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Screenings, surprises and more in store at Filmfest

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

For its 25th annual festival, Aspen Filmfest takes a look back at the ’70s, captures a prominent local character, presents the latest works by two leaders of independent cinema, brings the outside world closer to home, and springs a few surprises. Filmfest, to be held Sept. 30 through Oct. 5 with presentations in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, will even take care of the kids for a little while.

Aspen Filmfest traces its history back to 1979, the last year of a decade that changed American filmmaking. To celebrate its silver anniversary, Filmfest focuses on the ’70s, with a panel discussion on Oct. 4 featuring directors Sydney Pollack (“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”) and Aspenite Bob Rafelson (“Five Easy Pieces”), producer Polly Platt (“Paper Moon”), and cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs (“Easy Rider,” “New York, New York”).

The Retrospective segment will also focus on the ’70s, with screenings of “Paper Moon,” “The French Connection” and “Shampoo.” The screening of “Paper Moon” will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Platt; the “Shampoo” screening will include a Q and A with Kovacs, the film’s cinematographer. All three films will be screened from fresh 35 mm prints.



Filmfest’s True Stories program will include “Breakfast with Hunter,” a verite documentary of local icon Hunter S. Thompson. The film is the culmination of seven years’ work by local Wayne Ewing, who captured Thompson with associates Johnny Depp, John Cusack and P.J. O’Roarke.

“He’s a fly on the wall, watching Hunter be Hunter,” said Filmfest executive director Laura Thielen. “And there’s fantastic footage of the old Aspen. You always hear about old Aspen, but I’ve only heard the tall tales. I’ve never seen the footage, and this is great footage – and lots of it.”




The latest works of two giants of independent filmmaking will be presented at Filmfest: John Sayles’ “Casa de los Babys,” and Robert Altman’s “The Company.”

Sayles’ film features an ensemble female cast – Darryl Hannah, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary Steenburgen, Rita Moreno and Lili Taylor – playing women in Mexico, waiting to adopt babies. “It’s women who have really made a mark in independent filmmaking,” said Thielen of the cast. “And the film is not black-and-white – you see all sides of the issue. It really honors the complexity of the situation.”

“The Company,” starring Neve Campbell and Malcolm McDowell, and featuring the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, is “like a slice of life at a ballet company,” said Thielen. “It doesn’t feel like a documentary, because it’s so elegant-looking. But it doesn’t push a story. It’s the life of a ballet company, from the most mundane to the most heartbreaking.”

“My Life Without Me,” an English-language film by Spanish director Isabel Coixet and executive producer Pedro Almodovar, stars Sarah Polley as a young mother diagnosed with a fatal illness. She makes a list of things to do before she dies, “and it’s a pretty interesting list,” said Thielen. The film co-stars Mark Rufalo, Deborah Harry and Amanda Plummer.

Among the foreign films to be screened are the Czech movie “Some Secrets,” by director Alice Nellis, about several generations of a family on a road trip; and the French film “The Belleville Triplets,” an animated adult feature which tells the story of a kidnapped cyclist with no dialogue, but uses visuals and music.

Also featured is “The Barbarian Invasions,” by Canadian director Denys Arand. The film, which earned awards for best screenplay and best actress at the Cannes Film Festival, is about a university professor at the end of his life, trying to make amends to those whom he has alienated.

Filmfest ’03 will feature the return of the Surprise Film. Thielen says it is a “small film with a very big actor who hasn’t been seen in a long time.” Also to be screened, as a Sneak Preview, is a film whose title isn’t being announced, but which features a past recipient of Filmfest’s Independent By Nature Award. There will also be the ScreenPlay! program for young moviegoers.

The complete Filmfest program will be posted Sept. 10 online at http://www.aspenfilm.org. Tickets for Filmfest go on sale Sept. 23.

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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