As the film cognoscenti head to the Rockies for the Telluride Film Festival, the annual event on Thursday unveiled the lineup for its 43rd edition, which includes such high-profile world premieres as Clint Eastwood’s Sully, his portrait of “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger starring Tom Hanks; Ben Younger’sBleed for This, starring Miles Teller as boxer Vinny Pazienza; and French director Francois Ozon’s drama Frantz.
Damien Chazelle’s modern-day musical La La Land, headlined by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and Denis Villeneuve’s alien-encounter film Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, also will light down, direct from their Venice premieres.
There’s one movie that won’t be shown, though: Sydney Pollack’s Amazing Grace, built around footage of Aretha Franklin performing at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in 1972. The movie was slated to be shown at last year’s fest, but Franklin won an injunction that blocked the screening. While her lawsuit was subsequently dismissed, and the festival optimistically included the title in this year’s program, Franklin has not yet signed contracts for the footage, and the screening is once again off. The fest issued a statement Thursday morning, saying, “At this time, Telluride Film Festival will not be screening Amazing Grace in its 2016 program. The Festival respects the decision of the court and the rights and wishes of all parties involved. The Festival will continue to reserve a space for the title in its program guide should the legal situation change and should the parties all agree that the film may be screened.”
This year, tributes are planned for Adams, who stars as a linguist in Arrival; Casey Affleck, who will be accompanied by Kenneth Lonergan’s Sundance breakout Manchester by the Sea; and Chilean director Pablo Larrain, who will screen Neruda, his portrait of poet Pablo Neruda, which was first seen at the Cannes Film Festival.
While the festival directors don’t program the elite four-day event, which runs from Friday-Monday, around specific themes, themes inevitably emerge, and this year is no different, says Julie Huntsinger, who oversees the fest alongside Tom Luddy: “There’s an abundance of American acting. We started realizing it’s the year of the American actor. It’s incredible how many of them are the competing at the top of the game.”
Affleck, she says, “deserves every bit of acclaim he’s going to get” for Manchester by the Sea; Gosling delivers “another great performance" in La La Land; and in the case of Hanks, she adds, “It just might be the performance of a lifetime in Sully.”
Aaron Eckhart appears in both Sully and Bleed for This. Also in the lineup are the Richard Gere-starring Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, directed by Joseph Cedar, and Bryan Cranston starrer Wakefield, the story of a middle-age businessman who finds himself spying on his own life, directed by screenwriter Robin Swicord, which Huntsinger cites as one of the fest’s real discoveries.
Telluride also will celebrate one of its own when it presents Moonlight, the account of a black man at three stages of his young life, since it was written and directed by Barry Jenkins, who has a long history with Telluride. In the past he’s worked on the student symposium, curated short films and assisted in Q&As.
“We have no blind allegiance to anyone. There are very good friends of ours whose films we have not invited in a particular year,” says Huntsinger. “But when we saw this film we couldn’t have been prouder and more intrigued. It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and Barry’s our very own guy. It hasn’t happened before, so it’s a really, really cool thing.”
Guest director Volker Schlondorff will be on hand with a group of films he’s personally selected:I Was Nineteen and It Was the Month of May, two films about the Soviet invasion of Germany in World War II; Louis Malle’s The Fire Within; Jean-Pierre Melville’s Les Enfants Terribles; Fritz Lang’s Spies; and Joseph Mankiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa, because, as Schlondorff explains in the program notes, when he first saw it as a teen “I thought it was total kitsch, [but] kitsch or not, Ava Gardner, with her shoes off, haunted me into my 30s, and Humphrey Bogart’s portrait of a director may well have been my role model.”
Telluride, which is known as much for its restorations and reclamations as for its awards-hopeful debuts, also will spotlight French director Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles trilogy — 1931’sMarius, 1932’s Fanny and 1936’s Cesar. Luddy and famed chef Alice Waters — who dated years ago — have had a long-standing love affair with the films, Huntsinger explains. And the pair will introduce the screenings, with Waters serving cheese and wine during the intermissions between the features. “It should be beautiful, nostalgic,” Huntsinger says.
Other intriguing titles include Doug Nichol’s documentary California Typewriter (Hanks, a typewriter connoisseur, appears in the film); Telluride regular Werner Herzog’s doc Into the Inferno, which sees him investigating volcanoes; and John Scheinfeld’s doc Chasing Trane, about jazz great John Coltrane.
This year's festival is dedicated to the late directors Paul Cox and Abbas Kiarostami.