Telluride Film Festival 2009: Unofficial Kick Off September 2, Elks Park

Telluride's summer cultural season is winding to a close as the 36th annual Telluride Film Festival officially opens for business Labor Day weekend, Friday, September 4 and runs through Monday, September 7.

Thanks to Ralph and Ricky Lauren, however, the Telluride Film Festival  kicks off unofficially for passholders and nonpassholders alike today, Wednesday, September 2, and Thursday, September 3, with two free al fresco screenings at the Abel Gance Open Air Cinema in Elks Park, beginning at sunset, around 8:30 p.m.

MV5BMTM3NzgyMzIzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTYyMTYyMQ@@._V1._CR0,0,216,216_SS80_ Wednesday's film is "Hidalgo," a 2004 film made by director Joe Johnston, based on a story from 1890 about an American cowboy, Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen), the first outsider or infidel to be invited by a wealthy Sheik (Omar Sharif) to race in the greatest long-distance horse race ever run, the "Ocean of Fire," a grueling 3,000-mile survival horse race across the Arabian Desert with the winner receiving $100,000 as prize money and the honor of being the best in the world. When the sheik's emissary approaches him, Hopkins, once a dispatch rider in the U.S. Cavalry, is working Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The race itself, held every year for the last thousand years, has only been open to the purest line of Arabian horses ever bred. Hopkins' horse, Hidalgo, a small mixed-breed mustang, was regarded as impure, and therefore not fit to run wth purebred Arabian stallions.

"Hidalgo" was somewhat controversial due to debate over the accuracy of Hopkins's claims.

T27337t6cpu Thursday's Telluride Film Fest freebie is about a race to the finish of a very different sort: the train scene in "A Man and A Woman" is the stuff of film legend.

Directed by the young unknown Claude LeLouche, "A Man and A Woman" stars Jean-Louis Trintignant, as Jean-Louis a professional race car driver and Anouk Aimee as Anne, a film script supervisor.

Anne is a  young window whose late husband (Pierre Barouh) was a stuntman and died in an on-set accident. Jean-Louis' wife committed suicide after Jean-Louis was in a near fatal crash during the 24 hours of Le Mans. The two meet at the boarding school where their children are enrolled. Anne misses her train home and Jean-Louis offers her a ride, one of several charged, but platonic encounters that blossoms into something more. The would-be lovers both want to commit, but have difficulty shaking their pasts.

The winner of two Oscars (one for Best Foreign Film), "A Man and A Woman" is also remembered for its theme music by Francis Lai.

"A Man and A Woman" was the date movie of the mid-1960s.

Check the Telluride Film Festival website for other non-passholder-friendly events.

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