm of her whippet-lean son, Edoardo Ponti. She stars in bambino's latest film, Between Strangers, which has its gala screening tonight at Roy Thomson Hall.

The star wore floor-length sparkling black Armani. The gown showed off her famous décolletage to very good measure. People applauded it as she moved up the escalator leading to the festivities on the second floor where Ms. Loren, as honorary patron of Viva Italia, gave a cheque for $100,000 to Villa Charities, a charitable institution for Italian Canadians.

If anyone wanted to imagine how the other parts of the stunning 65-year-old Italian actress have aged (or rather have not), he or she need only look at the gigantic black and white stills of La Sophia from her sexy heyday, hanging from the rafters of the store. In her curvy dress, Ms. Loren looked as nubile as she did more than 30 years ago.

Ms. Loren is as much an icon of film as she is of fashion, and many at the party last night were aficionados of both.

Co-star Mira Sorvino, wearing a black sheath-like gown with rhinestone straps by Italian cult label Iceberg, declared the relationship between film and fashion symbiotic. "Really great films influence trends in fashion and film itself is influenced by what is going on the runways so as to seem up-to-the-moment," she said.

"Directors look at fashion to see what will be hot and happening seven or eight months down the road when the film comes out. So, it's an interesting gamble, and one that often pays off."

Canadian Wendy Crewson, who plays Ms. Loren's daughter in the film, confided that film and fashion met for her after co-star Deborah Kara Unger received a trunk load of gowns by Italian fashion house Moschino to select for her film festival round of interviews today.

Don't tell anyone, but the blond bombshell (she sizzled up the screen in David Cronenberg's Crash) isn't partial to Moschino so she told Ms. Crewson to help herself. She did and the dress she'll be wearing to the gala tonight will be, you guessed it, Made in Italy.

"That's what film and fashion is really about," winked Ms. Crewson.

"Girlfriends borrowing each other's clothes."

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