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Telluride Film Festival Reveals Lineup

THE NEXT BIG THING: Mads Mikkelsen
Telluride will pay tribute to "The Hunt" actor Mads Mikkelsen.

Films about international conflict are front and center, while Roger Corman, Marion Cotillard and Mads Mikkelsen will receive tributes.

Don’t be lulled into complacency by its bucolic mountain setting because when the 39th Telluride Film Festival gets underway Friday, movies that reflect an unsettled world will take center stage.

"Without question, it became clear to us as we put together the program that a number of films deal with terrorist issues and international conflict,” says Gary Meyer, who serves as one of the festival’s directors along with Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger. “You can’t help it. It’s something of concern to all of us. You can’t fly out of an airport without thinking about it, and it’s a theme at this year’s festival."

A suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, for example, figures in Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack, and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is examined by six former directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security organization, in Dror Moreh’s documentary The Gatekeepers. A 1969 terrorist bombing of a bank in Milan is the jumping-off point for the Italian drama Piazza Fontana, directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, best known for his 2003 epic The Best of Youth. The tumultuous birth of modern India is the subject of Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children, which Salman Rushdie adapted for the screen from his 1980 novel. And in Joshua Oppenheimer’s nonfiction film The Act of Killing -- Meyer promises it’s “a total mindblower" -- Indonesian death squads re-enact their violent crimes as if the acts themselves were movies.

To try to make sense of it all, festival regular Annette Insdorf will lead a Sunday panel on the broader subject of political strife called "Injustice, Reconciliation and Cinema."

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Not that the festival won’t have its quieter, more introspective moments. The annual Labor Day weekend gathering -- which, following tradition, is only now revealing its lineup -- also will feature Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning Amour, in which an aging couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) face impending death with stoic dignity.

That film, which Sony Pictures Classics has picked up for U.S. release, is just one of a number of titles that the awards handicappers will be checking out. Focus Features is bringing Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson, in which Bill Murray plays President Franklin D. Roosevelt welcoming the visiting King George VI of England (Samuel West). Meyer says it should play as an intriguing companion piece to 2011 best picture Oscar winner The King’s Speech, which drew rousing applause at Telluride two years ago, since one critical scene shows the polio-stricken Roosevelt bonding with the stuttering King George over their respective disabilities.

Festival-goers also will get first looks at such movies as Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, in which Elle Fanning is said to deliver a stunning performance as a teenager with artistic ambitions; Liz Garbus’ doc Love, Marilyn, in which an array of actresses read passages from Marilyn Monroe’s diaries; Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, in which Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay, plays an aspiring dancer trying to find her way in New York; Ken Burns’ new doc The Central Park Five; and Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday, in which Shirley Henderson plays the mother of four young children whose husband is serving a stretch in prison.

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A couple of films that first attracted attention at the Cannes Film Festival in May will be featured among Telluride’s tributes. Marion Cotillard will be celebrated, and her latest film -- Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone, in which she plays a woman who must contend with the loss of her legs -- will screen. Mads Mikkelsen, who was named best actor this year at Cannes for his performance as a man accused of child molestation in Thomas Vinterberg The Hunt, also will get the tribute treatment, with The Hunt and Nikolaj Arcel’s A Royal Affair scheduled to unspool.

Producer Roger Corman also will be honored with a tribute and one of the festival’s Silver Medallions as he makes his first visit to Telluride. "We’ve always wanted to do it, and this is the right time," says Meyer. The festival will screen Alex Stapleton’s documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, and The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy will lead one of two onstage interviews with Corman.

A number of films will head directly to Telluride from their world premieres at the concurrent Venice Film Festival: Xavier Giannoli’s comedy Superstar, which looks at what happens when a man suddenly becomes famous; Ariel Vroman’s The Iceman, a dramatic feature in which Michael Shannon plays the real-life Mafia assassin Richard Kuklinski; Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price, in which Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron play a father and son brought together to defend their family farm; Stories We Tell, a documentary in which actress-director Sarah Polley explores her family’s secrets; and Wadjda, the first feature from Haifaa Al Mansour, a female director overcoming the odds in her native Saudi Arabia to tell the story of a young girl who wants a bike.

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There are several more Telluride titles that first got exposure in Cannes, including Ulrich Seidl’s controversial Paradise: Love, about a middle-aged woman on a sex holiday in Kenya; Pablo Larrain’s No, about the 1988 Chilean elections, starring Gael Garcia Bernal; and Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires, about an Australian Aboriginal girl group in the 1960s, which the director has reworked a bit since it premiered in on the Croisette.

On the retrospective front, there are such forays into the past as The Marvelous Life of Joan of Arc, Marco de Gastyne’s 1929 feature about the French heroine, and a program devoted to the overlooked silent comedian Raymond Griffith. Critic and author Geoff Dyer, who is serving as guest director, is spotlighting an eclectic group of films including Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, which Dyer explored in his recent book Zona, and the 1968 Clint Eastwood starrer Where Eagles Dare, directed by Brian Hutton.

Of course, the festival also reserves spots for some unannounced surprises, which its organizers refuse to divulge ahead of time. While some have been hoping to catch Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, that film -- which has been sneaking around the country -- doesn’t appear to be on tap. But Ben Affleck’s CIA tale Argo looks like a good bet.

This year’s festival will be dedicated to the late indie film exec Bingham Ray and Australian producer-director Jan Sharp.

Ray was, of course, a longtime friend of the festival. "Even on years when he couldn’t come," remembers Meyer, "He’d call us from some little festival he was at to suggest a movie he had just seen. Every year, he’d give us several titles like that. He was always very positive and supportive."