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Oscar Contenders Flock to Telluride Film Festival

Mixing high-profile star power with offbeat titles, the 41st Telluride Film Festival is offering an impressive glimpse at an array of awards contenders over Labor Day weekend.

The four-day fest, which starts Friday with a tribute to Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” includes the first showings of Reese Witherspoon’s “Wild,” Benedict Cumberbatch’s “The Imitation Game,” Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater” and Mia Wasikowska’s “Madame Bovary” — the 10th film adaptation of the French novel.

The Venice Film Festival opener “Birdman,” which has vaulted Michael Keaton into awards contention, will also screen at Telluride. Ramin Bahrani’s housing crisis drama “99 Homes” is screening at both festivals as is Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary “The Look of Silence.”

Several Cannes titles are coming to Telluride: Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy,” the Dardenne Brothers’ workplace drama “Two Days, One Night,” Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” and Tommy Lee Jones’ frontier drama “The Homesman,” starring Hilary Swank. “The Homesman” will screen as part of a tribute to Swank.

“‘The Homesman’ is the perfect picture for Telluride because of the milieu,” noted festival executive director Julie Huntsinger. “Her body of work is so solid. You don’t have to be old to have us do a tribute — we’ve done Penelope Cruz, Colin Firth and George Clooney and you can say they’re great, too.”

The festival also attracted some controversy last year when the the chiefs of the Toronto and Venice festivals complained about the Telluride lineup taking away their thunder for world premieres elsewhere.

Toronto’s artistic director Cameron Bailey issued the edict after last year’s festival, insisting that Toronto premiere titles during the first four days cannot be shown first at Telluride. For its part, Telluride avoids use of the word “premiere” but showed several films last year — “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity” and “Prisoners” — that were subsequently shown at TIFF as North American premieres.

Huntsinger responded at the time by saying Telluride would continue to pursue the top tier of titles, adding, “We don’t believe in limiting a film’s exposure.”

She gave a similar response this week: “Our next comment is this year’s program. Toronto is allowed to have any criteria they want to.”

So “Wild,” a clear awards season candidate, screens at Toronto on Sept. 8 — the fifth day of that fest. “The Imitation Game” and “Rosewater” are also appearing during the latter stages of TIFF.

Other titles appearing at both Telluride and Toronto: Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan,” Robert Kenner’s “Merchants of Doubt,” Gabe Polsky’s “Red Army,” Ethan Hawke’s “Seymour,” Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” and Regis Wargnier’s “The Gate,” based on the Khmer Rouge’s capture of a French ethnologist.

Telluride has served as the launching pad for “Argo,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Descendants,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Juno,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote” and “The Last King of Scotland.”

Unlike the Venice and Toronto fests, however, Telluride continues to opt for a straightforward presentation without red carpets or awards competitions, and the organizers do not tout any titles as a “premiere.” But stars and filmmakers do make the trek to Telluride to take part in screenings and Q&A’s.

Other titles announced include Nick Broomfield’s doc “Tales of the Grim Reaper”; Yann Demange’s drama “’71,” set in Belfast in 1971; Orson Welles’ unfinished 1938 film “Too Much Johnson”; 1926 German silent “Children of No Importance”; Eran Riklis’ “Dancing Arabs”; Regis Wargnier’s “The Gate,” based on the Khmer Rouge’s capture of a French ethnologist; and Xavier Beauvois’ comedy “The Price of Fame.”

Notable documentaries include Juliano Roberto Salgado’s doc “The Salt of the Earth”; David Tedeschi’s “The 50-Year Argument,” centered on the New York Review of Books; and Vanessa Lapa’s “The Decent One” on Hitler’s second-in-command Heinrich Himmler.

“The Apocalypse Now” tribute will include two discussions with Coppola, producer Fred Roos, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and sound editor Walter Murch — one moderated by Variety’s Scott Foundas and the other by director James Grey. Eleanor Coppola’s “Hearts of Darkness” doc will also screen.

Huntsinger said the idea was to create an “immersive” experience about the 1979 movie. The fest will provide copies of a recent Rolling Stone column by Grey about “Apocalypse Now.”

She also admitted that the overall lineup has a strong political bent.

“There’s a seriousness this year with a large amount of politics and oppressed people needing to talk about their conditions,” Huntsinger added. “I think we’re a little more quiet and thoughtful this year such as ‘The 50-Year Argument.’ To me, it’s amazing to think that we’re having Robert Silvers here.”

German filmmaker Volker Schlondorff will receive a tribute along with screenings of his films “Diplomacy” and three-hour filmed discussion with Billy Wilder titled “Billy, How did You Do It?”

The Special Medallion program will honor film restorers Cineteca di Bologna and Gian Luca Farinelli. The program includes  screenings of Mario Monicelli’s “Joyful Noise,” Carroll Ballard’s film essay “Seems Like Only Yetserday” and Scholdorff’s “Baal.”

Guest directors Kim Morgan and Guy Maddin are presenting half a dozen titles — Joseph Losey’s remake of “M,” Frank Borzage’s “A Man’s Castle,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Il Grido,” Robert Altman’s “California Split,” Howard Hawks’ “The Road to Glory” and Russell Rouse’s “Wicked Woman.”

The 25 films in the main program:

·       THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT (d. Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi, U.K.-U.S., 2014)

·       ’71 (d. Yann Demange, U.K., 2014)

·       99 HOMES (d. Ramin Bahrani, U.S., 2014)

·       BIRDMAN (d. Alejandro González Iñárritu, U.S., 2014)

·       DANCING ARABS (d. Eran Riklis, Israel-Germany-France, 2014)

·       THE DECENT ONE (d. Vanessa Lapa, Australia-Israel-Germany, 2014)

·       DIPLOMACY (d. Volker Schlöndorff, France-Germany, 2014)

·       FOXCATCHER (d. Bennett Miller, U.S., 2014)

·       THE GATE (d. Régis Wargnier, France-Belgium-Cambodia, 2014)

·       THE HOMESMAN (d. Tommy Lee Jones, U.S., 2014)

·       THE IMITATION GAME (d. Morten Tyldum, U.K.-U.S., 2014)

·       LEVIATHAN (d. Andrey Zvgagintsev, Russia, 2014)

·       THE LOOK OF SILENCE (d. Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark-Indonesia-Norway- Finalnd-U.S., 2014)

·       MADAME BOVARY (d. Sophie Barthes, U.K.-Belgium, 2014)

·       MERCHANTS OF DOUBT (d. Robert Kenner, U.S., 2014)

·       MOMMY (d. Xavier Dolan, Canada, 2014)

·       MR. TURNER (d. Mike Leigh, U.K., 2014)

·       THE PRICE OF FAME (d. Xavier Beauvois, France, 2014)

·       RED ARMY (d. Gabe Polsky, U.S.-Russia, 2014)

·       ROSEWATER (d. Jon Stewart, U.S., 2014)

·       THE SALT OF THE EARTH (d. Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Brazil-Italy-France, 2014)

·       TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER (d. Nick Broomfield, U.K.-U.S, 2014)

·       TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (d. Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium-Italy-France, 2014)

·       WILD (d. Jean-Marc Valleé, U.S., 2014)

·       WILD TALES (d. Damián Szifrón, Argentina-Spain, 2014)


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