Brian De Palma's James Ellroy adaptation TheBlack Dahlia yesterday received a mixed but largely enthusiastic receptionas it opened the 63rd Venice Festival yesterday. Maverick crime novelist Ellroy himself - who attended the opening press conferencealongside stars Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett,Aaron Eckhart, Mia Kirchner and director De Palma -was clearly delighted by the movie.

"Twice in my 27-year novelwriting career, I have been lucky with film adaptations (of my work) first withLA Confidential and second with Black Dahlia," Ellroytold the press.

De Palma had speciallyrequested that The Black Dahliashould be in competition (unlike other opening films at many festivals.)

The competition jury isheaded by French acting legend Catherine Deneuve. Herfirst experience of Venice was in the mid-1960s with Luis Bunuel'sGolden Lion winner, Belle De Jour. Deneuve said yesterday that she was "extremelysurprised" to hear about venerable Portuguese auteur ManoelDe Oliveira's sequel to Belle De Jour, BelleToujours (screening in Venice out of competition)but acknowledged that she is "very curious" about the new film, whichshe will attempt to see, jury duties permitting.

There was little early newsof deals being struck although it was confirmed that Warner Bros will behandling the UK release of Douglas McGrath's Truman Capote film Infamous (which opens Venice's Horizons section today.) A UK deal is also pending on Emilio Estevez's Bobby, about the Robert Kennedyassassination.