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Telluride: Audience Laughs and Cries During ‘The Two Popes’ World Premiere

Little did the audience at the world premiere of “The Two Popes” know that the papal two-hander is actually very funny.

No, it’s not a comedy, but the jokes and ribbing between Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the future pope, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), played well in the packed Chuck Jones’ Cinema, as did hearing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” played over footage of the College of Cardinals making its way into the Vatican for the Papal election.

In other words, director Fernando Meirelles’ film, inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign and subsequent transfer of power to the more progressive Cardinal Bergoglio, is not a straight drama. Although the film did earn the audience’s admiration, and some sniffles toward its end.

A quick survey of audience members, including Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, described Hopkins and Pryce’s work as a “masterclass” in acting, but will Hopkins and Pryce make it to the Oscars?

Netflix certainly hopes so, especially as the season shapes up to be a tight race between high-profile performances from actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Adam Driver in Netflix’s “Marriage Story,” Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the still-to-be-seen “The Irishman” (also Netflix) and Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker,” which received an eight-minute standing ovation on Saturday night at the Venice Film Festival.

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Heaven knows why “The Two Popes” didn’t premiere at Venice. If anything seemed tailor-made for the Italian fest it was a movie about the supreme pontiff. But comedy aside, Meirelles said during the intro of the film that he was interested in Pope Francis because of his progressiveness and social activism.

“I’m feeling that there’s something out of place in the world,” he said, before praising Pope Francis for “building bridges” during a time when certain leaders (he didn’t name names) are more interested in dividing people with “physical walls, economic walls and technical walls.”

Written by Oscar-nominated “Darkest Hour” screenwriter Anthony McCarten, Meirelles said, “This film is about tolerance and learning to listen to one another.”

Pryce acknowledged that “The Two Popes” was a “unique films these days…two old men talking about politics and morality.”

He added, “This film needs to be seen.”

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