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At Telluride, it’s a laid-back ride

Deals non-existent as exex relax

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The frazzled masses at the Toronto Film Festival might look with envy upon the laid-back work ethic that characterized the 26th Telluride Film Festival.

Said one exec at the Colorado fest: “I wake up. Swear I’m not going to drink that evening. Lay around. Have lunch. See a movie. Look for a gift for my assistant. Go to dinner. Repeat.” And this was one of the more ambitious agendas.

The fest makes a point of keeping the Philistines at bay. Business is frowned upon, deals non-existent. Telluride might be the world’s only film festival where major studio execs are made to feel like second-class citizens.

“The difference between this and Sundance,” said Paramount Classic’s David Dinerstein, “is there’s less greed and your cell phone actually works.”

“It’s about the marketplace of ideas,” documentary filmmaker Ken Burns said. “There’s the whole world of film, not just the homogeneity of American movies.”

David Lynch, whose “The Straight Story” had its American preem, praised the fest for keeping “the other side of cinema alive — the artistic side.”

The chain-smoking Lynch had a rocky time the first couple of days adjusting to Telluride’s 9,000 feet-plus altitude and Saharan-style dry air.

“They said to drink plenty of liquids,” the helmer said. “So I forced myself to drink two bottles of wine. It seemed to help.”

Still there were happy campers. One local told James Toback that his “Black and White” was “a ferocious vision of life.” He liked that.

Peter Sellars made his first trip to Telluride as the guest artistic director. Aside from being awed by the majestic setting, he described the fest as “serious people doing serious work in an atmosphere that is pure pleasure.”

Among those serious people were Disney’s Peter Schneider, Geoff Ammer and Anne Sterling, Sony Classics’ Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, Bingham Ray, Screen Gems’ Valerie Van Galder, the Robert Simonds Co.’s Julia Dray, Palm Pictures’ Hooman Majd, Miramax’s Amy Israel, New Line’s Claire Rudnick Polstein with her husband, Handprint Entertainment’s Jay Polstein, Fred Berner Film’s Elaine Bryant, WMA’s Jeff Field, CAA’s Adam Krentzman, UTA’s Howard Cohen, Richard Farnsworth, Peter Riegert and Werner Herzog.

The biggest star at the fest was Catherine Deneuve, who could teach the Americans a thing or two about embracing the Philistine within.

The French legend combined her trip to America with being honored at Telluride and an appearance at the gala opening of the Paris Las Vegas hotel/casino.