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Telluride fest peaks interest

Eclectic event to fete Turner, Brook, Zanussi

TELLURIDE, Colo. — One indication of the wry intelligence behind the Telluride Film Festival is that “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson was chosen to do the poster for the fest’s 30th anni.

That’s Telluride: on the far side of the film industry and quite happy to be there.

This year’s eclectic mix includes Stephen Sondheim as guest director (he joins directors Bill Pence and Tom Luddy); Ted Turner, who will be honored for his work in film preservation; Peter Brook, to be feted for his “contributions to modern performance”; director Krzysztof Zanussi (for his body of work); and actress Toni Collette, for whom the fest is mounting a career spotlight.

One entry that singularly illustrates Telluride’s quirky nature is “Destino,” the legendary six-minute work of surrealist animation that was storyboarded by Walt Disney and Salvador Dali in 1946. It was completed last year at Disney Studio France. Mouse House vice chairman Roy Disney will be on hand for the unspooling.

Luddy said Sondheim was chosen as guest director because “he grew up loving films, though he’s not an especially big fan of film musicals. I was struck by the story he told me about the only party he ever crashed was at the New York Film Festival and it was because he wanted to meet Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi.”

Luddy said the initial idea for honoring Turner came from Paul Morrissey.

“He put the idea in my head,” Luddy said. “He said the greatest thing going is Turner Classic Movies.”

There is also said to be a sneak screening planned for “My Life Without Me,” produced by Pedro Almodovar and his brother Agustin; pic is directed by Isabel Coixet.

Arriving the day before the fest started was Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Michael Barker, who said that this year, “There’s a film from virtually every indie distributor. Usually three or four dominate. There are more players this year.”

Also on hand early was “Frida” producer Jay Polstein, who described the fest as “film school for people who won’t admit they need it.”

These are among the pics unspooling:

  • “Dogville,” Danish director Lars von Trier’s film starring Nicole Kidman as a woman on the run during the Depression.

  • “Shattered Glass,” a biopic based on the life of Stephen Glass, the journalist who submitted fictional news stories, starring Hayden Christensen.

  • “Barbarian Invasions,” director Denys Arcand’s sequel to “Decline of the American Empire.”

  • “Elephant,” director Gus Van Sant’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner. The helmer will be attending the fest.

  • “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.

  • “Lost in Translation,” directed by Sofia Coppola and also starring Johansson along with Bill Murray. (Coppola attended the first Telluride fest in 1974 as a 3-year-old with her father Francis Ford Coppola. This is her first time back.)

  • “Touching the Void,” a docu from Oscar winner Kevin McDonald centering on the ordeal of a pair of British mountain climbers descending from a peak in the Andes.

  • “Fog of War,” Errol Morris’ docu on former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. (A high point of the fest should be the post-screening discussion between McNamara and the New Yorker’s Mark Danner.)

  • “Intermission,” from John Crowley and starring Colin Farrell.

  • “Japanese Story,” from director Sue Brooks, screening as part of the look at star Collette’s career.

(“Dogville,” “Glass,” “Barbarian,” “Elephant,” “Pearl,” “Translation” “Void,” “Fog” “Intermission” and “Japanese” are also scheduled for the Toronto film fest.)

  • “Brook by Brook,” a biographical documentary by Peter Brook’s son Simon Brook.

  • “Reconstruction,” Christoffer Boe’s prize-winning first film.

  • Animated film “The Triplets of Belleville,” which was also at Cannes.

  • “This Little Elf.”

  • “Ukak,” from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

  • “Noi Albini.”

  • “Struggle.”

  • “Osama.”

  • “The Best of Youth.”

  • “I’m Not Scared,” from Oscar-winning helmer Gabriel Salvatores.

  • “Alexandra’s Project,” from Australian director Rolf de Heer.

  • “Love Me if You Dare.”

One festival tradition is the presentation of silent film classics accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. This year those films will be Buster Keaton’s “The General” and Charles Vanel’s “Dans la nuit.”

Oscar-winning screenwriter Budd Schulberg will be on hand to present the docu “Budd Schulberg: A Contender.” “Godfather of the DVD” Warren Lieberfarb is scheduled to host panel “What is the future of movies in the digital age?”

As guest director, Sondheim has put together a retrospective on French director Julien Duvivier and a tribute to Zanussi. He will also present George Stevens’ classic “The More the Merrier.”

As part of the “Conversations” series, Sondheim with be interviewed by New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell; Gus Van Sant will be interviewed by Paul Schrader.

Fest is dedicated to the late experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage.