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!

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