Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Telluride 2011: Day 4 – Monday

The final day of Telluride prompted my wife and I to get in line 2 hours ahead of time.  Sunday’s constantly sold-out crowds at the Chuck Jones caused us to think that the screening of The Descendants—and especially the Q&A with George Clooney—would bring an avalanche of moviegoers.  Telluride normally isn’t that impressed with celebrities but George Clooney seems to make even the most blasé film buff lose their cool.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Telluride 2011: Day 3 – Sunday

Well, it turns out even I can be overwhelmed by too many movies.  Starting to feel a little spent but that’s probably because of having to scoot back in line for the next film the second the lights come up and finding a lot of people already in line who skipped the end credits.  And then I get hungry.

Anyway, the movies I saw today ranged from the best I’ve seen to the worst.  Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi took the stage to introduce his Golden Bear-winning fifth feature A Separation and I tell you this: I will be shocked if I see a better film this year.  A Separation is a tremendous success on every level.  An Iranian couple are getting a divorce.  The woman wants to take their 11-year-old daughter to educate her abroad.  The man doesn’t want the divorce and without his wife, needs to hire outside help to care for his Alzheimer’s-stricken father.  The story is universal and achingly human, acted by a pitch-perfect cast.  Simply outstanding.  This deserves to be seen by a large audience.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Telluride 2011: Day 2 – Saturday

Morning came way too early for Day 2.  The Chuck Jones Cinema hosted a packed screening of Glenn Close’s passion project Albert Nobbs, directed by Rodrigo García.  Close plays the title character, a woman disguising herself as a man in order to work as a butler at a small hotel in Ireland at the turn of the century.  Close first played Albert Nobbs off-Broadway in 1982 and has been trying to get the film made ever since.  It’s an impressive effort.  The movie suffers a bit from Albert being so repressed and keeping the audience, as well as the world, at a distance.  The cast is superb and Glenn Close is sure to be talked about a lot during awards season (which basically starts now).  Janet McTeer, a 1999 Oscar nominee for Tumbleweeds, gives, I think, the best performance of the film as a sympathetic house painter.  Both Glenn Close and Rodrigo García were in attendance and Leonard Maltin was on hand to direct a little Q&A after the film.  Very cool.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Telluride 2011: Day 1 – Friday

There was delight and tragedy to be found in the films I saw on my first day ever at the Telluride Film Festival. 

Kicked things off with a free doc screening at the Back Lot.  In the Tracks of George Delerue from director Pascale Cuenot is the third in a series of films about major film composers, the first two being Gabriel Yared and Maurice Jarre.  It made me want to make an effort to see François Truffaut’s early films that Delerue scored but this film is pretty disjointed chronologically without much point to it.

The first film showing at the Chuck Jones Cinema was the Cannes sensation The Artist.  It is a completely charming and very creative (it would have to be) silent movie in black & white set during the transition from silent pictures to talkies.  The wonderful Jean Dujardin stars as a Don Lockwood-like (Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain) movie star and the beautiful Bérénice Bejo is a young ingénue ready to storm into sound pictures.  John Goodman is well-cast as the cigar-chomping studio chief.  Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius was present to introduce it and the audience embraced it wholeheartedly.  I look forward to seeing it again and I’m curious as to how it will play to a non-festival crowd.  I’m sure that if people get the opportunity to see it, they will love it.  The Weinstein Company is distributing so they’re sure to be smart about it.  They’re also sure to launch a fierce Oscar campaign. 

Next was the Great Expectations program which featured two films dealing with wrongly accused immigrants.  The first was Journey of No Return, a 25 minute recreation of a true story of a Sudanese man set to be deported from Germany only to have tragedy strike.  Very impressive and upsetting.  The other was Crulic: The Path Beyond, a 73-minute animated film about a Romanian man falsely arrested for a petty crime in Poland who goes on a hunger strike.  Also based on a true story, the hand-drawn collages and various other animation techniques were really interesting.  However, the movie felt really long and was a little unfocused.

Finally, the great Werner Herzog was here to introduce his new film Into the Abyss.  A harrowing documentary about two murderers, one on death row, the other serving a life sentence, Herzog interviews the perpetrators, the victims, family members, and prison workers and winds up with a sprawling and completely engrossing portrait of tragedy upon tragedy.  Herzog brilliantly allows each person to talk at length about their past, their actions, and their feelings.  I’m sure that for some, it’s the first time they’ve had the chance to speak aloud about what has happened.  This is the film that will haunt me for months to come, as is often the case with Herzog’s movies.  Strongly recommended.

Into the Abyss ended just after midnight and now I’ve got to get some coffee on for the 8:30am showing of Albert Nobbs, set to be introduced by director Rodrigo García and star Glenn Close.  I love this festival!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Telluride 2011: Preview

This year I get to attend the Telluride Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado, a movie-lovers event that I’ve dreamed about for years.  Roger Ebert has said that of the major festivals, Cannes is the most important, Toronto is the most useful, but Telluride is the most fun.  The special thing about Telluride is that the lineup isn’t revealed until you get to this insanely picturesque mountain village.  This seems to invite serious film fans instead of celeb watchers.  On top of the new movies, there are revivals, outdoor films, Q&As with filmmakers, and a picnic on Labour Day!

Today, my wife and I picked up our passes—we got the ACME pass which gets us into all movies showing at the Chuck Jones Cinema—and walked around town, getting used to the high altitude.  The official program is released tomorrow at noon, but we were given a guide that reveals most of the films and special programs we can expect to see.  The festival also awards a Silver Medallion to three artists who have made significant contributions to cinema.  This year those recipients are George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Pierre Étaix, a French filmmaker unfamiliar to me who learned his craft from Jacques Tati.  That’s part of the beauty of this festival: not just seeing movies from filmmakers I am familiar with, but new discoveries.

According to our guide, the movies showing at the Chuck Jones tomorrow night include The Artist from France.  A silent film in black & white, it made a huge impression at the Cannes Film Festival this past May, winning the Best Actor award for Jean Dujardin.  Following that is Great Expectations, a collection of short films from emerging directors.  And the late show is Werner Herzog’s new documentary about death row inmates Into the Abyss, sure to be a sobering experience.  Herzog is a filmmaker who has really moved me with both his fiction films (Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo) and his docs (Encounters at the End of the World).  Friday is sure to be an exhilarating day at the movies.