Film and TV

Starz Denver Film Festival: Brit Withey on Denver FilmCenter/Colfax opener Melancholia

Again this year, Starz Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey is offering his must-see picks for each day of the fest -- including many flicks that movie lovers might otherwise miss amid the flood of silver-screen goodies.

Here, he shares his take on tonight's opener at Denver FilmCenter/Colfax: Melancholia.

Melancholia Directed by Lars von Trier 7 p.m. Thursday, November 3 Denver FilmCenter/Colfax Sold out, but tickets may be available one hour before showtime

Although Melancholia is an acclaimed effort by international cinematic provocateur Lars von Trier, of Dogville and Breaking the Waves fame, it remains a highly unusual -- no, unique -- choice to screen at the Starz Denver Film Festival. That's because it's already available on demand -- meaning most cable subscribers can watch it anytime they'd like rather than waiting for tonight's screening. And that used to be a deal-breaker, Withey notes.

"This is actually the first time we've ever included a film in the festival that has been available on demand," he says. "Up until this point, if a distributor made something available on demand, it automatically nixed it from festival contention."

In this case, however, Withey and company made an exception. "We felt people would much rather see this film on the big screen rather than sit at home and watch it on TV -- and that truth was borne out because Melancholia is already sold out. I think that shows people would prefer to see these types of films on the big screen, especially when they're by a great, serious director like Lars von Trier. If they're familiar with his work, that's where it really needs to be seen."

The scale of Melancholia is both micro and macro. It revolves around Justine (Kirsten Dunst, who was named best actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance), who suffers from the title affliction at a time when a planet of the same name is hurtling toward Earth.

"It's truly an amazing film," enthuses Withey. "Lars von Trier makes heavy, emotionally dense films, and this is no exception. But it's a really interesting, character-driven piece" featuring plenty of familiar actors -- Kiefer Sutherland, True Blood's Alexander Skarsgård, John Hurt and more -- testing themselves against challenging material. "And it's beautiful to watch on the big screen. I think it's one of the most stunning pieces in the festival."

Click here for more information, and visit The Latest Word throughout the festival for more of Brit's picks. Here's the Melancholia trailer.

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More from our Television & Film archive: "Starz Denver Film Festival 2011 Opening Night: Like Crazy works like crazy."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts