49th annual London Film Festival opens with stylish thriller "The Constant Gardener"

London's Leicester Square got a dose of Hollywood glamor Wednesday with the opening of the 49th annual London Film Festival.

Star Rachel Weisz and master spy writer John Le Carre walked the red carpet before the opening-night screening of "The Constant Gardener," Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' adaptation of Le Carre's novel of international diplomacy and betrayal. Weisz's co-star, Ralph Fiennes, was held up by a delayed flight.

Weisz, wearing a green Roland Mouret cocktail dress, called Meirelles _ whose last film was the kinetic street-gang drama "City of God" _ "a tremendous filmmaker and a very original storyteller."

Le Carre said he loved "The Constant Gardener" "because it's not the film of the book, it's the film of the film." The London festival closes Nov. 3 with George Clooney's McCarthy-era drama "Good Night, And Good Luck." In between, it will screen 180 feature films and 130 shorts from some 50 countries.

Among this year's highlights are Steven Soderbergh's low-budget murder mystery "Bubble," Michael Haneke's French thriller "Cache," Romanian director Cristi Puiu's wry "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," Atom Egoyan's sensuous "Where the Truth Lies" and Michael Winterbottom's postmodernist 18th-century romp "A Cock and Bull Story."

London star-spotters can watch out for visiting celebs Kirsten Dunst and Susan Sarandon from "Elizabethtown," "Proof" star Gwyneth Paltrow and "Shopgirl'"s Claire Danes, as well as a host of British and European actors and directors.

Many of the big films have won awards at festivals in Cannes, Venice or Toronto; several have already had commercial runs in North America. Festival director Sandra Hebron said the London event's main aim was to show the best of the past year's world cinema to a British audience. Hebron said many films confronted _ in wildly differing ways _ the uneasy, uncertain political mood around the world, AP reports.


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