BUSAN • Martin Scorsese's new film premiered at the Busan film festival last Saturday after being pulled from the programme in Venice last month amid criticism of its commercial nature.
The 16-minute The Audition, starring Robert De Niro, screened in a cinema tucked at the back of a shopping mall.
The idea for it was conceived by Australian playboy billionaire James Packer and his business partner Lawrence Ho to promote Studio City, the US$3.2-billion (S$4.5 billion) Hollywood-inspired casino their Melco Crown Entertainment is building in Macau, and another similar project titled City Of Dreams being built in Manila.
With lingering shots of the attractions that will be on offer at the properties when they open, the film does not shy away from openly commercial references.
But the cast plays up to the conceit, playing obviously exaggerated versions of themselves, including Scorsese, with the director leading the premise that he has them all vying for the one role in some imagined new production.
Asian Cinema 100: Top 5
1. Tokyo Story (Ozu Yasujiro, 1953)
2. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950 )
3. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
4. The Apu Trilogy (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
5. A City Of Sadness (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1989)
Elizabeth Kerr, The Hollywood Reporter's reviewer in Busan, summed the experience up by saying the film was "keenly self- aware".
Performances by De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt ensured a full house at the 10am screening of the festival's Short Film Showcase programme.
There had been an air of mystery surrounding the project ever since it was announced last year, due to its rumoured subject matter and the origins of the project.
United States media estimated the film cost US$70 million to produce, with each actor paid around US$13 million to appear, but this was denied by Melco Crown.
The Busan festival programmer Pak Dosin said the film was chosen on its merits and that he "liked it very much".
Tongues first started wagging about the nature of the film after a trailer - showing De Niro and DiCaprio arriving at a casino, scripts in hand and apparently ready to audition for the same role in a Scorsese production - appeared on YouTube in January but was soon pulled from the site.