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.
As it turns out, Mr. Clooney had left the night before. Too bad. That was certainly the only disappointment about the screening. The film is director Alexander Payne’s first since winning the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Sideways. The Descendants is another success for Payne and is sure to be one of the big Oscar films being discussed once it’s officially released in December. It’s about a rich Hawaiian land owner, played by Clooney, whose wife has an accident which puts her into an irreversible coma. He struggles to reconnect with his two daughters on top of finding out his wife had been having an affair. Clooney gives a career-best performance here and Shailene Woodley, playing his 17-year-old daughter is superb as well. The story is smart, sensitive, and fascinating. Sure to be on many moviegoers lists of their favourite films of 2011.
After the Q&A with Alexander Payne and Shailene Woodley, conducted by The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, we caught the French romance Goodbye First Love. Writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve introduced the film and while it was slow-moving, it was still moving. The story concerns two teenagers, Camille and Sullivan, blissfully in love, dealing with Sullivan’s impending year-long trip to South America. They talk, they make love, they take a holiday in the country. Sullivan leaves and Camille gets on with her life without being able to fully shake off her first love. She goes to school, studies architecture, falls in love with her mentor. Years later, she encounters Sullivan and everything they thought was in the past comes flooding back. It’s a sweet story, very languidly paced. Worth seeing.
And then, for our final Telluride experience, we decided to take in something we couldn’t enjoy in theatres or on DVD later: the Alloy Orchestra accompanying a silent film at the Abel Gance Open Air Cinema. And what a treat it was! The film was Karlheinz Martin's From Morning to Midnight (Von morgens bis Mitternacht), a 1922 German film whose impressionistic strokes challenge the famous The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I’m not even sure what it was about. I guess a bank teller steals money from his bank and goes on a crazy journey… and some stuff happens. A big race, women in his life keep turning into skeletons, you know how it goes. The score written and performed by the three-man Alloy Orchestra was fantastic—completely appropriate with its Kurt Weill-like twisted melodies and exciting as hell, especially with them playing right behind us, and a clear moonlit sky above us. We couldn’t have planned a better closing night.