“I’m off to see my man!” were the words passionately exclaimed by Chaz Ebert at the close of this year’s bittersweet film festival. Although Roger Ebert himself could not attend, Chaz and an adoring audience full of Ebert lovers gave the Pulitzer-Prize winning critic a hearty round of applause.

After the applause for Ebert died down, the curtains were drawn and Romance & Cigarettes, the festival’s final film and lone musical, took the stage.

Romance & Cigarettes, directed by John Turturro, boasts an amazing cast, with James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, Amy Sedaris and Mandy Moore all acting and singing their way through a story about a man who cheats on his wife, ultimately learning his lesson about love the hard way.

The audience was very reactive to the film, shouting and clapping with joy on numerous occasions.

Family was the word of the day at the Virginia Theatre. As Chaz hurried off to visit Roger in Chicago, the audience was left with a very personal movie loosely based on John Turturro’s family.

At the discussion after the film, Turturro’s cousin Aida (who played Rosebud in the film) and choreographer Tricia Brouk spoke of the personal, from-the-heart nature of Romance & Cigarettes.

“John is a great guy with a big heart,” Turturro said.”When the opening number [of Romance & Cigarettes] came on and everyone was clapping, I was like, “I can’t wait to tell John!””

The film had a very rocky release after Sony bought out United Artists, the company that was backing the film.

“[Sony] didn’t appreciate the film. They gave it no love, no backing. They just wanted to bring it to video, and this is a movie that should be seen on the big screen,” Turturro said, talking of the film’s unconventional nature and the major behemoth studio’s hesitancy towards giving something different a wide release.

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