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The eighteenth Denver International Film Festival gets under way October 11 at the Auditorium Theatre with the local premiere of Woody Allen's new film, Mighty Aphrodite--in which Allen and Helena Bonham Carter play a married couple with plenty of, well, marital problems.

The festival closes nine days later at the Continental with an appropriate choice--a comic thriller called Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, partially filmed on location here and featuring Andy Garcia, Treat Williams, Steve Buscemi and Christopher Walken, among others, as minor-league mobsters.

In between, at the AMC Tivoli Theatres, DIFF will showcase more than 150 movies from 30 countries, with special emphasis on the 100th anniversary of film itself. Some choices:

John Schlesinger's Cold Comfort Farm is a spoof on the rural novels of D.H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy, featuring a dispossessed orphan named Flora Poste who must deal with the eccentricities of her rustic relatives, the Starkadders, and a run-down farm. Schlesinger, the director of Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man, worked from a comic novel by Stella Gibbons.

The idiosyncratic director Hal Hartley (Simple Men, Amateur) will receive this year's John Cassavetes Award from the festival, and his new film, Flirt, will screen October 14. It's a series of three variations on the same love story, set in three different cities--Berlin, New York and Tokyo. Sound a little like Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth? It is.

Nana Janelidze's Iavnana (Lullaby), a "family film" from the Republic of Georgia, tells of a little girl kidnapped by beggars to be sold abroad who has but one clue to her past life--the lullaby once sung by her vanished mother. Its painterly cinematography and polyphonic Georgian music underscore the tragedy.

The companion piece to Wayne Wang's recent art-house hit Smoke, the rather more improvisational Blue in the Face is set around the same Brooklyn cigar store as its predecessor but features cameos by Roseanne, Madonna and Lily Tomlin.

Based on an actual murder case, Nancy Meckler's dark and erotic psychological horror story Sister My Sister unfolds in somber provincial France in the Thirties, where two lonely sisters (Julie Walters, Joely Richardson) can find no one but each other to turn to. Wendy Kesselman wrote the play, but the case earlier inspired Jean Genet's The Maids.

The late documentarian Marlon Riggs began work on Black Is...Black Ain't, a comprehensive look at black identity, shortly before his death from AIDS. The filmmakers interviewed many prominent African-Americans, but the film's most arresting images may be those of Riggs himself, lying in a hospital bed, facing the inevitable.

Mark Rappaport's From the Journals of Jean Seberg is a fictitious autobiography of the late actress, related by her ghost (Mary Beth Hurt) from beyond the grave.

Festival director Ron Henderson sees Talk of the Town as the rarest of treats--a charming German comedy in which a cynical talk-radio hostess is redeemed by love. Katja Riemann stars as the transformed Miss Lonelyhearts; Rainer Kaufman directed.

This year's Cinema Centenary commemoration harks back to March 19, 1895, the day the Lumire Brothers first cranked up their Cinematographe and set the age of the motion picture into motion. CU-Boulder film historian Bruce Kawin will introduce 28 important short films made in the first two decades of cinema, and subsequent programs will feature one work representing each decade, chosen by teachers, producers and critics. They include such gems as Camille (1930s), On the Waterfront (1950s) and Atlantic City (1980s). The festival's "Film of the Century," selected by Academy Award winner Robert Wise, is--what else?--Orson Welles's towering Citizen Kane.

 
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