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Published May 28, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

The 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center felt far too up-close and personal for filmmaker Robert Wurtzburg. The New Jersey native lived in TriBeCa, a few blocks from Ground Zero. So, although he was already planning to resettle in the getaway home he'd built in Vermont, the terrorist strikes prompted Wurtzburg to hurry the process. He now resides full-time just outside St. Johnsbury with his wife, painter Nanette Kuehn, and their 5-year-old son Conrad.

At his in-house Herbipolis Animation Studio, Wurtzburg, now 47, has been working on an array of projects. A 2002 short, Perfect, premiered at the Vermont International Film Festival in October and was later broadcast on Vermont Public Television.

"It's a 23-minute fable about genetic engineering gone awry, adapted from a short story by Lois Gould," he explains.

The Snow Arrow is a 200-page book for young adults that he wrote and illustrated. If all goes well, it also will be re-imagined as a film.

And Wurtzburg is hoping to establish a larger studio at another Northeast Kingdom location, where he can create a series of DVDs and videos for young children. Dog Sharks would be "a hybrid of animation, puppetry and live action dealing with multiple intelligences," he says. "I'm storyboarding it right now."

Wurtzburg, who began visiting the Green Mountain State in the early 1970s, studied art in Rome for a few years and later earned a Master's degree in animation from New York University. He worked on TV specials, in advertising, and as an independent producer.

A festival in Hiroshima showed Wurtzburg's Dance of Death in the 1980s. His 1999 video short about early 20th-century artist Marcel Duchamp, Accidental Cannibal, was part of an exhibition on the Dadaist movement at a Jersey museum. Perfect made it to another cinematic fiesta in Havana.

Birth of Innocence, an "experimental, non-narrative" film shooting in Vermont during the next year, seeks actors. A wide variety of types are needed. Non-professionals can also apply. Apparently, those chosen for the cast can expect some compensation. Just send a headshot -- or good recent photo -- and resume to Innocence Productions; P.O. Box 425; Marlboro, VT 05344.

The Manchester Film Festival is embroiled in lawsuits stemming from its 2002 debut, as noted in this column last week. Nevertheless, organizers are trying to raise funds for a follow-up in 2004. And, on June 20, they're hoping a daylight golf tournament and 8:30 p.m. "sneak preview" at the Village Picture Show cinema can bring in the big bucks.

It's a French flick that generated positive buzz after a recent premiere at Cannes: François Ozon's Swimming Pool, which is opening commercially in early July. Charlotte Rampling stars as a tapped-out British mystery writer visiting the Provence vacation home of her publisher (Charles Dance). Her respite is disrupted when his troubled teenaged daughter arrives.

The troubled Manchester fest still knows how to party, with a post-screening champagne-and-dessert bash at the Equinox Resort. Call 362-2927 for details.

It may seem premature to think about the end of summer, but not for Vermont's most ardent cineastes. I run into them every year at the Montreal World Film Festival, as we all scurry along Rue Ste-Catherine to catch a picture from Senegal or Sri Lanka.

For some reason, the 2003 extravaganza will start a week later than usual, on August 27, and extend past its normal conclusion on Labor Day. This is problematic for those who attend Toronto's annual festival -- which begins on September 5. The events have been rivals for as long as anyone can remember, so perhaps this is Quebec challenging Ontario.

Montreal also has expanded its competition categories with new gold, silver and bronze Zenith prizes. Separate awards will be given to movies from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania -- the region that encompasses Australia and New Zealand.

Megastar Jim Carrey has been publicly dissing the upcoming prequel to Dumb and Dumber, his 1994 nitwit farce with Jeff Daniels. Starring two look-alikes, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd is due out on June 13. But no matter how idiotic, the new release includes Luis Guzman, 46, in the cast. The actor, who lives on a 128-acre Cabot dairy farm with his wife and five kids, can salvage even the worst Holly-wood schlock. He was smart enough to merit a May 12 profile in the arts section of the Sunday New York Times.

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Susan Green


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