The Telluride waiting game is over. It's fun to ferret out the films from various distributors and publicists and it's also fun to find out the real deal at the airport as the folks arrive at the gate for the LAX-Montrose shuttle.
So before the official release hit my inbox–and I read the full program on my seat–I saw Michael Winterbottom, who has directed a fiction film, "Every Day," that took five years to shoot, about the impact on a man's family when he spends years in prison. John Simm and Shirley Henderson star. Winterbottom is a brilliant filmmaker who, to my mind, does his best work with low-tech hand-crafted films, so I'm excited to see this one.
Also in the airport was Noah Baumbach, a smart and canny filmmaker ("The Squid and the Whale," "Margot at the Wedding") who doesn't always reach a wide audience. Black-and-white "Frances Ha" is co-written by star Greta Gerwig and co-stars Adam Driver ("Girls").
Salman Rushdie was also there, talking to his lawyer Linda Lichter (whose client Ira Glass is in a good mood with the solid response to "Sleepwalk with Me"). Rushdie adapted his own 1980 book "Midnight's Children," about India's transition from British colonialism to independence, working with Canadian auteur Deepa Mehta ("Water"). Like many Telluride converts, Rushdie first came as a guest director (oddly, in 2001, right before 9/11), and has been coming back whenever he can, he told me.
It turns out that the reason high-cheekboned Danish star Mads Mikkelsen ("Valhalla Rising") has two films in The Show, both to be released by Magnolia– Thomas Vinterberg's superb "The Hunt" (2013), which won Best Actor at Cannes, and Berlin hit "A Royal Affair" (November 2012), an historic romance that is competing with Susanne Bier's "Love is All You Need" for the Oscar submission from Denmark–is that he's getting a full-on tribute.
So is Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"), who is bringing Jacques Audiard's Cannes film "Rust and Bone" (one of five Sony Pictures Classics films here) to the fest. While the Cannes jury did not grant the film any awards, Cotillard's performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination. The film is tough and rigorous, however, and may be off-putting to some.
Word is upbeat on Sally Potter's valentine to 60s London, "Ginger & Rosa," an acquisition title (Cinetic Media) starring Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Annette Bening and Alessandro Nivola, which is debuting at Telluride before it hits Venice and the other fall fests. Her classic "Orlando" and more recent "Yes," starring Tilda Swinton and Joan Allen, respectively, are must-sees.
Not in the program is Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," which was submitted, but the programmers passed after the Weinstein Co. previewed the film in many major cities, including LA, San Francisco and Chicago. But TWC did supply Cannes debut "The Sapphires," which was able to trim five minutes from Cannes in time for the deadline. It's a crowd-pleaser about a real-life aborigine singing group who toured Vietnam; Chris O'Dowd is the standout as their manager. David O. Russell's comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" is still fine-tuning in the editing room in advance of Toronto; thus there's only one TBA this year. (Harvey Weinstein hasn't attended Telluride since the 80s.)
One of the weekend TBAs is "Argo," which will mark Ben Affleck's first appearance at the Festival. After "The Town" the actor-writer-director was trying to find the right project and got wind of Chris Terrio's script, which was in development at George Clooney and Grant Heslov's Smokehouse production company, which had moved from Warners to Sony, as a possible acting-directing vehicle for Clooney. They agreed to produce it with Affleck at Warners.
Affleck directs himself and a sprawling cast led by Bryan Cranston in this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction CIA meets Hollywood story first reported by Joshua Beahrman, "Escape from Tehran." The movie has been building steady buzz. I'm afraid my expectations are too high.
Documentarian Liz Garbus moves away from HBO with "Love, Marilyn," with support from New York indie producer Amy Hobby ("Gayby"), to take yet another look at Marilyn Monroe via a trove of the star's unearthed diaries. Actors read them. They finished the film 48 hours ago; Hobby, who has another film in Toronto (Sam Shepard doc "Shepard & Dark"), carried it on the plane to Telluride.
It's always a tradition to make sure that certain talent return to Telluride every year. Thus we guessed that Laura Linney would turn up with co-star Bill Murray (another Telluride newbie) with Roger Michell's "Hyde Park on Hudson," and Ken Burns would bring his Cannes entry "The Central Park Five" and Werner Herzog would be here with something: in this case guest director Geoff Dyer booked two of his older films, "Lessons of Darkness" and "The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner." And Mark Cousins (upcoming "The Story of Film") is back with "What Is This FIlm Called Love?" a lo-fi travelogue and essay shot over three days in Mexico City, in which he stars.
Another one I'm looking forward to (recommended by program writer Larry Gross) is "Piazza Finatana: The Italian Conspiracy," from Italian filmmaker Marco Tullio Giordana, who directed the Telluride 2003 six-hour classic "Best of Youth," spanning 30 years of Italian history, which is a must-see for any self-respecting cinephile. This film depicts a Milan bank bombing that shook Italy to its core 40 years ago.
Will I see everything I want to see? No. Sadly. It's never possible. You just take a slice.