Telluride lineup large on life stories

The unlikely quartet of Idi Amin, Diane Arbus, Truman Capote and John Lennon are in the spotlight at the Telluride Film Festival, opening today.

Biopics about them, as well as works from Todd Field, Pedro Almodovar and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, are among the titles unspooling over the Labor Day weekend at the 33rd annual festival.

As for the eclectic lineup, fest co-director Tom Luddy said the organizers’ aim was to “achieve a balanced mix between new films and retrospectives. Something for hard-core film buffs and people coming to see new films.”

Fest will honor thesp Penelope Cruz, Australian writer-director Rolf de Heer and Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch.

The fest’s Special Medallion will be presented to film historian David Thomson, whose book about Nicole Kidman — star of the Arbus biopic “Fur” playing here — is about to be published.

“Telluride is purely a festival for people who love movies,” Sony Classics co-topper Tom Bernard said. “I say that because what other festival is such a pain to get to, is sold out and you don’t know what’s playing until you get there?”

In town early to enjoy the sunny mountain weather was Ken Burns, who said there’d be a sneak showing of the first episode of his WWII docu series “The War,” scheduled to air on PBS a year from now. Published reports that “Waitress” and “After the Wedding” would be playing here proved incorrect.

Here are the films premiering at Telluride:

  • “Little Children,” Todd Field’s dark comedy starring Kate Winslet;

  • “Fur,” directed by Steven Shainberg, with Nicole Kidman starring as photog Diane Arbus;

  • “The U.S. vs. John Lennon,” John Scheinfeld’s documentary on the ex-Beatle, with a focus on his 1970s visa fight to stay in America;

  • “The Last King of Scotland,” Kevin Macdonald’s drama starring Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin;

  • “Venus,” Roger Michell’s comedy starring Peter O’Toole;

  • “Infamous,” Douglas McGrath’s dramatization of George Plimpton’s book on Truman Capote that stars Toby Jones as Capote. (Festgoers may experience a sense of déjà vu, as “Capote” preemed here last year.);

  • “Ghosts of Cite Soleil,” Asger Leth’s docu on gang warfare in Aristide’s Haiti;

  • “Passio,” Paolo Cherchi Usai’s experimental silent film;

  • “Murch,” a docu from Edie and David Ichioka on the film editor.

Making their North American debuts are:

  • “Volver,” Pedro Almodovar’s film that won Cannes’ screenplay and actress award for its femme ensemble cast, including Cruz;

  • “Ten Canoes,” de Heer’s pic shot entirely in an Australian aboriginal language;

  • “Babel,” from director Gonzalez Inarritu and starring Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt and Gael Garcia Bernal;

  • “Indigenes” (Days of Glory), Rachid Bouchareb’s story of Arab volunteer soldiers in WWII;

  • “East of Bucharest,” from director Corneliu Poremboiu;

  • “Jindabyne,” from director Ray Lawrence (“Lantana”) and starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne;

  • “Severance,” Christopher Smith’s dark comedy on survival and revenge;

  • “The Lives of Others,” Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s feature directing debut, about an East German secret police agent;

  • “Day Night Day Night,” Julia Loktev’s film on the last days of a woman suicide bomber in New York;

  • “The Italian,” director Andrei Kravchuk’s story of a 5-year-old Russian boy adopted by an Italian family;

  • “The Page Turner,” Denis Dercourt’s drama of psychological obsession;

  • “Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky,” Simon Curtis’ tale of unrequited love in 1930s London;

  • “Deep Water,” from directors Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell, about an extremely dysfunctional sailing trip;

  • “Civic Life,” directors Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy’s seven interconnected short films on British life.

    Other highlights include Peter Bogdanovich presenting a new version of his “Directed by John Ford” docu, including new interviews with Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Michael Korda will speak about his famous uncle after a screening of “The Golden Age of Alexander Korda.”

    Robert Osborne and Samuel Goldwyn Jr. speak after a presentation of William Wyler’s 1936 classic “Dodsworth.” Australian silent “The Sentimental Bloke” will unspool accompanied by a live perf of the country music score by Jen Anderson and the Larrikins. The Alloy Orchestra will accompany “Lonesome.”

    This year’s guest director is J.P. Gorin, who collaborated on films with fellow Frenchman Jean-Luc Godard and now teaches at UC San Diego. He attended the first fest in 1974. Gorin will present a restored version of Jacques Tati’s “Playtime”; Japanese documentary “The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On”; and a trio of films from director Jean Gremillon.

    The Telluride screening venue formerly called the Mini will formally be renamed Le Pierre in honor of French cinephile, publicist and sometime filmmaker Pierre Rissient, a Telluride regular who has been on the international fest circuit for more than 40 years.

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