Reality check on my last full day in Telluride: you can’t see everything. If I go to see Geoff Dyer’s last pick as Guest Director, “Unrelated,” a debut film from director Joanna Hogg from 2007, which was not only the sole film of the six he chose that I hadn’t seen before, but hadn’t even heard of before, I’ll miss seeing Madds Mikkelsen in person with Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt,” a repeat of the Telluride Silver Medallion Tribute from last night – which I missed because I went to the unique performance of Serge Bromberg’s program of early film rarities, “Retour du Flamme.” I figure I can see “The Hunt,” which I also managed to miss in Karlovy Vary, at 6 p.m., when it’s playing without the clip show and interview that is part of the tribute.
Dyer chose an eclectic array of fairly contemporary films – i.e., nothing from the Golden Age of cinema such as the Sight and Sound Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time list that so occupied the hearts, minds, and blogs of international cinephiles recently (Stop the presses! “Vertigo” topples “Citizen Kane”’s reign at the top after 50 years! – that included Tarkovsky’s “Stalker,” subject of Dyer’s most recent book, “Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room,”; Claire Denis’ “Beau Travail”; Lukas Moodysson’s “Together”; a double dose of Werner Herzog documentaries, “Lessons of Darkness” and “The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner”; and “Baraka,” by Ron Fricke, shown in a glorious new 70mm print, which I managed to catch at its technical runthrough the night before the festival opened – in preparation for the imminent opening of his follow-up film in the same genre, “Samsara,” after nearly twenty years.
Dyer mentions, in passing, that one of the cast of “Unrelated,” Tom Hiddleston, has gone on to bigger things, mentioning “Thor,” which confuses me – wasn’t that one of the Hemsworth brothers, the buffer one? I do recognize him as both F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and the caddish lover of Rachel Weisz in Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea,” two of my favorite movies from last year. (It takes a quick trip to IMDB to learn that he played Loki in “Thor,” which I should have known, since I saw “The Avengers,” in which Loki appeared, along with the well-muscled Chris Hemsworth as Thor. In my defense, Hiddleston’s makeup and costume were somewhat more extreme as Loki than as Fitzgerald and feckless lover Freddie. And, it turns out, “Unrelated” was his debut film, after graduating from RADA, alma mater of “Thor”’s somewhat surprising director Kenneth Branagh, whose directing career it neatly revived.
I’m modestly charmed by “Unrelated”’s modest charms: I get a vicarious vacation in the glorious Tuscan countryside outside of Siena, watching the Jamesian or Fosterian interactions of two vacationing English families of parents and adolescents, the “olds” and the “youngs,” whose psycho-sexual balance is mildly upset by the visit of a female friend on a break from her lover, who is drawn to the slender young Hiddleston.
Afterwards I am drawn towards Telluride’s famously alluring Labor Day Picnic, set under billowing white tents in the bucolic Town Park. On the way, I see Jackie Mancuso signing her illustrated book “Paris-Chien” (which she inscribed for Marion Cotillard’s son Marcel in the green room before Saturday night’s tribute to her) outside Telluride’s “Between the Covers” bookstore, alongside Ken Burns, signing his numerous titles, and a witty chalkboard reading “Never judge a book by its movie!”
The food – grilled burgers, sausages, and organic chicken sourced by Alice Waters – is not as alluring as the excellent Indian feast of opening day, and unlike my memory of previous picnics, the servers allow only one choice of protein as we load up our plates. Alongside the tents, Annette Insdorf leads one final panel on acting – I glimpse Dennis Quaid, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Sarah Polley – reminding me that this year I didn’t take advantage of the lineup of conversations and book signings running alongside the screenings, rendering my luggage considerably lighter but my conscience heavier. I especially hope that the conversation between Errol Morris and Geoff Dyer, conducted while I was watching “The Attack” and afterwards in the long line for the dazzling “Final Cut: Ladies and Gentleman,” and highly recommended by Jonathan Marlow and Hannah Eaves, shows up as a podcast on Telluride’s website.
I skip the traditional ice cream sundaes as I head towards “No,” the much-discussed reality-based film starring Bernal as a hotshot young adman who masterminds the nightly, monthlong, 15-minute-long television campaign encouraging Chilean voters to vote “no” on the continuing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1988. Luckily I have no memory of the outcome (I know Pinochet was toppled, but I don’t remember how or when), giving an extra fillip to the narrative. Aesthetically “No” is interesting, since it was shot with the same 80s-era cameras and film stock used for the ad campaigns, giving it a gritty, immediate look and feel. The film is introduced by one of its producers, Daniel Dreifuss, who looks like a teenager and says that Lorrain and Bernal have already left town. Since I have just seen Bernal at the picnic, I doubt it, but since he’s already introduced the film twice over the last two days, and has reputedly been willing to chat with any and all festival goers, I give him a pass.
I’m sufficiently impressed by the film that I am cheered to see that Larrain’s previous films, including “Post Mortem” and the highly-touted “Tony Manero,” are available on DVD.
Afterwards I head over to the tiny Backlot theater, whose long lines during the first three days of the festival were legendary, and slip right into a screening of a documentary on the director Paul Cox’s awaiting a life-saving liver transplant, “On Borrowed Time.” I like the documentary more than I have any of Cox’s own films, which I find messy, aesthetically ugly, and self-indulgent. (So why was I there? I’d seen everything else playing opposite, save “Hyde Park on Hudson,” which had not received money reviews within my hearing, and violates my rule of trying not to see movies whose trailers I’ve already seen.) Plus I love movies about movies. Plus I find Cox the character more interesting than Cox the artist.
I stuck around in the Backlot to see “Carriere 250 Meters,” the title an allusion to the distance between the family home that screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière was raised in and the family cemetery that he expects to be buried in. I have endless admiration for Carrière’s amazing career (collaborations with Bunuel, Volker Schlondorff, Nagisa Oshima, Philip Kaufman, Milos Forman, Michael Haneke, among others – his filmography runs to well over 140 movies) and his charming nature, here glimpsed as he leads director Jean Carlos Rufo through a poetic travelogue, revisiting seven locations chosen by Carrière and narrated through excerpts from some of Carrière’s letters.
I find the film incredibly moving, as well as beautiful, and am pleased to be able to tell the director and his wife and editor/collaborator, Valentina Leduc, so as we stroll through the dusky streets of Telluride after the screening.
I’m also pleased that it’s my last film of the festival. I choose a final farewell dinner on the back patio of the Appaloosa Café, under the stars and in view of the Rockies, over the considerable temptations of “The Act of Killing,” “The Hunt,” “The Iceman,” “A Royal Affair,” or “Midnight’s Children.” I can catch up with them in a few days at the Toronto International Film Festival, or sometme after that. But tonight is my only chance to break bread with Thomas Sanchez and hear his tales of making a documentary about the legendary director/teacher Jack Garfein, whose “Something Wild” and “The Strange One” played to appreciative audiences here (while I retained memories of their TCM screenings), and say goodbye to brilliant cinematographer Ed Lachman, director Xavier Giannoli and actor Kad Merad, and Criterion producers Peter Becker and Kim Henerson, among many other Telluride-ites who colonized four long tables inside and out. It’s hard to tear oneself away from the little film festival that magically reappears in the mountains annually. I’m already looking forward to next year’s 40th iteration – a whole day longer!