Like a nervous twitch suddenly appearing on the face of an Italian supermodel, Woody Allen has joined the glamour and glitz at the 60th Venice film festival.
The characteristically anxious US film director and actor arrived on Wednesday in time for the gala opening featuring the world premiere of his latest comedy Anything Else.
The film, starring Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci, was applauded by critics at a screening earlier on Wednesday as Allen flew in by private jet.
Though he is a regular visitor to Venice, this is the first time the celebrated - and controversial - Allen has visited the festival itself.
As well as writing and directing, Allen also plays the role of a world weary and paranoid mentor to Biggs, the young star of American Pie, who falls in love with the beautiful but flighty Amanda, played by former child-star Ricci.
Ricci, Biggs and Allen were among the early arrivals as the famous Venice Lido, where Johnny Depp and Anthony Hopkins were later scheduled to add to the glamour of the world's oldest film festival.
Anything Else is full of Allen's philosophical musings about life, love and the universe, such as: "Do you think Quantum Physics is the answer? It says time and space are the same thing, so does that mean that if I ask a guy the time he'll tell me 'It's six miles'?"
Biggs plays Falk, a struggling comedy writer who rightly suspects his actress girlfriend of two-timing him, but whose angst is only increased by Allen's well-honed paranoia.
Woody Allen (R) his wife Soon Ji
and their children jet into Italy
"What you don't know won't hurt you, it'll kill you," says Allen to the perplexed Falk in one scene.
Anything Else is vintage Allen, a post-Iraq update of the films in which he co-starred with Diane Keaton in the 1970s and 1980s, and in many respects Biggs and Ricci's sexual incompatibility mirror that of his and Keaton's characters in the old films.
The humour is somewhat darkened by the post-Iraq war mood of foreboding in the Big Apple.
He plays a New York Jewish comedy writer, paranoid to the point of buying a combat rifle for his young friend and equipping him with a survival kit, while advising him to ditch Amanda, the girlfriend from hell.
"Are you expecting Nazis and a blackout?" asks an incredulous Falk when presented with the survival paraphenalia, which includes a torch that floats.
"You don't want to end up in black and white newsreel footage scored by a cello in a minor key," Allen tells him.
The cast also includes veterans Danny DeVito and Stockard Channing, and features a cameo from jazz singer-songwriter Diana Krall.
The 20 film entries for the main Golden Lion competition are:
- Buongiorno, notte by Marco Bellocchio
- Segreti di Stato by Paolo Benvenuti
- Le cerf-volant by Randa Chahal Sabbag
- Raja by Jacques Doillon
- Twentynine Palms by Bruno Dumont
- Alila by Amos Gitai
- 21 Grams by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu
- Imagining Argentina by Christopher Hampton
- Baram-Nan Gajok (A Good Lawyer's Wife) by IM Sangsoo
- Sjaj u Ocima (Loving Glances) by Srdjan Karanovic
- Zatoichi by Takeshi Kitano
- Pornografia by Jan Jakob Kolski
- Floating Landscape by Carol Lai Miu Suet
- Les Sentiments by Noemie Lvovsky
- Um filme falado (A Talking Picture) by Manuel de Oliveira
- Rosenstrasse by Margarethe von Trotta
- Ru San (Goodbye Dragon Inn) by Tsai Ming-Liang
- Il Miracolo by Edoardo Winspeare
- Code 46 by Michael Winterbottom
- Vosvrascenie (The Return) by Andrey Zvyagintsev <